is it weird for my employees to see me naked at a spa, traveling for a job at my expense, and more

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

1. Is it weird for employees to see a manager naked at a spa?

I am in negotiations for a role as a member of the upper-level management team for a spa. This is in a smaller town and there are between 20-30 employees. I have used this business’s services in the past, although I am not a regular.

One of the listed perks of this position is that upper-level management can have a free service every month and can use the steam and sauna facilities. Typically, all of these services are enjoyed by clients in the nude. I love massages and using the facilities, but I cannot help but feel uncomfortable with the prospect of an employee that I’m managing seeing and interacting with me in a state of undress. It feels too vulnerable and like I’d be undermining my authority.

I’m unfamiliar with the company culture around this. Maybe it’s a normal part of the industry? Am I overthinking this? Or should I be considering facials and mani-pedis instead of massage?

With the massage part, my understanding is that that is indeed a normal element of that industry (at least in that people who hire massage therapists have candidates perform a massage as part of the hiring process) and they’re not looking at you as particularly naked but just as another client whose muscles they need access to (and you’d presumably be draped). That said, it’s an intimate service to have performed by someone you have power over, and I’d abstain for that reason — the power dynamics of “I’m here for my free service because I’m upper management” just feel icky to me. But I also don’t work in that field so I’d be interested to hear from readers who do.

The sauna doesn’t involve that same power dynamic since you’re just sitting there without anyone working on you — but yeah, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around hanging out nude around people who work for you (assuming you’re in the U.S. and not Finland). I’d go with your instincts on that one, too.

2. Can I refuse home office equipment I don’t need?

I work as a data analyst for a small local nonprofit that is part of a large network. Because I no longer live locally, I have been working primarily from home for over three years now. I am now about to start a secondment with the “mother organization” which will be entirely work from home. They are sending me a new laptop and also a monitor screen, keyboard, and mouse.

Here is the thing though: while when I am physically in an office I don’t mind working from a desk like everyone else, in my home when left to my own devices I am very much NOT a desk person. I typically work from bed/a sofa /an armchair or lounger, with the laptop in my lap. There is a desk in my home (with a screen as well) , but my partner, who occasionally works from home and, unlike me, very much is a desk person, is the only one using it. He has his own monitor on the desk, plus an old one we have lying around. Finding any kind of space for a third monitor I don’t use would be rather tricky.

I wrote back that I don’t think I will need a screen, since I prefer using the laptop directly. My secondment manager wrote back that I may still need it, since the laptop keyboard can be flimsy and the screen is a bit small. (I’m used to small screens, in my regular job so my main input on the laptop was,”I don’t want a big laptop, I want one I can plop in my bag and even work on in the train and bus if needed.” Also, I don’t think I will ever do any work that requires two screens, like transcribing.)

At this point, is there a professional way to push back and basically say “No, you don’t understand, I work from a blanket nest in my bed”? Or shall I just take the screen and stick it on top of the wardrobe in the extreme off chance I might need it?

Hello, fellow desk-hater! The only seating my home office has is a couch and I love it that way.

That said, if you have room for the monitor, I’d let them send it for now, at least until you have a better feel for what the work will be like. It could turn out to have a use that you’re not anticipating now. But if you really don’t have room for it and it would be a burden to store, it should be fine to say, “I rarely work at a desk — I’m a couch person and I’m in a small space without a lot of space to put it. If you don’t anticipate specific projects that will require it, my preference is just the laptop.”

3. Can my remote job make me visit the office at my own expense?

In 2020, during the height of Covid travel restrictions, I found a new job for a small company in a different state, about a five-hour drive away from me, that was happy to let me work remotely full-time. While the job is emotionally rewarding, the salary is far from lavish, but I live frugally in an inexpensive area, so it’s manageable. While they would love for me to sell my affordable house and move closer to the office (which is naturally in a more expensive city and a popular tourist destination in the area), they haven’t offered any reasonable incentive to do so.

We’re getting some new management and they would love me to come in for in-person meet and greets, occasional all-hands meetings, but in the past, I’ve been told that the company doesn’t have the budget to compensate me for mileage, hotel, or any other travel expenses. Can they require me to make such a long journey and find last-minute accommodations in a tourist town on my own dime?

Well, there’s what they can do and what they should do.

If they’re requiring you to come in, they should cover your costs, unless you made a different arrangement when you took the job. I give that caveat because occasionally an employer that didn’t set out to hire someone remote will agree to let someone go remote as long as they’re willing to get themselves to the office once or twice a year. (I’ve particularly seen that arrangement in some nonprofits, when they feel they can’t responsibly spend donor money on extra travel just because someone prefers to be remote.) But assuming there’s no pre-existing agreement that you happily signed on for, they should cover your travel costs since those are part of their business costs — doubly so if they’re requiring you to make the trip.

Legally, though, it’s a different question. Some states, like California, require employers to reimburse employees for all business costs, so this presumably wouldn’t fly there. But in the majority of states, which have no such laws, your employer could indeed make you pay for it, assuming it didn’t violate a contract to the contrary.

Personally I’d try holding firm that you won’t pay for it and see what happens. But you’d need to balance that against how much you’d care if that contributed to them deciding not to have remote staff anymore (and your sense of how likely that is to happen).

Read an update to this letter here

4. Should managers schedule breaks in advance?

I’m trying to teach my 17-year-old daughter about work expectations, so I have this question for you. Her store manager gets upset when she comes in five minutes early for her shift to look or ask about her breaks. She was only asking to see when her breaks are so that she could let me know when I could drop off a holiday meal to her. Her manager told her that she would let her know when she could have a break. Should a company have breaks scheduled when they put out the schedules or is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?

It’s pretty common in retail and similar types of jobs not to have breaks scheduled in advance, since available break times can depend on when things are ebbing and flowing on any given day. It’s not inherently unreasonable for a manager to want to wait for a slower time and you can’t always predict those beforehand. (They do need to comply with any state laws about when a break must be taken, though.)

5. Recruiters reach out on LinkedIn but still want my resume

Six months ago, I started a new job at a well-known company in a hot sector. Since then, I have been receiving LinkedIn messages from recruiters about once a month. These messages tell me that they are from company X and are looking to fill role Y (with varying levels of specificity — some just state the generic job function, others give the job title), that I seem like a good fit based on my experience, and am I interested and would I like to take a call?

Even though I’m not planning to move now, I’ve replied to a few that seemed interesting, accepting the invitation to chat. (These are for the companies that I could see myself interviewing for within the next 6-12 months.) However, the recruiters invariably then ask me for my resume to proceed further. Am I nuts for feeling slightly annoyed by this? If they’ve reached out to me on LinkedIn, a resume site, “based on my experience,” why are they asking for my resume before initiating a call? If I were applying to their role proactively, sure, I should send my resume, but here it’s them reaching out. They don’t even link to a job description so I can’t take a basic first look.

Why do recruiters do this? And is there a better way to reply to these messages to start building a recruiter relationship?

They’re asking because people’s resumes are often more detailed than their LinkedIn profiles and if you move forward in the process they’re going to need your resume to get you formally into their system and their client’s system. That said, a good recruiter should understand that when they reach out to you, they shouldn’t expect you to jump through hoops before you’ve even had a chance to talk to them.

With a good recruiter, you’ll be able to say, “I’m not actively searching right now and so don’t have an up-to-date resume. I’d be glad to get you one if there’s mutual interest after our initial call.” On the other hand, with a crappy recruiter who’s taking a scattershot approach to approaching anyone who looks remotely qualified, that may be the last you hear of them since for them it’s just a numbers game.

{ 576 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, stop with the “mommy” comments about #4. It’s sexist and misogynist and the letter writer doesn’t even specify which parent they are. I’m removing the comments that used it in a sneering way.

  2. Rosacoletti*

    #2 It’s totally unergonomic to use a workstation such as you describe (bed, lounge). When you finally report an injury, if they haven’t provided a proper ergonomic work station, they’d be liable surely? I think they have to provide it.

    1. Loulou*

      This is…so dramatic!! Of course it’s not ergonomic, but also so many people do it without ever being injured. If OP doesn’t have the space for a desk, they don’t have space. Do you accost people you see wearing high heels too?

      1. John Smith*

        Not really. While it may be the case that many people want to work on the couch etc (myself included), I’ve had to do a risk assessment in which I had to lie about my arrangements to prevent having office furniture forced into my home. The organisation is just trying to protect itself from liabilities. If the organisation didn’t offer such equipment, it’s leaving itself open to potential lawsuits.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          That. Depending on the place you work, actually; in Germany work from home is covered by mandatory worker’s comp insurance and the employer is liable for safe working conditions.
          The details can be outright strange – if I fall on my stairs going up to my office room in the morning I’m covered, if I go down the same stairs for a bathroom break I’m not because that’s a “private matter”. But my lunch break is covered, as are bathroom breaks in our actual office building. No, I don’t understand it either.
          My employer took the pragmatic approach that we could take docking stations, screens etc. from the office as needed, please put a post-it with your name and what you took where you took something, and offering a guide on how to set up your stuff ergonomically on the Intranet. Also you can gave a 1-on-1 virtual meeting with an expert, by video call in your space.
          I didn’t take anything as I already had a fully equipped desk; while I love my small 13″ laptop for travel (can work in coach on a plane) I also need my dual screen setup. Last year I treated myself to two 32″ screens, great for writing 100+ page reports.
          Right now we’re back in a strong home office recommendation (I.e. you may go to the company only if there is a good reason, like a colleague who has 6 kids); if that does not work we’ll have another lock-down soon. Sigh.

      2. Bamcheeks*

        It’s not dramatic, it’s a completely normal thing for an employer to be concerned about! I don’t know the US rules, but in the UK an employer that fails to provide an appropriate work station is liable, and that duty doesn’t go away when an employee is working from home. When I was a home worker for an organisation experienced in managing home workers pre-pandemic, I had to prove I had an suitable space, desk and set-up in order to accept the job.

        From the legal point of view, “I don’t need a monitor, I’m fine working on a laptop sat on the sofa” is as meaningful as “I don’t need a hard hat, I’ll take the risk thanks!” A company can’t offload a legal liability like that.

        There are employers that don’t take that duty seriously, of course, but that doesn’t make them any less liable.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. When my company sent us home in lockdown they checked with us that we had the desk space and set up we needed and made sure we had all received information on seating and reducing muscular and skeletal injuries and RSI. If people didn’t have suitable kit, e.g. a desk chair or a monitor and needed it then the company organised for this to be supplied.

          1. Karou*

            I think it’s a UK thing because nobody here in Canada asked about my WFH setup. I wish my company provided desk chairs so I didn’t have to spend $350 on one but they were far too cheap! People did ask for them.

            1. DataGirl*

              Yeah, in the US I don’t think anyone cares, regardless of whatever laws are in place. When we all changed to work from home a lot of my colleagues and I “stole” our desk chairs, extra monitors, etc. but there was never anything official saying we can/should take them (and I work in healthcare where they should know better).

              Personally I couldn’t get by without my three monitors, but I have terrible eyesight and frequently have to be looking at multiple data sets at once. If OP is fine working just on their laptop from the couch, that’s their choice.

              1. alienor*

                My employer at the time said to let them know if we needed equipment for home/to take home equipment from the office, but if we said we were good they took our word for it. (We all had laptops already.) My current employer provided a laptop but left my personal desk arrangements up to me. That said, they’re generally pretty good about making sure people have what they need, so I assume they’d get me a monitor if I asked for one.

                1. alienor*

                  Just remembered that previous employer also had an automatic stipend to help cover the cost of internet at home. Current employer doesn’t, but I also got hired as a remote employee so the assumption that I had sufficient internet access was sort of implied.

              2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                Depends on state laws, and employers. My company doesn’t *require* a good home setup, they’ll pay to set one up if you ask. I think they gave up to $500 when we first went virtual for people to get a good WFH setup? Something like that. I wasn’t there yet, so I don’t remember (I was offered something similar when I started, but I already have a good WFH setup), but it was significant.

            2. Ontario Library Employee*

              I’m also in Canada and I don’t know if there is a law or not, but my employer did ask about my setup when we started working from home in March 2020. It wasn’t just ergonomics they were concerned about – there was a whole checklist of 30 things I had to do to ensure my home office was safe. Things like having a fire escape route posted, a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, smoke and carbon monoxide detector, etc. I also had to verify I have a surge protector and no overloaded outlets, my office had adequate lighting, and that my office furniture was free of sharp edges.

              1. Zephy*

                Wow. When we went to WFH we were explicitly *not* allowed to take office furniture or supplies home, and no one gave a single flying eff at a rolling doughnut about my setup. I was working from the kitchen table, on a laptop with second monitor.

                1. Lala762*

                  Only jumped in to say, ‘flying eff at a rolling doughnut’?!
                  Pure bliss!
                  I’ve never heard that and now I love it.

                2. Cj*

                  We couldn’t take furniture home, but we could take our laptops, keyboards, mice, monitors, etc. I had my own business for a couple of years, so I was pretty well set up with office furniture.

                  We did get bonuses in June 2020 that offset the costs anybody had to buy that stuff.

            3. Marillenbaum*

              US here–government–and when I started teleworking I had to fill out a form certifying certain safety and other features of my WFH set up as part of my paperwork.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Same here for both spouse and I. Our supervisors were a bit lenient when everyone got immediately sent home because of Covid – but if you want to be home full time there are lots of rules with regards to set-up and equipment to be followed from a risk management standpoint.

              2. wittyrepartee*

                US here, city government. Nope! I was working on top of literal boxes for a while, on a laptop borrowed from my boyfriend. What a mess.

              3. Joielle*

                Fascinating! US, state government here and nobody asked what my WFH setup was. I took my work laptop home and probably could have gotten a second monitor if I had asked, but I didn’t have space for one.

                1. Jo March*

                  We didn’t have requirements when staff first moved to WFH in 2020. Once telecommuting became a normal part of our work culture, we updated the telecommuting agreement. Staff have to submit a picture of their workspace and complete a checklist for ergonomic purposes.

            4. Medusa*

              Damn, my desk chair was the equivalent of about $10 US. I bought it secondhand. AAM readers, check out secondhand chairs! there are a lot of high-quality ones out there!

            5. BabyElephantWalk*

              Might change based on recent tribunal rulings in Quebec. Employers have liability when you are working from home now.

          2. Bumblebee*

            This is fascinating. I am in the southern US, and I was one of the last staff at my university to go remote (I’m in an AVP position; we sent everyone below this level home in March 2020 but I didn’t go out until April). At that point we had one laptop left in our supply bin – many of us had desktops and so my staff took the communal laptops that we had for events, travel, etc – so I took it. It was the oldest, crappiest laptop. I was told under no circumstances could I remove my very nice desktop. When I inquired about a newer laptop, I was told that my university would have to declare my laptop an emergency acquisition for me to be allowed to purchase one, and that two VPs would have to agree.

            1. Bumblebee*

              I would add that luckily I was back in the office by June 2020, since it was judged fiscally impossible for the university system to remain remote, so I sucked it up, and the next time IT purchasing was opened back up I acquired my current set-up which involves a very nice laptop.

              1. Bumblebee*

                At no time was anyone remotely (ha ha) interested in whether or not I had any type of furniture at all, or the state of my ergonomics.

          3. Hippo-nony-potomus*

            I’m in the U.S. When my previous job went remote during the pandemic, we were all sent a detailed information sheet about ‘workplace’ safety, including power strips, ensuring that cords were not a tripping hazard, proper ergonomic setup, and, given the confidential nature of our work, appropriate controls so that other members of our household did not see our work.

            It was pretty clear that they thought our home office needed to be set up to be safe and they assumed that they would be liable for ‘workplace’ related injuries, even when that workplace is your home.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Someone was telling me about an email that their university sent out in March 2020, which actually told the scientists that they were not allowed to take any dangerous materials out of the lab to continue working at home. I’d like to think that was overcautious, but research scientists…

              1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                I work with research scientists. Can confirm you should tell them this. Better safe then explaining to the authorities why Dr Oglethorpe has chemical weapon ingredients in his garage.

          4. Tara*

            Yeah, same (UK too). I had to complete a really weird training about how my arm was positioned on the keyboard and we were given any equipment we needed. I spent months in physio dealing with issues from being hunched over a laptop during the first lockdown, so I can see why companies do it (i.e. to avoid any more mes).

          5. Charitylawismyjam*

            When we moved to WFH at the start of 2020 my employer provided an online ergonomic session with a Physio and then sent us any extra equipment we needed to be working safely. We were also able to take our ergonomic chairs plus basically anything else we needed from the workplace (which for me was my chair, two extra screens, mouse, keyboard and on and on). It’s basic duty of care as far as my employer is concerned. I’m in Sydney, Australia in the corporate sector and from what I’ve heard this approach was pretty standard. I’m really saddened to hear that for so many others it is very different, although not really surprised.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep – when we were in the office we’d periodically have someone from Facilities come round and check that everyone’s workstation was safe and appropriate, and give advice about monitor height and chairs and whatnot. When we switched to WFH we were all sent a survey so that we could confirm that we had a suitable place to work, and we could request any equipment that would bring our set-up up to scratch if it was lacking. That’s not to say everything is perfect – I’m sure they’d be horrified at the fact that I work sitting on a normal wooden chair and not an office chair – but the employer has to at least be able to prove that they’ve provided information on ergonomic workstations and that equipment is available if necessary.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          It’s a bit more nuanced than that. Am in the UK and my home setup would probably make our ergonomics person shake his head – but it works for me and keeps the cat off my laptop.

          Now I did have to send them an email saying that I do NOT need any additional kit at home at all and my medical problems (myriad) wouldn’t have issues with my home setup though.

          My workplace setup is my approved one – very expensive special chair, multiple monitors etc.etc.

          1. bamcheeks*

            That doesn’t necessarily mean that your employer is following the law! Given your needs are more complex than average, it’s possible that they’d be able to defend not ensuring you have an ergonomically appropriate workspace at home, but it’s also possible they’re just not complying. Lots of places don’t!

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              There’s no damn room at home for a proper ergonomic setup for my needs anyway. The company can’t be blamed for that.

              1. Loulou*

                Right! I’m all for the expansion of worker protections, but my home is not a workplace — it’s a residence! My employer should not be able to dictate where I live or how I set up my furniture. I guess it’s good I don’t WFH because what people are describing sounds obscenely intrusive to me.

        4. HoHumDrum*

          This may be a different thing in the US. Or at least my employer has never done this. When my job shifted to remote due to the pandemic all that happened was I took my work laptop home. Had to buy myself a desk back in fall 2020 when it became apparent this was not going to be temporary. No one from work has really ever asked about my setup outside of polite chitchat stuff. I work from bed half the time because I got used to doing that in college when I lived in a dorm room.

          1. bamcheeks*

            This is definitely been pretty common in the UK too, with the rapid switch to homeworking because of the pandemic. Most employers simply didn’t have the expertise or the resource to be compliant in such a fast-moving situation. But I worked for a union which had a lot of homeworkers in 2013-16 and the legal requirements are very clear, even if compliance varies.

          2. Grits McGee*

            Per OSHA, “There are no specific ergonomics regulations, although OSHA will continue to cite ergonomic injuries under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Section 5. All employees are covered by OSHA under this section.” But I do wonder how much OSHA would pursue an action against an employer if the non-ergonomic setup was of the employee’s choosing.

          3. turquoisecow*

            I’ve been fully remote (but part time) for three years and at no point did my employer ever ask about my home setup. When the entire office switched to remote in March 2020 or somewhere around there, I don’t think anyone else got anything either (though I could be wrong). I have seen my coworkers on video meetings from their kitchen tables so I don’t think anyone was worried about ergonomics.

            1. lilsheba*

              Personally I couldn’t stand working without a proper desk setup, and I sure as hell can’t work from just my tiny laptop screen, the eyestrain would kill me. So I have a desk setup in a separate room with a door, and have a chair that I had to buy. My company supplied the laptop. one big screen, keyboard and mouse. I’m not even using their keyboard and mouse cause I have my own that I prefer. They also supplied a desk phone but I had to buy my headset. No one seems to care how the ergonomics are. And frankly I have no idea if worker’s comp even applies in any case here.

              But yeah working from a bed or couch on just the laptop, never happening.

          4. RussianInTexas*

            My company basically gave these two options:
            1. You work from home, we don’t care how, with what equipment, we give you nothing, we care not about your set up.
            2. You work from the office.
            Partner’s big company provided them with equipment, including ergonomic chairs, had evaluations, allowances, etc.
            So it depends.

        5. Anononon*

          This is going to be an interesting comment section because it seems like the UK (and Australia?) versus the US are so vastly different on this. Like, as an American, an employer being required to care so much about the ergonomics of a work from home set up is just bizarre. The only even somewhat equivalent I can think of is if one works for a place with high confidentiality concerns and needs to prove they have a secure workplace.

          1. Observer*

            Like, as an American, an employer being required to care so much about the ergonomics of a work from home set up is just bizarre.

            It’s actually not bizarre – it’s actually legally required. Also, workers comp would definitely be affected if someone got injured due their work set up. I also suspect that the liability is likely to be higher when WFH is a requirement rather than a choice made by the employee.

            1. Anononon*

              From my experience, and it looks like from other commenters as well, this is not something that’s ever really come up while working remotely. Perhaps it means that they’re not following OSHA requirements, but it seems like most people aren’t aware of them.

              (And, yes, I know that ignorance is not an excuse for not following regulations, but whether or not it’s an excuse, it’s the reason for it.)

            2. L.H. Puttgrass*

              I get that workplace safety rules apply whether the workplace is in an office or at home. And I also get that ergonomics are officially part of workplace safety per OSHA. But I’m really curious whether anyone has actually filed (and won) worker’s comp claims for ergonomic injuries sustained when working at home.

              I mean, I’m not so curious that I’m going to do the research on that myself, but if anyone happens to know if this has actually happened I’d love to hear about it.

        6. CeeKee*

          Worker protections in the U.S. are pretty shoddy, especially in the private sector. The idea that we would be meaningfully compensated for a strain injury incurred in a WFH setup is pretty much a fantasy here.

        7. Loulou*

          You’re drawing a comparison between sitting on the couch on your computer and WORKING IN AN ACTIVE CONSTRUCTION SITE without a helmet and you don’t find that dramatic????

          I freely admit my view might be colored by working onsite during a pandemic and having to advocate for solutions to actual, non-hypothetical occupational hazards that present actual, imminent risk to health and safety, but this pearl clutching is just so absurd to me. Glad you’re all such big fans of OSHA though!

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Well, ok- so I’m going to say that I actually did end up slipping 2 discs in my neck from the pandemic changes aggravating an old injury, and am now going through PT right now to fix that. For a while had no work equipment at all: no laptop, no desk, no chair, no keyboard. It was pretty bad. I would have really appreciated any sort of small budget towards getting these things, because my salary isn’t that huge and I was the sole provider for my family for a while.

            1. Loulou*

              I’m sorry to hear this! I certainly wasn’t trying to suggest that it was impossible for a poor WFH setup to lead to an injury, just that the “when you inevitably are injured…” phrasing of OP was excessive and all these comments about legal liability seem to be underestimating how many much more dangerous working conditions employers are perfectly able to ignore. My apologies if I seemed dismissive of the possibility of injuring yourself while WFH and hope you’re on the mend now.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Not an OSHA fan because I’m not in the US and I have no idea how your laws work. :-) And I’m not drawing comparisons between how risky they are, but how the employer’s legal liability works, because that is exactly the same. “My employee just said they preferred not to and I was OK with that” wouldn’t fly in either situation.

            That said, my understanding is that one of the reasons really basic, trivial-sounding stuff like trip hazards and musculoskeletal injuries are always significant in the workplace injuries statistics is precisely because people mostly take safety much more seriously in more obviously dangerous workplaces.

      3. Bagpuss*

        It’s not dramatic.
        I’m not familiar with US law and presume that some elements will vary by state, but it’s likely that the employer has obligations relating to workplace safety, even if the employee is working from home.
        I’m in the UK and I know we have to do a Health and Safety assessment if someone is working from home and would be potentially liable if someone was injured while working. for instance, if they trip over a cable or had problems due to not having a proper desk and screen etc.
        Even in lockdown we were still supposed to do this, although for practical reasons it was by way of asking the employee for details rather than physically checking out the workspace .

        Obviously if we provide someone with the appropriate equipment and set up and they chose not to use it then that may well affect liability if someone is injured, but it’s not dramatic or inappropriate to be considering it , and even if you are in a jurisdiction which doesn’t have similar rules, it’s good practice to be considering this type of thing to ensure ensure that your employees have safe and suitable working arrangements – and if it’s something you consider as a routine thing then you are less likely to end up with a situation where someone is working in a sub-optimal set up because they didn’t have, or didn’t feel able to ask for, suitable equipment.

        1. Anon Fed*

          I will link to OSHA guidance in a separate comment, but in the vast, vast majority of cases there is going to be very little regulatory interest in a typical white collar employee’s at home work setup. I work for an agency with a lot of safety issues, and it would shock you what is legal and permissible under US safety law. (Our union just negotiated a new contract where the maximum temperature threshold employees are required to work at was lowered from 120 degrees (F) to 100. Oh, and they’re now allowed to have water on them if the temperature is 90 degrees. This is a regular warehouse, not a steel mill.)

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              This part of that OSHA guidance seems worth quoting, for those who don’t feel like following the link:

              OSHA will not conduct inspections of employees’ home offices.

              OSHA will not hold employers liable for employees’ home offices, and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees.

              I can only imagine the 4th Amendment outcry that would result if OSHA claimed that they could inspect home offices! And the second statement seems pretty clear that home office safety isn’t a liability issue for employers as long as the work is strictly office-related (i.e., having employees manufacturing things at home changes is a different matter).

              1. Antilles*

                From what I’ve observed, if you’re in an industry like construction or manufacturing where they have to do major safety training anyways because safety is a major concern, then ergonomics and general office safety will typically get addressed as part of the overall safety training.
                In industries without such concerns, then there won’t be any safety training whatsoever until/unless someone has an OSHA reportable incident.

                1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                  I’m technically in healthcare. I say “technically” because I actually maintain clinical research systems, but our training and rules are dictated by the healthcare provider we’re a part of, so for this discussion I work in healthcare. We have to take a short ergonomics training every year. It’s not much, and people often ignore the advice, but it’s part of our annual training package every year.

        2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Even if some employees are not in jurisdictions that would find liability (even just worker’s comp) for at-home injuries, other employees may be. A company that has offices in California, Texas, and South Carolina, and whose South Carolina employees commute in from North Carolina, will likely just go with the California regulations for everyone – it’s easier than varying by home office.

          1. Not today*

            My employer does not go by CA regulations in states other than CA, although we have offices there. Each location is responsible for following applicable laws. My location has no WFH guidelines, requirements, or interest in personal arrangements. One of my coworkers uses his ironing board as a desk. We were initially not allowed to take anything home other than our laptops, and no one has ever asked about individual spaces. Over time people have been allowed to take items like office chairs and monitors with the disclaimer that there is no functionality guarantee. No one from our downtown office in a nearby major city took chairs or monitors because most rely on public transit and therefore didn’t have any way to get them home. That office is relocating within the same building, and all of the monitors were recycled.

      4. hamsterpants*

        “Many people do it without ever being injured” is a bad attitude to have around workplace safety. Ergonomic injuries, though rarely life-threatening, are absolutely real and can require surgery and/or extensive time off to treat. They can lead to lifelong disability. And yes, the employer could be considered financially liable at least in the United States.

          1. hamsterpants*

            Criminal liability or civil?

            When I got an ergo injury my company paid for all treatment even though my health insurance otherwise would have had a hefty deductible. I didn’t take them to court over it but it was a Fortune 500 company. They are not known for being nice for niceness sake.

            Here’s one OSHA citation if you’d like to read about an example. https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region5/11102016-1

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              That link is about liability for repetitive-stress injuries suffered by assembly line workers. That’s a quite different thing than liability for computer-related RSIs from office work, let alone RSIs sustained while working at home.

              As I mentioned above, I think the attention to “teleworkplace safety” is the result of syllogistic reasoning that looks something like this:

              1. A teleworker’s home is a workplace.
              2. Injuries suffered in the workplace can be OSHA violations.
              3. Ergonomic injuries are injuries.
              Thus: Ergonomic injuries suffered in a teleworker’s home can be OSHA violations.

              For a certain kind of hyper-cautious or bureaucratic mindset, that’s enough. Whether a violation is likely (or has ever been found) is at some point irrelevant to this mindset, especially if that liability can be avoided by making teleworkers promise that their home workplaces are safe.

      5. The Other Dawn*

        No, it’s not dramatic. My company is allowing WFH now and we’re expected to have an ergonomic setup. They will even send a Facilities person out to your home to check it out if you’re someone who frequently has back pain or some other issue, like a disability. They’ll look at your setup to see if any adjustments are needed, like the chair height/seat depth, desk height, monitor position, etc. It’s to cover themselves in the event of an injury. Or, in the case of someone on my team, someone who has had surgery due to a work-related condition (carpel tunnel) and they want to ensure the person has the correct setup in order to minimize any ongoing issues.

      6. Observer*

        This is…so dramatic!!

        Not dramatic at all. I’m not saying that the OP *WILL* be hurt and *WILL* then either sue the company or try to collect workers comp. But it CAN and DOES sometimes happen tat people get hurt and it comes back to the employer, and it’s not unreasonable for a company to try to avoid that liability.

        1. Loulou*

          The comment I’m responding to literally said “when you finally report an injury” which I can only interpret to mean “OP WILL definitely be injured by this during the course of their time working from home.” Did you interpret it differently?

      7. The feds probably know best*

        I work for the federal government and we have to attest to a checklist of items to work from home to ensure compliance with federal law.

      8. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        It’s overly dramatic, but not necessarily wrong. My company has lots of rules around ergonomics. Also from an onboarding perspective, there’s often a “package” that’s ordered and shipped ton new remote employees, which sure probably *can* be changed, but nobody wants to do a bunch of extra work to get you less stuff. They might bend over backward to get you more or special stuff (a particular type of ergonomic keyboard for instance), but why go out of the way to *not*’send someone a monitor?

      9. Red 5*

        Actually, I highly doubt that many people do it without ever being injured. In fact I’d say almost all people do it while slowly but surely causing back strain and disc degeneration that will -eventually- become an issue, but it takes a long enough time (usually) that our brains aren’t really designed to connect it directly to the source. We want a back problem to be “oh, I fell down the stairs, this comes from a specific moment in time” and not “I sat poorly for five-ten years and now my lumbar spine is permanently twisted and I’ll have back pain for the rest of my life.”

        How do I know? Because I’m about to get surgery on my spine after it degenerated slowly over the course of about five years and that was partially caused by a bad work set-up at the office since I because I didn’t think it mattered that much. The problem got tipped over the edge when my decidedly non-ergonomic work from home setup made my spine yell “no more” and now I’m in intense pain every day.

        There are ways to get more ergonomic postures going with a couch or reclined position, but if you’re using a laptop on your actual lap, that ain’t it, and you should stop. Today.

        Nobody wants to be going through what I’m going through right now, and this kind of posture is what makes it happen. A little adjustment to your work set up is a tiny price to pay to avoid nerve damage. The human spine is terribly good at getting messed up from the smallest things.

          1. Red 5*

            No, I hadn’t really considered that being a possibility and I suspect because of where I live (in the U.S. and in a state with very few worker protections) and a few other details it wouldn’t be covered. But after reading this thread it’s on my to do list to look into it.

      10. BabyElephantWalk*

        In Quebec, a tribunal just found in favour of a work from home employee who fell down the stairs at her own home while heading out for lunch. Employers are going to be careful because if they don’t there is real legal liability here.

        1. lilsheba*

          This confuses me, how is the employer liable for this? It’s HER home and has nothing to do with a work setup.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            If she’s working from home, she needs to be able to work safely, wouldn’t you agree? Employers shouldn’t be letting people work from home unless they have a decent setup.

            1. lilsheba*

              Sure for the workspace, it never occurred to me that stairs that have nothing to do with the workspace would be included. If I tripped on stairs in my home, I wouldn’t expect workman’s comp for it.

      11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s very definitely not ergonomic. It might be fine for watching a film on your laptop, but working all day is another thing entirely. And it might be fine for a youngster, but the older you get the more you need to pay attention to posture.
        Also, just as people are told to smile for sound-only phone calls, so they sound more cheerful, I think that you could also have a much more professional attitude sitting at a desk than curled up in bed.
        So Alison manages to sound very professional working from her couch, it might influence others to a greater degree.
        I opted for a small desk – big desks have more room for mess to accumulate so now I only have room for my laptop, a mug, a jar of pens, my diary and phone. I do have a good swivel chair and everything I need to maintain good posture (as well as regular yoga and swimming and walking).

    2. Beth*

      I’ve been working from my couch for most of the pandemic. It’s my preference over a desk, personally–it’s more comfortable for me, not something that I expect to cause injury. It’s a bit odd to assume everyone has the same work station needs.

      But even if I was concerned about it, there is no room in my studio for a desk and office chair. I think this is pretty common for people in urban areas; our homes are pretty small and don’t have extra space for a separate office setup, and moving to a larger space would mean a big increase in housing costs. Sincere question here–do you think offices are (or should be) required to provide for those costs for remote employees, if that’s what’s necessary to provide a more standard-ly ergonomic work station? At what point would that liability end?

      1. Bamcheeks*

        It’s not really whether they should or shouldn’t be liable— they legally are (at least in the UK.) Nobody’s tested what happens when all employees switch to working from home because of a pandemic, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later. But I was a home worker before the pandemic for and organisation which had a large number of homeworkers and followed the legal requirements very seriously, and I nearly had to turn the job down because my office space wasn’t three cubic metres (in the end we counted the doorway and slid it under the rules that way. It was a major problem for all our London employees particularly.

        1. Beth*

          Ah, I suspect this is a stricter and more clearly delineated law than exists in the US. I don’t think my employer considered themselves liable in any way for my home setup when we went remote; they gave me a paid zoom account and called it a day.

          How did your London employees end up handling it? I’m assuming London apartments are like NYC or LA or SF ones–small, expensive spaces, so needing to have a separate office room would be cost prohibitive for many people. Did people scrape together the funds to move to a larger space? Find nooks that could be converted in their existing spaces? Did your organization offer support or assistance with any of that?

          1. bamcheeks*

            You got a fixed amount to buy a desk, chair, filing cabinet, blinds and any other ergonomic equipment you would need (like those back supports, foot rests etc). Computer equipment (laptop, dock, peripherals) was provided by the organisation and had to go back when you left the job. You could buy them out of the company’s supply catalogue, or if you had a particular reason to get something different (I got a custom desk fitted to the wall), you could expense it.

            All my London colleagues in shared houses and flats had to sort out a space big enough for a desk and chair either in their bedroom or in a shared household space if they wanted to take the jobs. It didn’t have to be a special room, it just had to be big enough for a desk which would hold a monitor, keyboard and a laptop in a dock. But we also had to be on a hardwired ethernet connection, not WLAN (again, the company paid for it.) So you did have to have a fixed place where you worked, you couldn’t just take your laptop and work from wherever in the house.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yeah you’re right– I’ve just checked my email and it was actually 11 cubic meters– my office was a teeny room (with a window!) off our spare bedroom and it worked out as 8 cubic metres until we fudged it.

      2. Joielle*

        I was working from my couch for the first year of the pandemic and I hated it so much that we literally moved house so I could have an office. But yeah, there was just no space for two offices with desks in our old house, and my spouse needs an office for a bunch of monitors and confidential paperwork, so moving was the only option. We were lucky to be able to do it but certainly a lot of people cannot (or don’t want to! It’s a huge pain to sell a house, buy a house, and move!)

        1. Loulou*

          Right — if I were to work from home my options would be to move, or work on my couch. It would be a massive expense, not to mention intrusion into my private life, to have to move so I could work on a more ergonomic computer!

          The smug tone of “enjoy the injury you will inevitably get from doing this” just doesn’t sit right with me considering how many people must be in this position.

          1. moql*

            It’s very smug! They act as if everyone could magically move to larger houses when they were told they had to work from home when lockdown started.

            I’ve lived in apartments where the only option would have been to get rid of the couch and coffee table and squeeze 3 tiny desks in the living room, leaving nowhere to eat meals or hang out besides our tiny bedrooms.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In France, you cannot make an employee WFH unless you pay for everything: all furniture and equipment, plus a proportion of electricity and Internet costs. And you also have to let them come into an office at least once a week so they don’t feel too isolated.
        The law dates from way back, when some employers decided to save on costs by making people work remote, when the people wanted to have a desk to come to in an office even if they travelled a lot for work.

    3. louvella*

      My chronic back and neck pain went away when I started working from home and working on my couch whenever I needed a break from my desk.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yeah I’m a little puzzled at the assumptions from a number of people that a desk and chair are more ergonomic than a couch. I switch back and forth between laptop on a couch with reclining seats, and laptop on a desk with an ergonomic chair that was a gift from my partner. Both of which are an order of magnitude more ergonomic than the desks and chairs that we have available at the office of the small direct-service-oriented nonprofit at which I work. Those office chairs had um seen better days. My organization has been wonderful about taking the pandemic seriously, sending staff COVID safety supplies (masks, hand sanitizer, we’re getting rapid home tests soon), and if requested, minor office supplies. And just approved bonuses – not large ones, but this is a small nonprofit and bonuses are normally unheard of – to offset extra costs of WFH (utilities, buying desk equipment). But nobody has ever checked on our desk arrangements or cared if we’re working from the couch/bed.

        My partner was disabled, some years back, by an office-related ergonomic injury. So I do understand the importance of these issues, and care a lot about them. But that injury was sustained in a regular old white-collar office environment, with a desk and an office chair. So between that experience, and my own home setup being way more ergonomic than my office setup would be, I do feel like there’s some nuance.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          A desk and chair, if setup properly, are 100% certain to be more ergonomic than a couch. Note two things about this statement 1) “if setup properly”, and 2) “ergonomic “ not “comfortable”.

          It takes a fair amount of effort to setup a proper ergonomic desk space with monitors, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair all set to the proper heights, etc. A badly setup desk is no better or maybe even worse than a couch.

          Similarly, ergonomics is the study of how stresses and strains affect the physiology of the body, and how to minimize those stresses and strains to avoid negative impacts. A properly setup ergonomic workspace will probably be comfortable, but not necessarily as comfortable as your couch. That is absolutely true. It’s is also true that working on a laptop on the couch is going to put strains on your neck, shoulders, wrists and possibly elbows that aren’t there when you’re at a proper desk. All of those things increase your risk of injury, no matter how comfortable you are.

          1. Red 5*

            Exactly this. Once my back pain progressed to the point where I could no longer sit up properly, I had to switch to working in a reclined position. So I looked up the ways that I could make that more ergonomic and not cause further damage. They exist, and you can find them, because ergonomics is mostly a series of trade offs in a real world context. Almost nobody can get a 100% perfect set up even in an office because human beings come in so many shapes and sizes. So it’s more of a “it’s more important to me to have the monitor at a proper height because I have neck problems already,” and so on.

            I’ve never in my life been able to work at a truly perfect desk set-up, because they are too expensive for most workplaces to really offer, and impossible for the average person to afford for their home OR have room for. But there are ways to make trade offs in every situation you find yourself in so that you can get closer, and divorcing your mind from the “I am currently comfortable and so this must be fine” is one of the first things to do.

            I seriously cannot stress enough that whatever you can do to mitigate the long term stress on your joints and your spine is worth doing. No, not everybody can pick up and move, and not everyone has room for a proper desk. Most people can’t afford to just buy a huge new piece of furniture either. I get that, truly. Moving sucks and the real estate market is bananas right now. And I for one don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new desk that I won’t even want whenever I go back to the office. But there are going to be tiny changes and adjustments that can be done if people just start from a mindset of wanting to make sure they’re doing the best they can now to help their future selves.

            If there are small changes you can make, you really should. Every little bit helps, and we all need all the help we can get these days. Really, in the end, I’m saying that other people shouldn’t make my mistakes because you really don’t want to end up where I am right now.

    4. desdemona*

      I work from my couch, but my coffee table lifts up to provide a proper height work surface. It’s still not a desk and cannot accommodate a monitor (or any permanent set up – when I’m done working, it goes back to being my coffee table!)
      LW2 might have that, or a lap desk, or something else, that isn’t relevant to the question at hand.

    5. Pennyworth*

      When we started WFH for a government agency I had to sign a document confirming that I had a desk and chair at home that conformed to ergonomic standards. They weren’t going to check, or do anything to prevent me working how I preferred, it was just to protect themselves legally.

    6. Not A Manager*

      I’ve worked on the sofa ever since laptops were invented. If they didn’t want you to hold them on your lap, they wouldn’t have called them “laptops.”

      1. hamsterpants*

        I don’t think that the marketing team at the laptop company based their naming decision on an ergonomic recommendation.

      2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Exactly; when I wfh it’s from my own laptop logged in to the remote network. I can move from couch to chair to table to bed whenever I need a new position. Way nicer for my spine and eye strain than the same desk all day.

    7. Gayle*

      I have worked from my recliner for 5 years now. I do try to move every hour (thanks Fitbit and wood stove!). No issues here.

      1. Red 5*

        The regular movement is really clutch and it gets pushed to the wayside in conversations about ergonomics and work set-ups all the time. Honestly, just getting up once an hour and doing a lap around the room (while trying to focus your eyes on things farther away than your screen usually is) is going to do an ENORMOUS amount of good, sometimes more so than the “right” type of desk because it’s the weight compressing your lumbar spine that’s a large part of the problem. The best chair in the world isn’t going to reverse gravity.

    8. Akili*

      I’d just like to point out that while it may be technically unergonomic, sometimes it’s what’s better for the person’s body. I can’t work in a standard desk chair for too many hours in a day or I will mess up my hip and be unable to walk until I get a physiotherapist to fix it (hypermobility). I compensate at the office by having a standing desk I can swap to. At home I wasn’t provided anything beyond a laptop, and I don’t have the space for a desk so I use my couch as well which causes me zero hip problems, so not having a standing desk isn’t an issue. “Proper ergonomic work stations” are often designed based on the idea that your body works the way it should and the only issues are things like length of legs/bodies/arms and how you interact with a work station. The study of ergonomics is designed to eliminate injury and discomfort at work stations – so if I am in less pain due to sitting on my couch instead of being forced into a desk chair, then that should be a good thing according to ergonomics.

      So yes, work should provide what is needed (as best they can), but don’t assume that by working from the couch OP will for sure get injured.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        This!
        My desk (both at home and all desks at the office) are electrically adjustable to sit or stand.
        For travel, I found an app (SuperDisplay) that makes my table act as a second screen via the USB cable or WiFi. Great to increase my productivity for a very modest expense ($5 or so) and zero added weight.

      2. Bamcheeks*

        I totally get that it might be better for lots of people (it is for me!) but that’s not how the law works. If you get muskulös-skeletal injuries due to your work, you have a case against your employer and the employer’s defence cannot be, “but she told us she was more comfortable working on the sofa.” Legally, it’s very much not about your preference and all about the employer’s duty to provide an ergonomically appropriate workstation, and that means all the usual stuff about desk, chair, feet flat on the floor or raised, wrists supported in front of the keyboard, display at eye height and so on.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Is the employer also legally required to provide a living space large enough to fit all these things in?

          Since they aren’t, how is that meant to work?

          1. misspiggy*

            UK law is often implemented based on what is ‘reasonable’. So if the employer was doing *something* to make the available space safer, reasonable-accommodation style (no major disruption to business), that would be fine.

            1. ceiswyn*

              See, in my world, ‘reasonable’ means letting a person use the home setup that they have found to be practical and comfortable. Sending a person equipment that they cannot use and have no space to store does not seem to me to be ‘reasonable’.

              For example, I agree that my own home working setup isn’t good and it would be much more ergonomic for me to have a big monitor att eye level. But since that isn’t actually possible in the space I have, providing me with one will just result in a health and safety hazard as I try to get a large item into my loft for storage unaided.

              1. londonedit*

                I don’t think any UK employer would insist on sending people equipment that they don’t want or can’t use. But it definitely is the employer’s responsibility to make sure employees are informed about ergonomic ways of working and are given access to any equipment they might need to make their set-up safe and not likely to cause back problems/RSI/whatever.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Definitely. They are very unlikely to insist on sending you something you can’t use or don’t want but they do need to make sure they’ve checked with you and made you aware of the risks. So in my case I don’t have room for a large desk or chair but I requested (and they provided) a riser for the laptop so it’s eye level on the table I have and a back support for my chair so I am sitting better. My colleague had a larger amount of space but with no table so they provided him with a desk and a chair.

                  The idea isn’t for everyone to have exactly the same thing, it’s for people to have the thing they need. It’s also for the employer to meet their statutory duties for health and safety.

                2. ceiswyn*

                  But the initial point I was responding to was that “Legally, it’s very much not about your preference and all about the employer’s duty to provide an ergonomically appropriate workstation” – not about just giving advice.

                  In a previous job, back when I was morbidly obese, my employer mandated that all office chairs had to have arms fitted to them as an ergonomic requirement. They literally would not let me opt out.

                  Were they genuinely legally required to make it painful for me to sit down due to the arms that I physically could not use digging into my hips? (I have short arms to start with, and my extra padding raised my height like sitting on two cushions) . Or is there, in fact, no one ‘ergonomic’ setup that fits everyone, and it is possible to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments to different employee circumstances and preferences?

                3. bamcheeks*

                  If the employer mandated that all chairs had to have arms, that’s an employer policy, not a legal requirement. AFAIK, the law doesn’t stipulate what a safe workstation looks like– the law says that the employer has to provide a safe workstation and companies would need to be able to defend that what they were doing was based on the best available evidence and good practice.

                  The point is liability– if the company lets you do something and you get hurt doing it, can
                  you turn around and sue the company. If you say, “I’m fine sat on the couch, it won’t hurt me” and then you later discover that your back and shoulders are knackered, the company can’t use, “but ceiswyn told us they were fine to work on the couch” as a defence. The employer has a duty to protect you against muskulo-skeletal injury and the accepted scientific consensus is that working for ~8 hours a day sat on a couch will put you at a higher risk of muskulo-skeletal injuries.

                  So yes, preference matters, but your preference doesn’t override your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment, any more than you could prefer not to wear a hard hat if you were going on a building site.

                  And to be honest, most individual people probably don’t know as much as about this as the best available evidence. We’re all the experts on whether we feel better or worse at the end of a day at a desk or on a sofa, of course, but the company is liable for how you are going to feel after a year or ten years of doing that– you personally don’t know how it’s going to affect you until it’s way too late.

                4. ceiswyn*

                  But the reason my company was mandating arms on chairs was due to what was considered a ‘safe workstation’ at the time, based on the best available evidence. The point was that it was demonstrably not safe for me as an individual. And thus, even in ergonomics, one size does not fit all.

                  As another example, in practice I don’t sit on the couch to work, but it’s possible that sitting on the couch to work would actually be better for me than using my laptop at my home desk, given that I have a preexisting shoulder injury that is badly exacerbated by having to look even slightly downwards.

                  Does my workplace have the expertise to understand the implications of my various joint issues and to accurately judge how the different non-ergonomic possibilities that are available to me would affect me in the short and long term? What are a) the legal implications and b) the health implications if they don’t, but mandate one non-ideal setup over another anyway?

                5. bamcheeks*

                  Yeah, I think that’s a very bad implementation!

                  But employers do have a responsibility to meet individual needs: they just need to be able to defend that decision, and that means it would probably have to be assessed by an OH specialist or a medical specialist if it’s too complex for OH. They can’t say, “Oh, she says she’s better on the sofa, so we said she could do that.” They can say, “She has an existing injury / illness which means that a standard set-up isn’t appropriate. Our OH advisor assessed her and agreed that she would be better off working on the sofa, here is the documentation covering that discussion and the decision.”

                6. Observer*

                  @ceiswyn

                  “Legally, it’s very much not about your preference and all about the employer’s duty to provide an ergonomically appropriate workstation” – not about just giving advice.

                  That’s true, because sometimes people’s preferences are actually NOT ergonomic or safe. Someone gave the example of people whose preference is to not wear appropriate clothing or safety gear.

                  Were they genuinely legally required to make it painful for me to sit down due to the arms that I physically could not use digging into my hips?Were they genuinely legally required to make it painful for me to sit down due to the arms that I physically could not use digging into my hips?

                  That’s a straw man. Obviously they were not “obliged” and in fact what they were doing would probably be illegal in the US. Because while you probably were not entitled to an ADA accommodation, appropriately sized chairs ARE pretty close to a legal requirement. Their claim that it was a “legal ergonomic requirement” was, at best, profoundly ignorant. Because, almost by definition, ergonomics is in large part about adjusting to body differences.

                7. Observer*

                  @ceiswyn

                  But the reason my company was mandating arms on chairs was due to what was considered a ‘safe workstation’ at the time, based on the best available evidence

                  Except that what you describe has NEVER been supported by any solid evidence. If your company claimed that it was, they were either lying or terribly ignorant. Seriously.

                  One size definitely does not fit all in ergonomics, and I have yet to see (and I’ve been in the workforce for decades) and competent ergonomics person claim otherwise. Nevertheless there ARE things that over-ride preference.

                  To go back to the PPE example. The fact that someone can’t stand PPE for whatever reason does not over-ride the need to use it, like it or not. On the other hand no competent manager thinks that everyone should be using the exact same PPE and be like “Hey you have to use THIS mask. It’s too small? Tough on you. That’s the law.” or “We’re going to issue the steel toed boots. It’s too small? Tough! It’s too big? Who cares if you trip over your feet. That’s what safety is all about.”

                  It’s ridiculous and wrong. So was your company’s handling of your chair.

                  Does my workplace have the expertise to understand the implications of my various joint issues and to accurately judge how the different non-ergonomic possibilities that are available to me would affect me in the short and long term? What are a) the legal implications and b) the health implications if they don’t, but mandate one non-ideal setup over another anyway?

                  It’s quite possible that they don’t. And the legal implications of forcing you to use a setup that is unsafe for you could be significant. It’s not for nothing that there is a booming business in ergonomics consulting. Because there are a LOT of people who have various issues that make the standard ergonomic set up, not so ergonomic for them.

                8. ceiswyn*

                  @Observer
                  There’s quite a lot of ergonomics advice that says people should have arm rests, and that was what the company was trying to ensure. It just didn’t work for me, personally. (And still doesn’t even now that I’ve lost weight – my shape is beyond what most chairs are able to adjust to. I have similar issues trying to find clothes!)

                  I absolutely agree with you that one size does not fit all, and that’s exactly my point; anyone who says that working from a couch is always bad, or that you must use a position that you find uncomfortable because it’s ‘ergonomic’, is on a bit of a sticky wicket. It’s far, far more complicated than that.

                9. Observer*

                  @ceiswyn

                  There’s quite a lot of ergonomics advice that says people should have arm rests, and that was what the company was trying to ensure.

                  Except that NONE of that advice was that people should have arm-rests on chairs that are too small. What your company SHOULD have been doing was giving you a bigger chair that had arm rests. If that was not possible, all of the advice would have been to at least take the arms off. That your company chose to ignore that (or had implementation people who had no idea what they were doing) does not mean that they were actually following standard advice.

                  or that you must use a position that you find uncomfortable because it’s ‘ergonomic’

                  Except that no one is saying that. There is a difference between over-riding someone’s PREFERENCE, because sometimes people’s preference is actually bad for them, and ignoring someone’s NEED.

                  Now, whether a company should force people to do what’s good for them is a whole other discussion. But it’s not unreasonable for a company to decide that the legal liabilities of not forcing the issue is too high for them to risk.

                  That’s not an excuse, however, to choose ONE “rule” to implement, and ignore all others. ESPECIALLY when one of the rules you (your company) choose to ignore is probably the single most fundamental rule of ergonomics – ie that furniture needs to fit people’s size.

          2. bamcheeks*

            When I worked for a large union that took this very seriously, you couldn’t take the job if you couldn’t meet the office requirements. There was one stage where it looked like I wouldn’t be able to start because the room I wanted to use as an office was so small it didn’t meet the minimum size requirements. Fortunately, it didn’t have a door, so we fudged it by including part of the corridor.

            There was an annual home-working allowance as part of the contract, although it was intended to cover heating and wasn’t enough to cover renting a larger space. It was a major issue recruiting staff in London particularly. But it’s not objectively different from your talent pool being limited by feasible commuting times, or on the other side for the jobs you can take being limited to where you can physically get to.

            1. BethDH*

              I think this really underscores the point that most of these laws were made when working from home was a perk or special situation, not the default or even only option. The answer if you didn’t have such a setup was “come to the office” not “get a new house or you’re SOL”. It will be interesting to see how they change when the regulations catch up to the new norms.

              1. bamcheeks*

                IANAL, but I think it’s inevitable there will be changes in case law. What counts as “reasonable” is pretty always determined in court, and what was reasonable when the employer controls the whole environment certainly won’t be when they don’t!

          3. Observer*

            Since they aren’t, how is that meant to work?

            Provide a workspace for the employer to work in. Which is complicated in a pandemic.

            But I think that offices that think that they are going to force all of their workforce to not work at the office to save money are going to be in for a rude awakening when their workers comp payments start going up, they get hit by OSHA and / or they get sued because people were stuck in inappropriate working conditions because the company made them work from home.

            1. ceiswyn*

              That’s even more complicated in the UK at the moment, where the Welsh government has made it illegal to go into the office if it is possible to work from home. There are fines both for the employee and for the employer.

            2. grapefruit*

              In the US, there is no OSHA ergonomics regulation. OSHA can cite employers for ergonomic issues under the General Duty Clause, and does so occasionally, but really only in the most egregious cases. Those are typically situations with widespread ergonomic issues on production lines and the like, not a home-office WFH setup. As a matter of policy, OSHA does not inspect home offices, does not hold employers liable for home office conditions, and does not expect employers to inspect home offices. Injuries to home-based employees can sometimes be considered OSHA-recordable if there is a clear connection between the work itself and the injury, rather than an injury that results from a feature of the home environment. But even then, that doesn’t mean the company has broken any laws – the injury just needs to be properly recorded. The workers’ comp issue is a bit more complicated. Theoretically, an ergonomic injury resulting from WFH conditions could be compensable, but establishing the work connection is more difficult.

    9. The Prettiest Curse*

      I totally understand that working from the couch or another non-desk location is best for some people for reasons of space or because it works better for them physically.

      However, it may also eventually have an impact on your eyesight. I probably could have worked from a small laptop screen in my 20s – but now I’m in my 40s, I need a monitor for anything involving typing.
      Any opticians or optometrists out there can weigh in better than me on what you can do (other than taking screen breaks) to try and reduce any damage to your eyesight, but it’s just something to consider as a potential long-term side effect.

      1. ceiswyn*

        There’s no proof that computer use causes any long-term damage to the eyes. Losing the ability to read small text or focus close-up is a totally natural consequence of ageing, and will happen from your 40s onward even if you never use a computer.

        Extensive screen use can cause eyestrain and dry eyes, but that’s a rather different issue. There are strategies that can help – connsult an optometrist if necessary.

        1. Risha*

          Yep, the long term tendency is for almost everyone to become more farsighted as you age because your lenses naturally get less flexible and darken slightly. I was severely, coke-bottle-style nearsighted as an older teen, and have spent most of my life since slowly backing down the prescription. I hit the tipping point of effectively no prescription (except for the astigmatisms in both eyes) by my very late 30s, and at 45 have progressive lenses (aka fancy trifocals) to handle mild farsightedness that increases slightly each year.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        The only kind of screens that were proven to cause long term eyesight damage were the VeRY early CRT types that did emit ionising radiation.

    10. Consuming all the tea*

      In Australia, my husband had to demonstrate his home set up was equivalent to his work set up in order to work from home during the pandemic. People who couldn’t comply had to take leave. This went beyond desk and office chair, and included things like first aid kits and fire extinguisher!

      I used to be fine doing a couple of hours work on my couch every night, but now that I’m in my 50s I suffer back and neck pain. I wish I’d known it would eventually catch up with me!

    11. archangelsgirl*

      Like the short answer is – giving you a monitor is a CYA move on their part. They could be covering themselves in case of ergonomic issues as described. They could be covering themselves in case your job changes and you need a two screen setup down the road (like many jobs in the pandemic). There could be other reasons why they want you to be able to use the screen should it be called for. I’m an elementary teacher. My example is, a work laptop was forced on me, even though I have a preferred setup at home, because there were to be “no excuses” if we had to pivot online. They gave me a Google Meet-ready computer with working camera and mic (and a tiny, tiny screen) and the message was, “You are now technically able to teach kids online and if there’s an announcement at 3:30 on Monday, we expect you to be online with those kids on Tuesday.” They are covered. Whether I use it or not is up to me, but I have no excuses not to be ready for the pivot. I think in COVID also, there’s now budget lines for online setups, money has to be spent, etc.

      All just my way of saying, if you can possible accept it, accept it, pile it in a corner somewhere, and your company can check their boxes, and you just continue to do what you do.

    12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Eh, some people don’t have the space or equipment for a desk setup at home. It’s all well and good saying ‘you should work at a proper desk with a proper seat and monitors etc’ but someone with a small house may not even have the room to work anywhere but the couch.

      1. meagain*

        I think it depends on the remote work agreement of the job. In the pandemic, workers who didn’t ordinarily work from home were suddenly working from home, regardless of their home setup met any type of standard remote work agreements.

        Before the pandemic and even now as companies hire with remote work in mind, there is often standard language about what type of home set up is required in order to qualify for a remote position. My partner has always been a remote contractor and the language in his contract is very clear about his home setup and expectation. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t ever sit on a couch or that his company is even strict about it, but he would never be able to push back about a new monitor being sent when having all technology required is in his remote agreement, and he would never sit on a couch for a ZOOM call meeting with his boss and colleagues. That is just not the norm and wouldn’t be professional for his office. (Especially when his bosses are all in-person and high level at the corporate office.)

      2. Mockingjay*

        My company offered to let me take my big, new dual monitors home along with my laptop and docking station when they sent everyone home in the pandemic. I declined, because at that time the only desk I had were two small sewing tables pushed together and there was no room to put the monitors at the proper distance. I now have a big enough desk, but have my laptop and a small USB monitor set up for perfect viewing – I bought a couple of inexpensive risers to set them at eye height.

        My monitors are still in my cube and I plug into them when I have to come in for meetings.

    13. Doing the best we can*

      Companies are not required to offer ergonomic workstations in the office, much less at home.

    14. Gene Parmesan*

      I hadn’t thought of that angle, but that may be worth considering. I’m more impressed/confused about how the writer does data analysis work on just a small laptop screen.

      1. Annie E. Mouse*

        This is where I am. As someone who does a lot of data analysis, two monitors is fundamental. I used to loath trying to work at the office (hoteling) because I was often confined to only my laptop screen and couldn’t be productive. I’m kind of amazed at LW preferring to do all this on one small screen.

  3. Erin*

    I’m a massage therapist and a spa owner. Personally, I feel like it’s ok to get a massage from someone who works at my spa, but I make sure that I’m compensating them as well as they would have been if they were working on a regular client (including tip). I’d feel pretty weird just hanging out around employees in a sauna though.

    1. Owls n Ducks*

      Chiming in to say – ex-LMT here. LW#1, you won’t be naked around your employees – you will be draped within an inch of your life. Your therapist will not be in the room with you while you are getting dressed or undressed. They don’t want to see you naked any more than you want them to see you naked.
      That said, if you aren’t comfortable taking off some or all of your clothes, then don’t! I have worked on people who were wearing nothing (but under the aforementioned drape) and people who took off only their shoes. They all get draped the exact same way.

      Also agreeing with Beth & others below – how are the spa staff paid? Will they be paid for the time they spend on you? Are tips allowed/expected? It should go without saying, but find out what the average tip is and tip at least that well.

      If you really want your spa staff to be happy to see you, look into making them hourly employees, rather than paid by the service.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Current LMT here. I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t pay their therapists the same rate for every massage we do, whether we’re doing it for a client who’s paying the clinic or for a staff member exercising a perk. The clinic pays us the same regardless. It’s true that a lot of people who use a free service perk forget to tip, when they would definitely do so if they were spending their own money, however… so that’s a good thing to remember for those who receive such perks. Tip as you would if you were paying the retail price of the service!

        1. Nethwen*

          How does one calculate a tip for a MT? The one time I got a massage, when making the appointment by phone, I asked the receptionist what the customary tip percentage was and she hemmed and hawed about tips being what I felt like based on the quality of the service I got. The internet was not helpful because it gave such a wide range of percentages. I just wanted to try something new, maybe make headway on relaxing a chronically tight muscle, and pay the MT fairly. Not knowing if I was unfair to the MT really put me off booking another massage anywhere.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I don’t know if this is right, but I’ve I always assumed all tipping is the same as in a restaurant.
            So 15% for average and 20% for good, more or less.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      What is the weirdness level of wearing a bathing suit or a towel? Because that is my preferred attire in a spa, but then I worry I’m making the naked people feel uncomfortable by not being naked, which a manager shouldn’t do – but also would be easier on the employees.

      1. Anon for this*

        I used to be a lifeguard/swim instructor/pool supervisor and there was 100% nothing weird about being in my swimsuit with my coworkers. It was our job! We’d even rescue each other during trainings. We also would end up changing in the locker room together because that’s what you do before and after swimming. It was part of being a swimmer and part of working at a pool and no one really cared.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with availing yourself of the free perk of spa services. Certainly where I worked, we were encouraged to work out in the gym and take fitness classes, sign our own children up for swim lessons and other youth programs, etc. Typically the way this power dynamic was handled was people would pick an employee who would be OK with the extra layer of complication, an employee who was good at their job and had a good relationship with their boss. So you wouldn’t ambush an employee you don’t get along with, or who’s struggling at their job and would be really nervous.

        As an aside, you also would be mindful about not assigning difficult VIPs to core employees, because sometimes that person’s opinion was powerful enough to get the employee fired if they were dissatisfied, even if they were basically lying. So you would assign those people to employees who were more expendable, or who were high enough ranked they could not be fired over a single complaint.

  4. Beth*

    For LW#1, what strikes me as a potential problem isn’t the nudity–that’s normal enough in a spa context, even if it’s not acceptable in general professional norms. It’s the part where the powerful people get this ‘perk’ using the labor of the less-powerful people in the company.

    Do the workers get paid by the company to give these services, since the ‘client’ isn’t paying? Do they get tipped for their work, as is pretty standard for spa services? Would a worker who was uncomfortable giving their boss a massage or other spa service have the option to opt out without repercussions? Unless this is being very thoughtfully run, it seems really likely to me that it’s playing out as management directly exploiting workers with little power to stand up for themselves and their own interests. I think the right thing to do here is probably to opt out of this ‘perk’, at least until you get the lay of the land and have a sense of how workers feel about it, and possibly forever.

    1. Green great dragon*

      There’s no suggestion they wouldn’t get paid, but the tip is an interesting point. And if you’re tipping you’d have to be very careful about any appearance of favouritism

      1. Beth*

        There’s no suggestion either way as to how the financial side is handled. I’m not saying they definitely don’t get paid–I’m saying that we don’t know, and that OP might not know unless they think to ask. OP should make sure to know how this system works, and how their team feels about the situation, before they take advantage of this perk; otherwise, there’s too much room for problems to come up and people to feel taken advantage of.

        1. Jaybee*

          It’s extremely bizarre to assume that they’re violating labor laws just because a paying client is not involved.

          Many businesses have perks like these, either for all employees or for higher ranking ones, and the employees of course get paid while serving their coworkers/bosses. Why are y’all being so weird about this? Just because it’s in the massage industry?

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. If this is a staff perk then I would expect the therapist would be paid by the company to provide the service to eligible employees at the market rate.

            It’s the same as when I buy a package of massages at my local spa which are 5 for the price of 4, the therapist gets paid for all of them. The fact I only pay for 4 massages doesn’t mean she does one for free. It means the salon pays her for all of them but I benefit from a discount at their expense.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I’m a licensed massage therapist. I’m sure there are industries which expect employees to eat the costs for similar situations, but I have literally never seen it in the massage world.

          2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Exactly. Most restaurants offer free or discounted food to employees. When taking advantage of this you are likely to be served by coworkers. You make sure to tip them on the actual value of the bill, not the free or reduced rate, but otherwise it’s perfectly normal. You may be serving them tomorrow. Why would a spa be any different.

          3. Beth*

            Once again, I’m not saying they’re not paid. I’m saying OP should make sure to know how they’re paid, that it’s equitable (including tip) to how they’d be paid for a standard client, and that their team is happy with this structure.

            The difference between massage and, say, a restaurant is that massage generally gets paid by the service rather than by the hour. If employees were being paid by the hour, it would be very transparent how they were getting paid—they’re on the clock, so they get their hourly wage in the usual way. If they’re being paid by the service, though, and OP isn’t paying for the service, the structure becomes less clear. I do assume that they’re probably getting paid somehow, but it’s not immediately obvious how much or by whom. The conscientious thing to do here is to make sure you’re clear on that and that it’s all above board, not to just assume that it’s probably fine and equitable.

        2. LW 1*

          Hi! I’m OP. These are all excellent points I did not consider but will bring up with management. I did take the job, but have some concerns about other flags I saw during the negotiation process. Fingers crossed.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            OP, I’m a licensed massage therapist. It’s absolutely standard to have staff receive perks in the form of free services, and it’s equally standard for the company to pay the therapist at their standard rate. Do check and make sure, but you should know that if they *don’t* pay the same for the service no matter how the service was booked or whether it’s comped or not, that’s not only a problem, it is a HUGE red flag, because that’s simply not done by any normal company.

            In addition, don’t worry about the nudity. If you’re on our table, you’re a client to us at that moment, and we know how to handle nudity in clients. The therapist won’t see your body anyhow; it will always be under a sheet (and a blanket if you want it), with only the body part being worked at that moment exposed… and since we never work body parts that would be covered by a typical bikini, those are NEVER exposed.

            The only thing you should take care about is to tip the therapist exactly as you would if you were paying the retail price for that service yourself. A lot of people forget to do that when they’re receiving the service free, but it does cut into the therapist’s income if you don’t, and you don’t want to do that.

    2. MK*

      Not paying the workers would be illegal, and frankly a strange suggestion, presumably they are paid hourly at their usual rate, no matter who books their service. The tip is an issue, especially it is a significant part of their earnings. Ideally the company would cover it too.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        A lot of spas work on a ‘rent-a-chair’ freelance model (like a hairdressers) so the masseuse gets paid by the client and then pays out a portion to the spa for using the space. I have to assume that’s not how this one works, because the whole structure of free massages for higher management wouldn’t make sense, but I think that’s why people are concerned.

      2. Bagpuss*

        It depends on how the business is set up – I know that in the UK, lot of hairdressers, and I think some nail techs, have a ‘rent a chair’ arrangement where they split the payments from clients with the salon so they aren’t paid hourly, it’s more like piecework based on the specific clients they see. As far as I can see, there would be no reason why the arrangement with the salon couldn’t include a provision tat they provide x number or services to management, so it’s not necessarily out of the question.

        I think as OP is currently at the interview stage, it might make sense for her to perhaps get a manicure or something initially, until she gets a better feel for the culture, and to ensue that she tips. I’d also, if possible, try to schedule any appointment for a time hen the spa is less likely to be busy so that the employees can still take on outside clients at peak times, which is likely to be better for them (both lots of tips) and better for the business (not turning away paying customers)

        I personally probably would not want to get a massage from, or give one to, a direct report or direct manager, but in the context of a spa I think that getting one from an employee as long as you keep to the usual norms about what you wear, would be fine.
        And sauna is very much about your personal levels of comfort.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Sorry – meant to add that if you do use the sauna, as well as your own level of comfort be alert to see whether the employee seems at all uncomfortable – I would expect them to be fairly comfortable with nudity if they are working in that environment, but don’t forget that you are the one with the greater power so it’s easier for you to make changes than for them to do so.

      3. Nikki*

        Service providers at spas are typically not employees earning an hourly wage. They’re paid per service provided so it’s not that strange to wonder about compensation arrangements in this situation. It would of course be illegal to make them work for free, but it’s entirely possible that the spa gives them less money for providing services when the spa itself isn’t making any money.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          That would be very rare and cause for alarm. No reputable spa will do this. A therapist’s rate for the service is their rate for the service, no matter how/if it’s being paid for to the company.

          As for companies which work via space rental, that does happen occasionally for massage therapists (though much less commonly than for hairdressers and aestheticians). However, the company doesn’t get to decide that they work for free — therapists in that situation set their own rates, at freelancers, and if the company that owns the space they rent wants to offer their services for free, it has to do so by buying a gift certificate from them at full rate like anyone else. Either you’re an employee, in which case they have to pay you the agreed wage for every hour that you work; or you’re a freelancer, in which case it’s entirely up to you if and when you wish to offer freebies. There’s no in between.

      4. Harper the Other One*

        Some spas in my area hire employees who perform services under contracts where the employee is technically the one paid by the client, and the spa collects a monthly fee for processing payments and offering space/supplies. (Not sure of the nitty gritty of the legal side of this but I think it’s similar to hair salons that rent chairs to stylists.)

        I would hope that any company that offers free massages to upper management would have some form of company code for payment, but I would want to know for sure before I accepted a “free” massage that might reduce someone’s earnings.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          That kind of arrangement did happen, but they don’t get to offer your services for free in those cases. If they want to offer their manager a free massage, they need to buy a gift certificate from you. The freelancer just won’t do it if somebody walks in and says “the place you’re renting space from wants you to massage me for free.” Freelancers know their rights; they’re independent businesspeople and usually much more savvy about how all this works than massage therapists who work as employees sometimes are.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        I just learned the compensation structure for massage therapists at a fancy hotel spa and it’s a complicated combination of a low hourly wage, a portion of the price of the service, and a guaranteed tip percentage.

    3. WellRed*

      I’m going to assume the spa has an arrangement to make this work (as Alison says, it’s not uncommon). But the top part is a concern to me. Awkward!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My expectations, as someone who gets massages (currently from a one-woman place):
      • Yes, workers are paid. (And as Erin says upthread, you tip the normal amount.) This is budgeted in operating funds just as it would be if some workers got food or clothing covered by the company, repeat customers got the tenth service free, etc.
      • Massage is a way to deal with problems with tight muscles. While any decent place should have the power to put a client on a never-again list for creepiness, a worker who says “Ooh, I don’t like to give a massage (paint nails, do physical therapy, administer a facial, do polarity stuff) if there’s a power differential between me and the other person” is not cut out for a job performing those services.

      I get massage to counter long-term neuromuscular problems and to deal with the after-effects of breast cancer treatment–the same two reasons I get physical therapy, which is both clothed and unclothed depending on the problem–and I have zero patience with anyone who wants to do the ick dance chanting “Oooh, touching another person physically, how yucky.”

      1. PT*

        Frankly, we would not be getting this reaction if it wasn’t massage. If the head of Emergency Medicine at a hospital passed out in her office and was wheeled down to the emergency room, would we get a letter “I’m the head of Emergency Medicine and I had to be taken to my own emergency room and be treated by my own employees, was that OK with the power dynamic?” We would say “That’s so silly! They’re medical professionals! I bet it was really embarrassing, yes, but you’re 100% in the clear.”

        1. MK*

          That’s not really a good comparison. It’s like comparing rushing to give a choking boss a glass of water and fixing them a cocktail.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Er, no. Massage is a health care industry. It’s not the same as emergency care, but that’s not because one is health care and the other isn’t; it’s because one is a sudden, unpredictable situation and the other isn’t. A correct analogy would be if a dentist got cleanings from her own clinical team.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          It’s common every where. Restaurant owners or managers are served by their employees; stores, car repair places, anywhere that provides a services it’s normal and expected that employees might serve their managers, owners or coworkers that show up at the place as a customer on a day off or after a shift. This is just the weird relationship that most of the English speaking world has with nudity and touch.

    5. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Not using massages is one thing, but not using the amenities, like the steam room and the sauna, seem like it’s taking it too far. And are the employees allowed to use those things after hours?

    6. XF1013*

      Yes, agreed! If anything, it should go the other way: Lower-ranking employees should get a free monthly service and facility access as a perk (retention is tough these days), while higher-ranking employees should not because of the power dynamics involved.

    7. Lady In Pink*

      I’m an LMT who works at a spa that gives each employee a free massage every month, it’s a common perk in the spa industry. Spas with good management pay their LMTs for employee massages. I get paid my regular rate for these massages. My coworkers and I tip each other as well. My manager encourages us to get regular massages ourselves so we can be at our best for our clients. Getting massages from coworkers also allows us to share knowledge and massage techniques with each other.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Yes, this. I have learned so much on the table! The only problem is that I no longer know how to turn my brain off and just relax during a massage… I can relax my muscles but my mind is always going, “Oh, she’s using that technique? Interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that for there! And what’s that? I should ask her to teach me; I’ve never seen that move before!” Etc, etc for ninety minutes. Great experience, I’m not complaining — I really enjoy learning that way. But restful it isn’t. ;)

    8. lilsheba*

      One thing I’m curious about is why only upper management gets this perk? The other workers would be the ones that could really use it, due to the nature of what they’re doing! Doesn’t seem fair to me.

  5. Heidi*

    When I worked food service, we always took our breaks at unusual times because we were busiest during normal lunch and dinner times. Totally standard for the manager to tell you when you can go on a break. The OP seems rather miffed about not being able to schedule their kid’s meals, but most employees would bring food to work so that they can eat whenever they get the break. They don’t just starve.

      1. M*

        It’s also not at all in line with work expectations and norms, which is what the question is supposedly about…

        1. MK*

          Exactly. Different workplaces will have different rules about this, but an employee getting to enjoy their break by having a nice meal brought by their mother is a priority nowhere.

          1. FE mgr*

            I work in a smallish Co op that has been in business for almost 80 years. It’s tradition for high schoolers to work as cashiers when they turn 16. If they asked when their break would be I would try to accommodate them. I would try to accommodate anyone who had a need.
            Hopefully when these young people are in charge of employees later on they will remember and treat them well.

            1. MK*

              This is not a need. Treating employees well doesn’t mean accommodating frivolous requests, like their mum bringing them a meal. It’s pretty reasonable to say you can’t guarantee when they will be able to take a break in a retail environment.

              1. LeftEye*

                Eh, I mean getting lunch delivered is not really frivolous, because otherwise the employee won’t have lunch. I think people are looking at this differently because a parent (…who was assumed to be a mom for some reason) is involved. I’ve worked lots of retail jobs where it was normal to say “Hey, since I can’t use my phone while working I need to order my lunch now. When am I eating aka what time should I request the delivery for?” It also was super normal for someone to say “My roommate/spouse/etc. is swinging by with my lunch, when should I expect to take a break?”

                The places I worked that didn’t like those questions were usually the crappiest places to work. Most retail stores I’ve worked at scheduled lunch out at the beginning of each shift, since lunch was a mandated break and they needed to ensure coverage.

                1. ClaireW*

                  I think from my time in retail, saying that occasionally would be totally fine assuming you’re also bringing your own lunch (or going out to get it) the rest of the time.

                  But if a new employee was continuously coming in to ask when their break would be before their shift had even started, despite the manager having previously explained that break times couldn’t be pre-planned, it would seem like they aren’t taking in what they’re being told or were being stubborn and expecting special treatment (preplanned break times) if they asked enough times.

                  Regardless of parental gender assumptions or stereotypes, a new employee asking every single shift what time their parent should hand-deliver food, AFTER they’ve been told more than once that they can’t be given a pre-determined time for their break, will likely give the impression that they think their preferences (for hand-delivered meal) take priority over how the job works and the culture of the workplace.

        2. Pool Lounger*

          Eh. I worked retail and food service for many years. My partner sometimes brought me lunch. It was fine, no one batted an eye. We had scheduled lunch breaks, but if lunch arrived early I’d just fridge it til break. Never an issue.

          1. A*

            I think the optics are a little different between a partner bringing a meal in every so often vs. parent. Not saying I agree with that stance, but I do think it has the potential to highlight the employees age and codependence in a way that could be misconstrued.

          2. Elsajeni*

            Yeah, wanting to drop off a meal, especially on a holiday, seems within reason to me — but if your workplace doesn’t pre-schedule breaks, they don’t, and you’ve just got to work with that. (And even at workplaces that do pre-schedule breaks, it’s so, SO common for that schedule to get disrupted or swapped around, so my practical advice to this parent is that they and their kid figure out some lunches that can be packed for the day and eaten at whatever time she ends up getting her break, and/or places near work that she could run to on a longer break and grab a sandwich or whatever, and don’t try to deliver anything to work that you’d really want to eat while it’s hot and fresh.)

      2. OtterB*

        OP did say it was a holiday meal, implying a special occasion and not an everyday routine. But it sounds like it would be best to have the meal before or after work, perhaps packing some piece of it for an at work snack.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I’m not quite sure whether this was a one-off or not – the way the first part is phrased kind of makes it sound like the daughter has done this a few times, so maybe the holiday meal thing is just the most recent example? It would make a bit more sense if the manager was annoyed about being asked repeatedly.

          1. Delta Delta*

            I thought this was weird, too. It sounds like the child asks this question repeatedly, but that mom was delivering one “holiday meal” which seems more singular. Regardless, kiddo can a) navigate this on her own and b) warm up the special meal there (or eat it cold or cold parts of it cold) or c) eat the special meal at home.

            Parent needs to dial it waaaaay back.

        2. Expiring Cat Memes*

          If it’s a “holiday meal” I take it kid was working on a holiday, which, in my experience working retail was absolute hell. I’m not really surprised the manager got annoyed by it to be honest, there’d be enough demanding and unreasonable customers to deal with all day without your employee wanting to know when recess is so Mommy can drop off lunch. Just wait till she’s off.

            1. tech services staff*

              I’m surprised to see people reacting so adversarially to this letter. The Mom wrote in asking for advice, since she recognizes that she doesn’t know what’s the norm. Is that something to be sneering over?

              1. Shirley Keeldar*

                I absolutely agree. Insulting people who write in for advice isn’t the custom on this site, and it’s not helpful, either.

                (I’ve never worked retail, but an employee asking, “Hey, boss, can you give me an idea of when my breaks will be today?” doesn’t sound to me like a ridiculous question or one worth getting upset about. The manager can certainly answer, ‘No, I can’t figure that out in advance,” and the employee probably shouldn’t push or ask repeatedly, but I don’t see why it’s so bad to simply ask, or why it’s making commenters cast aspersions on the OP’s parenting.)

                1. UKDancer*

                  I’ve not worked in traditional retail but I’ve done reception type jobs where cover was important and you needed to plan your breaks and I’ve done jobs where you took a break when it fitted with your meetings. If the OP isn’t familiar with retail settings it’s a good idea to ask AAM what the expectation is. That’s how we learn.

                2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                  I worked in restaurants a lot when I was younger and I can say it would be completely normal for a worker to request a specific break time that was likely to be slow in advance to meet a partner or parent or whatever. Management would usually try to facilitate reasonable requests (not something that happens everyday, not at time likely to be very busy, etc), but it would never be a promise either. If a 72 top walked in at <> your break was getting rescheduled.

                3. EventPlannerGal*

                  @UKDancer – Agree that a lot of the commentary was very very ‘arsh, and it’s a good idea to ask questions when you aren’t sure – but it’s also a good idea to ask genuinely. The way the question was written really struck me as more of a demand for the OP’s opinion about something that she seems to have very little knowledge of to be validated. That’s no reason for a lot of the comments below, but it’s not a great look.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Yeah, there’s a surprising amount of vitriol directed toward this letter writer. If they never worked retail in their youth and this is their kid’s first job, why would we expect them to know the exact perfect way to behave?

                1. tech services staff*

                  Heck, even if they DID work retail in their youth, enough time might have passed since then that their experiences are simply no longer applicable!

                2. Nina*

                  and even if they did work retail as a kid, kudos to them for recognizing that norms have changed in the time between ‘when I was (kid’s) age’ and now!

              3. CeeKee*

                I think people are responding to something that feels a little off in the tone of the letter, though yes, possibly a little too harshly…the thing that struck me is that she says she’s “trying to teach her daughter about work expectations” but in this case it seems she doesn’t actually know anything about the thing she’s trying to teach. So maybe better for her to look at this as the first in what will likely be a gradually-increasing list of things that her growing daughter can teach HER.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  Well, the daughter didn’t seem to know this intuitively either. I think writing to Alison to clarify “is this a weird thing about this job or should I tell my daughter to expect this from other employers” is perfectly reasonable.

                2. Heidi*

                  I think it’s this part that’s coming off badly: “…or is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?” She’s phrasing it in the form of a question, but it doesn’t communicate real openness to the possibility that she could be wrong.

                3. Observer*

                  I think that Heidi is right about what people are reacting to. I know that this is where I went with this.

                  But also the fact that Mom is saying that she’s trying to teach her daughter workplace norms while seeming to be fairly oblivious. Because while I can understand not understanding how retail works and not realizing why the manager can’t schedule the breaks in advance, the idea that the staff need “adequate notice” in order to “enjoy a meal on their break”, and the idea of dropping off meals at work are both well out of the norm in most workplaces. So, that’s kind of weird as well.

                  I do, however, agree that some of the comments are waaay too adversarial. Mom is misguided. But she’s not a monster and I see no evidence that she’s a Suffocating Monster Mom.

                4. metadata minion*

                  It doesn’t seem weird to me for someone to go “I want to teach my kid workplace norms, but I’m not actually sure what they are in this case so please help”. I agree that the LW’s phrasing of the workplace’s break policy comes off as oddly adversarial, but I can kind of understand it if they’ve only had office-type jobs. I can mostly just take lunch whenever so long as I don’t have an actual meeting scheduled, and even when I was covering a servicepoint, I knew my lunch was 12-1 every day; I didn’t have to just wait for a quiet period and hope it wasn’t before I got all cranky from not having lunch.

                5. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                  I think Heidi definitely hit the nail on the head with what’s setting people off. That said, for someone who has never worked in a restaurant or retail type environment, the way scheduling works in them can seem borderline abusive. Sometimes it literally *is* abusive, but even in the best cases where managers try hard to keep everyone happy it can look crazy from the outside.

                  It might seem perfectly reasonable from an employees perspective to ask for a scheduled break at 4:00, because the restaurant is always empty. Then the manager looks at the reservations and sees that the entire Westfield High Football on the books for 3:45 and has to say “no”, or worse she says “yes” and the Westfield High football team walks in 3:50 without a reservation and she has to has to go back on that. These industries are just so reactive and unpredictable.

              4. HigherEdAdminista*

                I agree. A lot of people are condescendingly calling the LW “Mommy,” as if the employee in question isn’t an actual child. They are! The employee is 17 and not a legal adult! Does that mean their parent should be overly involved in their workplace, no, of course not, but it is likely the child’s first time not being with family on a holiday.

                I had retail jobs for two different companies when I was younger and one had scheduled breaks even on the busiest of days, because that is how they remained efficient, and the other did not schedule breaks because you only got them if your shift was long enough and it often was not. If it was, they gave it to you when there was a lull.

                MomLW, the manager’s reaction seems unnecessary, but you also have to realize the situation. When I was working on holidays, my family adapted their schedule to celebrate when I was home. Perhaps if you normally do a big holiday dinner, it can be made into a lunch or brunch, if the kid isn’t working those hours. Or the real meal can take place after work or a time when you can all be together. In general, you want to advise your teen to learn the norms of each workplace and act accordingly, but this wasn’t some terrible mistake.

                1. Clisby*

                  Agree with all of that. Plus, I feel sad at the idea that this is the 17-year-old’s holiday meal. Of course, I don’t know whether the LW meant that was her daughter’s only chance at a holiday meal, but it shouldn’t be too hard to give her a holiday meal at home. One that’s not being wolfed down during a work break, and includes a person or two (or more) she’d like to talk to while she eats.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              This thread is getting mean. I suggest we tone down the assumptions that Mommy is a helicopter. We have all heard stories about or experienced places that do not give employees their legally required lunch breaks on long shifts. And this is a minor oh, so if the kid is going 6 hour shifts without a chance to eat, yes I do consider that a place where a parent is within reason to ask an advice columnist what to do.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            This request from an employee was neither demanding nor unreasonable (and wow that whole “mommy” bit is so condescending). I was a manager in retail for two large retailers – one in NYC at WTC, so pretty large – and even when I had 60 staff working on the same day we planned breaks. With the other company I worked at a much smaller location where at different points of the year there might only be five or six people working all day. We also planned breaks. Part of that is to ensure you have people where you need them, when you need them. If it’s holiday shopping season, you better have people on all registers during your busy times and the only way you can do that is to plan it out. And at the other end of that spectrum when we only had 5 or 6 people working all day, you coordinated breaks around coverage so you knew that there were always at least two people working – one on the floor, and one on register. Neither of those situations required waiting to see what the workflow was to make a plan for when people could break.

            Retail tends to follow pretty reliable patterns. WTC’s were the opposite of traditional retail because we were essentially in a massive office complex so we were busy Monday – Friday and quiet on the weekends. But though it was different, it was still reasonably predictable enough to plan around. Did those break times ever have to flex to accommodate the flow of the business? Sure. But if you were the opening manager, you put out the coverage schedule for the day, which showed when people were getting their meal breaks. 15 minute breaks were more flexible, but if someone was going to be off the floor for 30 or 60 minutes, it was planned so we knew the store’s needs were covered.

            Would people be having this strong a response if the LW had said, “hey my partner/spouse had to work on Christmas Eve and I wanted to drop them off a plate from the family Christmas lunch they weren’t going to be home to attend” rather than them wanting to do it for their kid? It is not inherently unprofessional to have a family member bring you food and it’s not inherently wrong or stupid to think that breaks might be pre-planned. On any given day if anyone from my team at either company had called and asked when their meal break was going to be scheduled, I’d have been able to tell them. And if a family member brought some food over for them, no one would have batted an eye.

            All of this being said, the place this person’s teen works clearly doesn’t operate that way. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s reasonable to expect that breaks are planned or not. There, they aren’t planned. It may not be the system you want, but it’s the system you’ve got so you have to plan accordingly.

        3. Stitch*

          As someone whonworked a theme park shift on a holiday, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted a holiday meal during my break. It would have just been sad.

          1. Joielle*

            Ha, this was my first thought too. The few times I worked retail on a holiday, I just wanted to keep my head down, eat a sandwich, and get out of there with minimal psychological damage. Lol.

          2. SeluciaMD*

            When I was in my 20’s, I worked as a manager in a toy store so we were banana crackers levels of busy right up until Christmas. I worked Christmas Eve many, many years. It was not uncommon for my mom or my brother to swing by with a plate of food from the family holiday dinner I was not going to be home to eat. It still sucked I couldn’t be there with everyone, but I quite liked getting to partake in that meal, even if I had to be at work.

        4. Stitch*

          No holiday meal will really be enjoyable under fluorescent lights with the smell of industrial cleaner, shoveling it in as quickly as you can before break.

          Send in some cookies? Absolutely. Turkey and stuffing save it for her for when she gets home.

        5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Back when I worked retail during the holidays breaks rarely happened, despite being legally required. Even if the manager stepped in to cover the employee going on break there were often too many very angry, very stressed customers for the employee to actually walk away without getting sucked into more work. Stores never had enough people to cover the workload, so the most you often got was a quick pee/drink of water break. If you were super lucky you could get a snack.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            In many jurisdictions, minors have extra legal protection that retailers should NOT ignore even on holidays!

          2. Observer*

            Well, that’s a different issue. I don’t know what advice Alison would give if Mom wrote in and said “My daughter is not getting any meal breaks and she’s coming home exhausted after working 6 hours without a chance to get some food.” But it would most definitely not be “yeah that’s normal and OK.”

            Note that she did in fact specifically call out that while they don’t need to schedule the break in advance they DO need to comply with the law.

          3. JustaTech*

            Maybe it’s the state I live in, but when I worked holiday retail we had our lunch breaks written on the schedule. And with the exception of the Saturday before Christmas the managers were very strict that we needed to go to the break room (or leave the building) and eat, and not be working during our lunch hour. (There were only three registers and way more than 3 employees, so you couldn’t have moved that line any faster with more people.)

            I’m getting the impression that my experience was abnormal, but if I’d been the LW I would have thought it a perfectly reasonable thing to ask “when is X’s lunch break?”.

          4. SeluciaMD*

            Wow is that terrible. That means your corporate office was doing a shit job of determining what your payroll percentage should have been. If you were busy enough that no one had time for breaks, they were making enough money to afford more coverage. This was one of the (many, many, many) reasons I got out of retail management. It suuuuuuuuuuucked.

        6. Observer*

          OP did say it was a holiday meal, implying a special occasion and not an everyday routine.

          But Mom also implied that it’s happened more than once. And the way the question is worded implies that she should be able to do this on a normal basis.

          But even as a one off, it’s not unreasonable (assuming that the kid is getting reasonable meal breaks) and Mom needs to calm down.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, I feel like it carries connotations of work being sort of an extracurricular activitiy that Mom is ferrying the teen through. (I’m not accusing OP of doing that, but enough parents do that you have to be mindful of the implications, IMO.)

      4. Turingtested*

        I managed a restaurant that employees high schoolers. We didn’t have scheduled breaks, but if someone wanted to find their break to eat with family or friends I was fine giving them a time frame and a minute to text.

        In most jobs without a high level of security it’s fine for a family member/spouse to meet the worker for lunch.

        1. doreen*

          I’m sure it’s fine to meet the worker for lunch, and I know there are a lot of jobs where the breaks are scheduled in advance. But there are plenty where they can’t be scheduled in advance with enough precision for the LW’s purpose – she wants to bring a hot/warm holiday meal, and that’s not going to work if she’s told the break scheduled is scheduled at 4 but it actually happens at 6 or vice-versa or if the manager’s best estimate is somewhere between 4-6. Depending on what the manager was told, I could see the manager being afraid there might be a problem if he/she gave a time for the break and it didn’t actually happen at that time.

        2. tessa*

          Turingtested gets it. Findng a way to accommodate such insignificant requests, including encouraging workers to trade break times with one another, is good management, and good management goes a long way toward keeping good employees.

          We need more Turingtested-esque big-picture thinking in management.

      5. JSPA*

        Unless they get unusually long lunch breaks, I can’t imagine it’s even particularly pleasant to try to fit a coordinated drop-off AND eating a festive / complicated meal AND whatever bathroom / relaxation time you might need, into a half hour break, even if it were possible to pre-plan.

        Personal holiday stuff is best scheduled outside the work day, when you are working retail, especially when you are low on chart.

        And indeed, having your parent involved in your work day isn’t a great look, in general. Even if it didn’t add further impositions on the day or presume higher status (which this does).

      6. KateM*

        I’m just trying to imagine someone doing so precise timing for a drop-off meal that it is important to know when exactly the other has a break.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Not that difficult. You get a 30 minute break, mom lives 15 minutes away, you want time to eat your holiday meal while it’s warm. If you call and say “I’m going on break now,” it’s not going to work out. (Which doesn’t mean this was a reasonable request on the LW’s part. It’s not.)

          1. Clisby*

            Yeah, the timing question isn’t difficult. I don’t, though, get the idea of delivering a holiday meal to a workplace. Assuming there’s something special about the holiday meal, why would the daughter even want to eat it on a work break? That just sounds depressing to me. Surely there’s some way to make this possible as a family meal outside of work.

        2. LeftEye*

          I mean, when you only get a short 30min lunch break you can’t really afford to spend 25 minutes of it waiting for your foods to be delivered. When I worked retail I was never allowed to use my phone either, so I could either make my delivery order during my lunch and then not get to actually eat any of it, or I could order online before my shift and designate a delivery window that matched my break.

          Also, lunch breaks are mandatory so it’s very normal for them to be scheduled at the start of a shift so as to ensure coverage. Obviously not everywhere does this, but it is good practice to schedule them out so you don’t wind up running afoul of labor laws.

      7. Jules the 3rd*

        Yep – if she’s got to work on the holiday, plan the meals at home outside her work schedule.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      Yep. When I worked in a supermarket as a teenager, I’d either bring food from home and put it in the staff fridge at the start of my shift, or buy a sandwich on my lunch break and eat it in the break room a few minutes later. When I worked in a hotel, we got catered staff lunches (not the most exciting meals in the world, but they did the job). But I never got food brought to me from home by a family member and don’t recall that happening for anyone else either. On holidays, people just worked their special meals around their shifts (ie having them at home in the early evening if they did the day shift, or having an early lunch if they worked in the evening).

      1. LeftEye*

        You never ordered delivery? No takeout? I’m really surprised by how many commenters are suggesting it’s weird to get food delivered, at my last place of work we basically had an ongoing account with Jimmy Johns because of how many people routinely ordered in lunch.

        1. doreen*

          Lot of people order delivery when they can decide to take their break whenever the food arrives . But there are many situations where people don’t really order delivery – for example, there are people in my office who have a set time for lunch due to coverage issues. I don’t know any of them who order delivery, because there is no way to be sure the delivery will arrive within a couple of minutes of when their break starts at 1:00 rather than when their break ends at 1:30.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I worked in a grocery store on the front end and in a few other customer-facing jobs, and you got your break when it made sense for customer service purposes to get it, while still (usually) complying with the laws. Breaktime was dictated by the manager on duty. Sometimes we got lucky on a slow shift and could just say we’re taking our break and go, but that definitely wasn’t the norm. Nor were breaks scheduled ahead of time, though we sometimes had a general idea of when we might get one.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The letter in no way implies this and you are being very rude to the LW. They didn’t know what the break protocol is for their kid’s job. That doesn’t make them an elitist monster.

        2. meagain*

          I can see why the daughter’s manager would be annoyed if an employee is asking what time her break is before the shift even starts, but there’s no need to be so rude to the mother. So she’s trying to drop off a meal to her kid who’s working on a holiday. A mom trying to bring her kid a meal at work and time it to a break in the retail world may be out of touch, but she’s not a villain and doesn’t need to be mocked.

        3. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          OP was clearly just trying to coordinate a sweet gesture for her kid since it was probably the daughter’s first working holiday. People are bringing a lot of unrelated baggage to the snark this post is getting.

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Why is this letter ruffling you so much? You’re reading a lot into the tone that isn’t there and being pretty rude.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have done a lot of retail and much younger me worked in restaurants.

      OP, it’s not a reasonable expectation to have scheduled breaks. Crews have to adjust to the flow of foot traffic and that can vary for many reasons.

      Delivering a meal to your daughter is going to look like both of you do not understand the work place norms. Sorry, that is harsh language but what will happen IRL may actually be much, much harsher than that. Please do not deliver food or anything to your daughter’s workplace. Some retail establishments are so crappy your daughter could get fired JUST because you showed up. Please do not do this.

      1. Doug Judy*

        My teen son works at a grocery store. I do my best to not shop there while he’s working and if I do need to, I basically pretend I don’t know him, lol.

      2. meagain*

        I actually think dropping off a meal is fine and actually really thoughtful. Especially on a holiday. It’s the expecting to time it to a break that’s out of touch. But just dropping something off that you can eat when you finally have a minute or can heat it up, isn’t so crazy and doesn’t mean a parent or partner is smothering. (It’s the going in early to ask what time your break will be at in retail world that’s the tone deaf part.)

        1. Malarkey01*

          So much of this is case dependent but when I worked retail having someone drop something off during the holidays would have been rough. Sure it only takes 3 minutes to take the handoff and run it back to the break room and then back to the front, but stepping away when the customers are standing 10 deep at your register is just not going to happen. Having someone stand to the side holding something and waiting to get someone’s attention while they are with a customers is really obvious, it just would not be a thing.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Yeah, retail in the holidays is a whole different beast and the only norms are that you are 1) there are not enough staff and too many customers; 2) it is exhausting; 3) customers are all a bit insane and on a hair trigger

          2. LC*

            This was my thought too, and even outside of super busy times.

            Like you said, this is so very dependent on the specifics of this store, but when I worked at a large department store, there were four floors of actual store, and a fifth floor with the lunchroom, lockers, etc. If you worked on the first floor, even if the store is empty, it still might take you five minutes to get somewhere with a fridge where you could put the meal, then five minutes back. Not even mentioning (and again, I know this isn’t the case everywhere) that it was downtown of a fairly large city so parking was a nightmare and the easiest way to actually do the handoff would be Parent pulling up somewhere (either a 3 minute loading zone or illegally) and then Daughter running out to the car to get it. That would require them to either use a cell phone (may or may not be okay) or to have that area in their line of sight. Then you add in that Daughter might have gotten a customer right then so Parent has to wait, or circle the block, and ahhhhhhhh I’m getting dizzy just thinking about how, at my store, it could very easily have taken 20 minutes of the employee’s time to just have a meal dropped off, not even getting the eating part.

            So yeah, I get the thought, but it is quite possibly incredibly unrealistic. And “know your audience” (or boss or workplace or whatever) is an excellent skill for everyone to learn, so perfect opportunity for Daughter!

            I also agree with a point I’ve seen a few times (that was expressed nicely) about the manager possibly not being annoyed at the idea of a meal being dropped off or Daughter wanting an idea of when her break is, but at the fact that Daughter has (at least once and possibly several times, it’s hard to tell) come in early specifically to ask the likely busy manager.

            OP thank you for asking though! I think the request is a little out of touch but I also think that this is an excellent opportunity to teach Daughter workplace norms (which includes knowing that it can be so different industry to industry and location to location). I hope she enjoys her job! You couldn’t pay me enough to go back, but I am certain that it made me a better employee at all my jobs going forward.

          3. meagain*

            I can see what you mean when you describe it that way. I have worked in a retail store where you are right, that would be super inconvenient. I have also worked at a family brewery kind of place where if your spouse or parent came in, everyone often had already met or knew each other’s family. Because it was a very social and fun, very family friendly venue in general, employees often stopped in with their families or brought by a friend to grab a drink and show them around on their days off.

            If someone were to stop in with your lunch and you were super busy that day and were with a customer or weren’t free to stop what you were doing, another coworker would certainly step in to cover for you, or greet your mom/sister/husband/best friend, who they likely had already met, take the meal and throw it in the fridge for you, and say, “You’re mom dropped this off.” That wouldn’t be weird at all. I mean it would be weird if it were all the time, but here and there, especially if someone was working really late wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. That’s kind of what I was picturing in my head.

            But now I can also think back to my part time retail job and Black Friday or something and yes, having a family member come in to hand off a meal would probably end up being more cumbersome than helpful.

      3. BluntBunny*

        I worked retail for 6 years in 3 different companies, breaks we’re always scheduled as it was you wouldn’t be able to go for break until someone came back.
        So there would be someone at 11.30, 12, 12.30, 1, and 1.30pm for lunch so there is a minimum people of lunch at a time.

        1. Allegra*

          Yeah, I also worked in retail for years and am a little surprised by the overall consensus that “if you’re in retail breaks are never scheduled and it’s unreasonable to expect that.” Of course there’s an overall culture of exploitation that I’m not disagreeing with, but different places have different norms. When I worked at Famous Chain Bookstore You Probably Know, every morning when we clocked in we got our daily schedules–it was your whole day scheduled down to 15 minute increments, with breaks and lunches marked off. My other jobs weren’t quite to that level of detail, but we still scheduled our breaks.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          This is also my experience of retail – in order to have coverage across the period 11-2, managers need to have at least a vague idea of who is going to have their long break when. Otherwise you hit 1pm and suddenly everyone needs to go at once. That’s particularly true if you need to have a first aider on the floor at all times, or someone with a supervisor key, or whatever.

          Short breaks would be squeezed in around the ebb and flow of the day, so if there’s a sudden rush everybody knows better than to ask.

          But it may depend on the size of the store. The overall manager of a huge supermarket would surely delegate break timing to team leaders, and wouldn’t have a clue when a particular holiday temp was taking her lunch.

      4. Mannequin*

        When I was a retail manager (corporate chain in a mall), break & lunch times were written into the daily schedule, usually well in advance at the time we were planning that weeks rotation. And people had to take them at their scheduled times, regardless of whether or not the store was busy.
        Customer doesn’t like it? Too bad, so sad, employees get their legally mandated breaks and that’s it.

        Yes, I do live in California, but this is how it SHOULD be everywhere.

    4. Viva*

      I was a food service manager until a few months ago when I switched to part time, and yup. We go on break when we go on break.

      … That said, we get requests like this all the time (not necessarily food drop off, but stuff like “I need to go on break before the bank closes”/”I need to make X phone call at Y time” and so on), and to the extent that we can accommodate, we generally do. In this particular situation, I’d tell the employee I’d let her know when she’s the next break to go out and she can send mom a quick text. People bring stuff in for our employees all the time (usually keys/wallets they forgot, lol) and as long as they wait until there’s no line at the counter, it’s fine.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      OP4, as a parent of slightly older kids, here are norms to teach:
      • In some jobs you know when all your scheduled breaks are; in others you’re expected to be flexible based on workflow. Both cover a range of jobs, and that your first job in Llama Grooming did it one way doesn’t mean all Llama Grooming offices also follow that method.
      • The normal food solution is to plan ahead yourself and bring a sandwich. Leftovers if you have a breakroom with a microwave.
      • “But my mom….” is not an explanation your daughter should be giving to any supervisor. There are exceptions, but in general this falls into “You manage your relationship with your boss, and you don’t drag in parents, spouses, really cool people you met on the bus this morning, or any other third parties.”

      1. Cake or Death?*

        “But my mom….” is not an explanation your daughter should be giving to any supervisor.”

        This is spot on!

      2. RedFraggle*

        As a parent of kids aged 17 & 20 myself, I think there’s something else going on here.

        I’m willing to bet that LW got to the point where they wrote in because they were wanting to take lunch to their daughter very regularly. I don’t think daughter’s manager is actually getting upset about the questions regarding when her break will be – I think the daughter is embarrassed by LW bringing her lunch on the regular, has probably told LW multiple times that she can’t predict exactly when she’ll get her lunch, and is now telling LW that her manager is getting upset about her asking when her break will be so LW will stop asking / bringing her lunch.

        The end of the letter sure sounds like this is coming from a wounded parent having difficulty letting their daughter be the young adult she is becoming. Being the parent of a teenager on the brink of adulthood can be REALLY HARD, and I think this is more about the relationship between LW & daughter than it is about the business’s practices.

    6. Critical Roll*

      There are a lot of replies in this thread that are, shall we say, extremely uncharitable. “Mommy” this and that. Would you be sneering at someone’s friend or significant other trying to bring them a meal at work? LW is trying to do a nice thing for her daughter and encountered an unfamiliar work norm. Chill. There was really no need for the boss to be annoyed, either, since employing high schoolers requires teaching norms, and this is not a wild and crazy expectation, just one that’s wrong for the industry.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        Yes, it doesn’t matter who is bringing the meal. Pack your lunch or wait until you get home. Work schedules are not made around when you want your mom/partner/friend etc. to drop off food.

        1. LeftEye*

          …it is super normal to order delivery for lunch, it is so wildly out of the norm to suggest everyone needs to sack lunch or they don’t deserve to eat. Every retail place I have worked people order food for lunch, it’s not at all weird or out of line. What is going on in this comment section???

        2. Critical Roll*

          This is not even close to a universal norm, as the comments show. Personally, I’ve never worked anywhere, including retail, where it would be strange to have someone drop off a meal once in a while, especially on a special occasion. Additionally, no one even hinted that breaks be scheduled *around* a delivery, they wanted to know when the breaks were so they could plan, which is darn near the opposite.

      2. OP of the SC*

        Mothers do not belong in the workplace. They also shouldn’t be fighting their children’s battles by writing to Ask a Manager. What everyone is responding to and being annoyed by is the obvious helicoptering. This woman isn’t doing her child any favors. Let the kid work it out—and feed herself during her shift.

        1. JimmyJab*

          The child is a minor, and now the mother knows the norms, per Alison’s advice. Jeez, why so angry at a question/request for advice? She didn’t say, I will do whatever I want regardless of what advice you may give, so screw you, Alison.

        2. BigHairNoHeart*

          I think this is a letter that’s hitting close to home for some people and therefore inspiring some intense reactions. Just my point of view, but I don’t see this letter as “obvious helicoptering.” I see it as someone not familiar with workplace norms, writing in to get a second opinion and see if their child’s workplace is being unfair or if this kind of thing is typical. If they continue to push back after getting this advice, then yeah, they’re probably helicoptering, but I just don’t see that currently. Again, just my point of view, but I’m suspecting that enough other people share this view, that it’s uncharitable to make too many assumptions about the motives or character of the parent who wrote in here.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yes. If there IS an inclination to helicopter I would MUCH rather the mother write into AAM for advice than cause a disruption at their child’s workplace. But the overall tone of the comments is probably going to discourage that in the future.

        3. another Hero*

          writing to AAM isn’t “fighting her kid’s battles,” it’s seeking info about a situation that surprised the OP, too. it’d be one thing if they had accosted the manager, but they wrote in to a blog about workplace norms to ask about workplace norms.

          I’ll admit all the disparaging use of “mommy” in the comments, which you didn’t do in this post, has made me uncharitable (so misogynistic), but folks are laying out very strict rules that might be useful for teens but aren’t necessarily reality. I’m an adult whose parents live in a different country, and if they were visiting, I wouldn’t consider it absurd to mention to someone I was checking when my lunch was (coverage-based job) so I could tell them when to meet me. I’ve had a colleague’s dad come by to get lunch with her, again not regularly but hey, it was fun to meet him. my boss’s kids have made very occasional appearances. this is a professional job and we aren’t teens, but everyone in the comments acting like it’s a scandal to so much as mention a parent at work is really overstating things.

        4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          The mom didn’t ask the manager herself, she had her kid do it. Then she asked AAM for knowledge. This isn’t helicoptering and isn’t a good excuse to rail against helicoptering just because it’s annoying. Unless your honest take is, “She should’ve known the answer to this question without having to ask,” (which wouldn’t be a great take on a specialist advice column), you’re tilting at windmills.

        5. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          There’s absolutely no evidence of helicoptering in the letter. The OP had her daughter ask the question, she didn’t go around her and ask herself. She didn’t try to prevent her daughter from having to work on a holiday, she just tried to make it nicer. Yes the break question is something you know if you’ve worked retail, but if you haven’t, you probably don’t.

          The implication here is “Well she should’ve known without asking”, which is a wild take for commenters on an advice website. Bringing someone a special meal when they have to work a holiday (something it’s ok to acknowledge is unpleasant!) is just a nice little kindness, whether it’s your kid or your spouse or a friend. People need to stop taking out their general annoyance at helicoptering on anyone who even vaguely reminds them of the subject.

        6. UKDancer*

          I don’t think writing to AAM is fighting her daughter’s battles for her. It’s writing to an expert to get an understanding of the situation. Fighting the battle would be going in and having a go at the manager in the shop. All the OP is doing is trying to work out what the workplace norm in this setting is so she can work out whether what she wants to do would work and if not why not.

          I don’t think that’s so unreasonable.

        7. Parakeet*

          There’s no “obvious helicoptering” here, it’s just a parent who recognizes that she doesn’t know the norm for this situation, asking about it so that she can pass on the answer to her minor (it’s not like the worker here is 25 or something) child. Which she’s probably doing because she’s the one who reads AAM, and not the kid, and also because she wants to know so that she can provide good guidance to the kid. Which seems like reasonable parenting. I don’t get why people are sneeringly mad about this.

        8. Nina*

          LW (who may or may not be a mom! they could be a dad or nonbinary parent!) is not ‘fighting their child’s battles’. They ran into something they didn’t understand and they asked an expert who is in no way connected to Child’s workplace. This is a totally reasonable thing to do and not something that deserves all this nastiness.
          ‘fighting Child’s battles’ would be if they interacted in any way with Child’s manager, which so far I’m not seeing they have.

      3. Lab Boss*

        Right? Compare this to the periodic letters where a spouse asks about contacting their partner’s employer. The advice is consistently “No, their work life is their own to manage” but there’s not a dogpile of people mocking the LW with “ohhh, hubby can’t be trusted at work so his wifey has to step in and talk to the mean old boss!”

        LW did what we want people to do- asked “am I in the wrong here?” Site rules say to give commenters the benefit of the doubt, so I have to assume she’s genuinely willing to hear “you’re in the wrong” and accept that answer. This whole thread has a weird nasty tone making fun of someone for asking a question on a question-asking web site.

        1. Observer*

          You are mostly right. But tone matters. So does an obvious mismatch between what an OP says and what they do.

          So, the mismatch is “I’m trying to teach my daughter about workplace norms” and then comes out with a question that seriously misunderstands workplace norms in some significant ways. And her tone implies that she knows that the employer is wrong and either she’s looking for validation or she wants to know just HOW wrong they are.

          And while I agree that many of the comments are over the top (never mind the ones that Alison had to take down!), it is a good thing for the OP to realize that she’s misunderstanding some pretty important things about the workplace in general, and retail in particular.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I think what I’m puzzled about is that there doesn’t seem to be any acceptance in some comments of the fact that some people have never worked retail so legitimately *do not know retail workplace norms.* OP wrote to see if this was in line with workplace norms and definitely has the tone of someone thinking this is strange (which for someone who hasn’t ever had experience in an industry is maybe not surprising?), Alison’s answer certainly told her it’s a norm for *this* industry. And many of the comments may actually be helpful for how OP should think of this in the future (does my child even *want* a holiday meal at her workplace? is it difficult for her to step away to have it? does my child need to readjust expectations about enjoying a meal while working retail?), but the ones scoffing at how she’s trying to teach norms when she doesn’t know norms just make me bang my head on the table.

            1. Gipsy Danger*

              Also, there seems to be no allowance by a lot of commenters that not all retail/service jobs work the same. I have worked multiple retail jobs and in the majority of them I had very set breaks. I could go in before my shift, look at the break schedule (!) and call my mom to let her know when my break would be (I was an adult, so I didn’t do that, but I could have). We had to take our breaks on time otherwise they wouldn’t all fit, and we had to cover each other so we had to take our bread on time to be back on time to cover the next person.
              One of our managers’ husbands used to regularly bring her tea during her shift. Other people’s partners dropped off lunch or whatever.
              I have no idea why commenters are freaking out over this letter. Lots of places have set breaks – OP’s daughter’s workplace isn’t one of them, but it’s not wildly out of line to be surprised by that.

              1. AngelicGamer*

                I was thinking this too. When I was at my last retail job, I could go in, look at the daily schedule, and see that I was on break at 1 which was my usual time if a co-worker didn’t need that time. Therefore, I knew, around 1 pm, I would go on lunch (depending on customers and if a co-worker could be bothered to not be a butt and come up to the registers to give me said break). So, if my mom wanted to drop off something like a lunch, I could text her quick and say “hey, my lunch is around 1, plan for 1:10 for drop off” so I could run to the back, clock out, hide my lanyard under my shirt, and then get what she’s dropping off. I also got an hour for lunch so I always planned what I was doing, including if I could sneak out from the back to the front for Subway or give money to a trusted co-worker who went on break at 10 (they got in for the early morning truck).

              2. Allegra*

                I already said it in a comment above but yes, everywhere I worked retail we also had set breaks to ensure coverage.

              3. Unicorn Parade*

                Does it really matter how other jobs have worked in the past when it seems extremely clear that at this particular job, based on the info in the letter, it clearly does not work that way?

                The supervisor was upset and said it wasn’t okay to ask ahead of time about when their break will be. This is normal in retail. LW was asking if it’s normal, AAM said yes.

                No one else’s personal experience at a totally different job has any bearing on this situation.

                1. Allegra*

                  My response at least was because there’s a strong tone from the comments that “expecting breaks to be scheduled, ever, is not normal in retail”, and for some people who have worked in retail, our sole experience is that actually it WAS normal to have scheduled breaks. The OP was asking about industry norms and that’s what the comments are discussing; for some of us, we would have answered that the norm was scheduled breaks. Obviously, yes, this particular store has given its answer, but it’s weirdly hostile to say “discussing different retail experiences is irrelevant here.”

                2. Critical Roll*

                  The supervisor’s response seems out of line to me. I take it with a grain of salt because it’s secondhand, but getting “upset” over a pretty normal question from a high schooler and telling them “it’s not okay to ask” about breaks would be over the top. Just explain the norm, as you must have to do regularly with these kids, and move on.

            2. Observer*

              but the ones scoffing at how she’s trying to teach norms when she doesn’t know norms just make me bang my head on the table.

              I hear you. But part of it is that some of what is off in her question seems to be a misunderstanding of norms that are not just specific to retail.

      4. Malarkey01*

        I think, for me, the reaction comes from the language in the letter about businesses “flying by the seat of their pants” and when a manager “deem it time”. It seems really condescending for what is a common situation for these types of jobs.

      5. Green great dragon*

        I agree with you, but I think it’s partly because OP herself was quite antagonistic towards the set-up. She didn’t ask ‘is it normal not to schedule breaks’, she asked ‘is it normal that the employees aren’t allowed to enjoy a meal on their break’ which would be a rather different issue in a long shift.

      6. Observer*

        Would you be sneering at someone’s friend or significant other trying to bring them a meal at work

        I hope I wouldn’t be sneering, but I would certainly be equally dumbfounded.

        I agree that the sneering and snark are out of place. But Mom really is totally out of touch in almost any industry. And her snarky and outraged reaction is really out of line. I just hope that she bottled it up till she wrote in here.

        1. RagingADHD*

          You’d be dumbfounded? Why?

          When I worked office jobs (pre covid obviously), having a someone else drop off a personal item at the front desk (lunch, your keys or phone, papers you needed to sign, etc) was a totally normal occurrence. So was having a visitor buzz from the lobby to either meet for a brief chat, or get taken up to meet your coworkers. When I worked reception in a large company, these things happened daily.

          The LW was mistaken that this is normal in retail, but it’s not unusual in other industries at all.

          1. Observer*

            You’d be dumbfounded? Why?

            Because in most cases it is very much out of the norm or even flat out inappropriate. I’m not saying that there is never a time when someone can bring an SO lunch. But by and large, no. Especially if it were expressed as a norm (ie that’s THE way someone gets to “enjoy a meal”.

            1. RagingADHD*

              It wasn’t the norm. It was a holiday meal, which strongly implies a one-off or very occasional thing.

              I can’t fathom what you think is inappropriate about it, *if* it were an industry that had fixed lunch breaks or lunch breaks that are at the worker’s own discretion (which obviously the job in the letter is not). Every office I’ve worked in, it was between the receptionist and the person getting buzzed. It didn’t affect anyone else, so why would it be inappropriate?

              For workers who get a regular lunch break, what they eat, where it comes from, or who they eat it with isn’t anyone else’s business anyway.

              1. Observer*

                I can’t fathom what you think is inappropriate about it,

                Well, I suppose that this is not something we’re going to see eye to eye on. I don’t think that an expectation of bringing someone a meal at work as a regular thing is reasonable, regardless if we’re talking about a parent or partner bringing the meal.

                In any case, my point is that my reaction to this letter is not just about the parent doing this for their daughter, but the whole idea. I was explicitly responding to someone who was assuming that the whole deal was because people just think that parents should not bring their child a meal. And I’m saying that that’s not where I’m coming from.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              You’re treating this like the OP wants to bring their kid lunch at work every day. They specifically said it was a holiday meal. You’re right that it would be a little eyebrow raising in a lot of workplaces to have a family member bring your lunch/dinner at every shift you worked. But once or twice a year on a special occasion is really not a big deal.

              I’ve been in the professional world for over 2 decades, and during those decades many of my coworkers have had a parent/sibling/friend/SO/grandparent come in to drop off a special meal or treat for a birthday or holiday. This is just really not as weird or dumbfounding as you think it is.

              1. Observer*

                They specifically said it was a holiday meal

                But it also sounds like this has come up more than once. More concerning to me is that the Op explicitly claims that staff *in general* need to have notice of when their meal break is going to be in order to “enjoy a meal” and treats the whole idea of not being able to give precise lunch schedules as great incompetence, with an implication of abuse of authority (“decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time”).

        2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          How is it dumbfouding that someone would drop off something nice for a retail worker? I’ve seen that happen in every retail job I’ve had and it’s not remotely a big deal. Boyfriend drops off flowers on Valentine’s, someone brings a phone the worker forgot at home, what have you. It’s not like OP was planning to *eat* the meal with her kid. It’s just not flabbergasting.

          Also, looking back on the retail jobs I’ve had, both the big box store and the small independent shop _did_ have nominal break times assigned! Or at least a cascade of, “You go when Trevor gets back.” Sure if you’re helping a customer you don’t abruptly peace out just because it’s noon, but it’s not a completely wild idea that the daughter might be most likely available around that time.

          There’s just no justifiable argument that it was either an unreasonable question for the daughter to ask her boss, or for OP to ask a workplace advice column. It’s understandable that the answer was no, but not that the boss was so peeved OR that commenters are piling on.

          The kind of unforgivingly negative microscope people are taking to OP’s language and story details is likely to discourage parents (especially mothers) from writing in. What if my question is something I should supposedly know already too?

          1. Observer*

            I agree that the essential question was not unreasonable. But I wouldn’t assume that the manager was unreasonably annoyed – we don’t actually know what happened there. We *DO* know (and this is where at least some of the push back is coming from) that the OP is taking a very hostile and strongly judgemental tone about the matter. That’s not reasonable in any workplace.

      7. Kay*

        100% this. I’m not sure how old LW is, but I will say that the norms in retail have changed (for the worse) over the years. When I worked retail in high school and college, my mom would often scoff at how tired and stressed out I was, citing her own days working retail. She was a bit clueless about the norms because she was basing it on her own experiences. Well, she eventually decided she wanted to get a part-time job at a little shop, and she called me up after the first day INCENSED that they’d told her to clean the bathroom at the end of the night. Over the course of the conversation, it turned out that her college retail days had been a LOT easier because the norms were different back then. Maybe not totally true across the board, but this parent could be in a similar situation. We’re all rolling our eyes at the confusion, but imagine a better situation! Imagine if the store COULD schedule breaks for everyone in advance because – gasp! – they weren’t working with a skeleton staff! Such a thing IS possible, but unfortunately, it is not the norm – which is all the LW wanted to know.

      8. Tara*

        It is odd to have a meal brought to you by anyone during work though, especially in an industry where you will not have a set time/lunch hour. The parent isn’t teaching their daughter norms, or at least not good ones, by making them expect this, or by their tone in the letter. If they want to make their kid lunch for their shift, lovely! But it isn’t the employer’s concern. I think something packed is definitely the way to go, particularly if the daughter does not want to be infantilised at work.

      9. LeftEye*

        THANK YOU.

        All workplaces are different, but when I worked front line service jobs it was INCREDIBLY NORMAL for staff to order delivery or takeout for lunch, or to have a friend or roommate or spouse bring them food occasionally. It was also normal to have prescheduled lunch breaks because lunch was a mandatory break and they needed to ensure they had decent coverage. It’s fine that the daughter’s job doesn’t do things that way, but it is absolutely not bizarre or out of line to ask. Wtf is going on in this comment section.

        Also it says so much that everyone thinks the LW is the mom when they never specified their gender…

        1. meagain*

          This was incredibly normal at my job as well. And some people got set breaks based on their roll and other people it was more just how the day unfolded and making sure everyone got to eat, but it was based on crowd/traffic flow and who you could pull to cover where. It would have been strange if a friend or spouse or family member came in expecting to eat with the employee on their break, but dropping something off on occasion was no big deal. Trying to time a break to a food delivery or when another employee would be returning from pickup up a takeout order for a few people was also normal.

    7. Nanani*

      Eh, i get where this is coming from but the letter did say holiday meal – it doesn’t sound like a helicopter parent situation but just a one off “nicer meal”.

      The solution might be to pack up the meal anyway, or give it to kid when their shift is over.

    8. Momma Bear*

      I knew about when my breaks would be at the grocery store I worked at, but I was never 100% sure because we didn’t know when there would be a rush. Similarly, if we closed but there was that last customer wandering around, I might have to wait to clock out. Typically I was scheduled so I only got a 15 minute break, not a half hour. I got good at using the restroom, chugging a soda, and eating a granola bar very fast.

      I would just give her a meal to reheat or something she can eat quickly cold and not try to bring her something special at this job. It’s just too uncertain.

  6. nnn*

    A compelling argument for #2 might be “I don’t have an appropriate desk to ergonomically use such a large monitor.”

    (Source: this is my actual situation with the larger wide-screen monitors my employer is pressing on me – my desk isn’t deep enough for me to be far enough away from the monitors to use them comfortably. And yes, I know monitors are trending larger and I’ll need a desk that can accommodate that eventually, but that’s a post-pandemic task.)

    1. JSPA*

      Have them spring for an excellent wall mount arm or other retractable bracket, if you are handy enough to install one? A more variable distance is excellent for ergonomics and eyes. It’s couch (or small desk) compatible.

      1. ceiswyn*

        I don’t know about OP or nnn, but a wall mount or retractable bracket still isn’t usable with my setup. My desk is so shallow that there is only space for a laptop or a keyboard, and it has shelves above it at a little above laptop screen height. People keep trying to suggest ways in which I could fit in a monitor until I actually send photos of my living room, at which point they tend to go very quiet.

        1. nnn*

          Yeah, I somehow managed to acquire an apartment that doesn’t have enough walls. I can’t explain how or why – it is fully enclosed and everything – but whenever someone suggests I attach something to my wall, there somehow isn’t appropriate wall space in the entire apartment.

      2. EPLawyer*

        If you are in an apartment, you are not mounting anything on the walls. Not without losing your security deposit when you move out.

        1. londonedit*

          Hmm, it depends. Some landlords are strict about it but I just need to get my landlord’s permission – when I moved in they agreed that I could hang whatever pictures I wanted on the wall as long as I used proper fixings. I’m sure if I asked for something like that in the context of needing it to work from home effectively, they’d be fine with it.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Mine is mounted on a pole clamped to my desk – the desk itself is barely 24″ deep, but the monitor and laptop mount are above and slightly behind it.

            In my case it’s a preference, but those limited by square footage or tenancy conditions might also benefit from a similar setup.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Yup, that’s pretty much why I do not have the large monitors and chairs at my home setup that I do at work – no room.

      Unless they want to pay for a bigger house :p

      (UK homes tend to be small anyway but mine is tiny)

      1. ceiswyn*

        Same! I live in a one-bed house. My desk is in my living room, and there is no space there for a larger desk.

        I could maybe fit in a larger desk in my kitchen downstairs, if I completely rearranged the furniture, including moving a heavy hardwood dresser around by myself, and if I were willing to completely give up a) my workout space and b) daylight. I do not think that that would result in a net benefit to my health…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Technically I do have a desk here at home. Problem is it’s covered in computers. My own!

          (And one of them fried it’s motherboard yesterday so it’s a desk covered in disassembled computer right now. Fun keeping the cat off it…)

    3. Colette*

      I’d actually go with “I don’t usually use an external monitor, but I have one already if I need one, so I don’t need one from work.” The OP has said she has a desk setup with monitor; she just doesn’t use it, but she presumably could if she needed to.

      1. Person of Interest*

        Exactly, just tell them you already have a monitor you can use with your laptop. Full stop. You don’t need to explain your setup.

      2. Ashloo*

        Yes, I would lean towards “already have 2 at home, no room for another” than explain I don’t use a desk. They don’t need to know and possibly pass judgment. If they send it anyway, can you tuck the whole box in a closet?

        I, on the other hand, could barely do my job well without my big monitor. The primary database I use (Factiva) has a split-screen layout that makes skimming sane. It’s so tiny and inefficient on a laptop.

      3. Tara*

        Yeah, I think this is a way better approach to take, rather than telling the boss you’re using your sofa and a laptop, and potentially falling into some policy/duty of care responsibilities the employer has to take over your health.

    4. Person of Interest*

      Or just tell them you already have a monitor you can use with your laptop, which you do, and that you don’t have storage space if they send you another one., which you don’t. You don’t need to explain your desk set up to anyone.

  7. Loulou*

    My read on #3 was that it is the situation Alison described in the caveat. OP’s wording about the company being “happy to let them work remotely” made it sound like this wasn’t a designed-as-remote role. My knee-jerk reaction is that it’s egregious to make OP pay out of pocket for business expenses anyway, but if they are the only remote employee and are apparently saving a ton of money by not living in an expensive city (or commuting, or buying lunch/work clothes/whatever) then maybe the cost of one or two trips a year would still put them on top.

    1. Not Australian*

      This is a fair point, but it may be that the expense of travelling, not being budgeted in advance, will be a major inconvenience regardless of the saving the location has conferred. I’m getting the sense that the requirement to travel is new and had not been anticipated by OP; if they’re on a tightly-c0ntrolled budget this could throw them into major confusion and may take months to recover from … and there is no guaranteeing how often it’s likely to be required. It could be that they are just recovering from Trip A when they’re required to take Trip B, plunging them further into financial chaos. Sometimes that’s really all it takes to tip the balance from comfort to chaos, and I don’t see why OP should have to put up with this if it isn’t strictly necessary.

      1. JM60*

        It’s also likely the case that OP took this job on the lower salary with the understanding that they would never have to pay for travel expenses. IMO, the employer should have to cover all of the travel expenses if/when they require the OP to come in, plus they should allow the OP to do the 8 hours travelling all during the workday as a work-related activity (rather than make the OP do all that driving on top of their normal work). If it’s not worth it for a full workday to be consumed just for driving, then they shouldn’t make the OP drive that much.

        It sounds like the OP’s employer would like to come in more than once a year. So if the OP doesn’t put their foot down, they’re employer may want them to come in, on their own time and dime, on future occasions.

        1. hbc*

          I think what’s key is how mutual the “understanding” was. Because if OP took the job with the understanding that there’d never be unexpensed travel, and the company had the understanding/view that “letting you be remote is a concession and a perk, so having to get yourself in once a year is pretty reasonable,” there’s going to be a problem.

          OP can put her foot down, but that very well might mean that the company will start looking for someone who can meet with VIPs without it having to be added to the budget.

          1. Roscoe*

            Agreed. This is definitely a situation where I feel both sides could have come to an “agreement” but their understanding wasn’t exactly the same.

            1. JM60*

              But if the company agreed to allow the OP to be remote, the default assumption from that agreement should be that “remote” means the OP doesn’t need to come in, and the company needs to treat an exception to that rule as business travel.

    2. Smithy*

      My read on #3 was also that there were likely a lot of assumptions on both sides around what “full time remote” would mean.

      For someone working “full time remote” and living 2-3 hours away, asking them to come to the office a handful of times of year would not necessarily be accompanied by the offer to pay – especially in a context where it was known the employee could use light rail or had a car. The point of it being 5 hours away and during 2020 when it was a huge amount of “who knows what will happen when” meant those were details everyone kicked down the road and perhaps never put into writing.

      It is also likely that the majority of this staff are making that “low” industry salary and living in the more expensive place. So there may also be less empathy for the OP making a salary that goes further in a cheaper location.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Well and I was thinking new management might mean new rules for reimburesement/covering travel. The conversation around budget for that type of things was with old manager. Or am I reading that wrong? I think OP just needs to ask!

    3. Gingerbread Gnome*

      I work for a company that has many remote employees and most of us live in areas where the cost of living is much cheaper. I suspect they like to recruit from lower COL areas. The pay is just OK, but benefits, flexibility, etc are very good. They pay all travel expenses (mileage, tolls, flights, travel day, etc.) for annual meetings at the main campus, including individual hotel rooms and all meals. If I had to pay out of my pocket I would definitely feel a bit miffed, and possibly look for another job. As it is I feel like a valued part of the team.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Same. My bosses (2 different locations) are 4 and 5 hrs away by plane. Most of my work is 2-4 hours from my house by car. When I need to get out into the community and into the field, my employer pays the costs, including any COVID testing or vaccination needs (e.g. rabies pre-exposure). Of course, my job was always intended to be remote, so it might not be the same as the LW, but employer coving travel costs for off-site employees to come to HQ has been pretty normal in my experience

      2. Suz*

        I work for a non-profit and ours is the opposite. Prior to the pandemic, we had several people who worked remotely at distant locations. They were told upfront that the only way this would be allowed is if they paid their own expenses to travel to the office. They’re only expected to do so once or twice a year.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I also work for a nonprofit and we pay travel expenses for remote employees. We only have a couple and they come out quarterly.

    4. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      Nope. This is a business expense that should be paid by the company, full stop. It doesn’t matter what the OP’s situation is, they shouldn’t be paying for company-mandated business travel. Would you expect them to pay for business travel to a client, too?

      1. Smithy*

        Where this matter gets murky, and why it likely behooves full time remote employees to clarify these points when being hired is because what people consider to be acceptable commute times really can vary.

        In DC – and certainly more pre-COVID – it was not unheard of to meet people who live in Pennsylvania or Delaware and commute to DC a few times a week for work. To me, that was a commute distance that sounded more like business travel and not regular commuting – but personal preferences vary. And in a few cases, I knew of people who chose to do their remote work in states as far away as Kentucky and Maine, returning to DC a few days a week to be in the office. And these were costs and choices they made for personal reasons.

        Pre-COVID, remote work certainly wasn’t as available and so you had staff happy to offer up these costs as their “commute”. COVID expanded remote work quickly, but I think it left some gaps in policies that would benefit employers and employees. Essentially, is someone considered full-time remote but “local” (i.e. expected to pay their way to the office for occasional meetings) or “not-local” and therefore transportation to the office would be covered?

        I think a lot of jobs are now being posted as hybrid, not because there’s huge in-office expectations but to essentially announce that some in-office time is required and will considered commute travel and not business travel.

    5. #3 letter writer*

      Thanks! Yeah, that’s my take on it, too. Unfortunately there are 50 shades of gray areas here, since the company is on really rocky ground financially. They’ve seen a lot of turnover in the last year, including the people who hired me, so there may be many changing expectations and protocols.

      When I was offered the job, they (verbally and casually in emails) said “no problem at all” to me working full-time remote from another state and they’d be happy to pay for mileage, at least, if I drove up. Then, after a couple weeks, they walked back on it since they “didn’t realize” all the legal and tax issues that would be involved in having an employee working in another state, and wanted to see if I was willing to be a contractor instead of an employee (my response: for nearly double my wages, sure, since health insurance and self-employment taxes ain’t cheap). That wasn’t going to work for them, and their legal counsel wisely advised to steer clear of the contractor stuff. So I’m an employee. Then, they said, oops, we can’t afford to pay mileage or travel, either, so no pressure to come to any meeting, we’ll have you zoom in.

      Of course, they never gave me a contract outlining any of this. Clearly, they were in over their heads with HR stuff and were kind of faking it til they made it.

      They offered a paltry one-time bonus/incentive if I moved to their state, but it wouldn’t begin to cover moving expenses, not to mention the higher cost of living and skyrocketing real estate prices during the pandemic.

      Now they’re gone, new boss is in. We’re all still mostly remote thanks to Omicron, with only 1 or 2 people going into the office on occasion. Even if all the other employees live in that state, some do live a long distance away from the office and so are also working remotely full-time.

      Other out-of-staters have jumped to move to this appealing destination state, but all have financial support from spouses and came from places with higher costs of living like NYC, making me the only out-of-state employee.

      So, right now, it’s sort of a stalemate. The new boss hasn’t mandated travel or my relocation (yet). I could technically afford to do it once or twice a year, but only because I work multiple freelance jobs on top of this. My salary alone would leave no room for last-minute trips to a seaside tourist town. If they gave me a very hearty raise and maybe help with relocation, I’d consider it, but for now, I’d rather not move to a more expensive town for a company that’s on such shaky ground.

      So if it ever comes to a head and I’m told attendance is mandatory, I’ll bring up the travel expenses again and see what new boss thinks. Fingers crossed it won’t come to that!

  8. Viki*

    I work remotely, was hired remotely and on the other side of a country so about a 5 hour plane ride for my office. I still go to the home office on my own dime once a year for a week. Obviously not with the pandemic but in general.

    It’s not unheard of for fully remote people to still have to go into the office once a year or quarter—it’s part of the trade off of being remote, and my company doesn’t have the budget to fly me in. It’s part of the cost I factor into being remote. I think there’s a lot of people who have to come in and eat the cost, and if it’s once a quarter/year, this wouldn’t be the hill I would die on.

    1. JM60*

      As for what should happen, remote employees shouldn’t have to come in (from out of town) on their dime unless that was made very clear upfront during negotiations. It sounds like the OP accepted the job without agreeing to pay to come in.

      As for what is wise for the OP to do, I’d at least raise the issue, noting that I didn’t come in previously because it wasn’t in the budget. If they still make him come in on his own dime (which is unethical IMO), then I think the OP should access how often they would expect them to travel in deciding if it’s a hill worth dying on. If it’s once a year, the OP can easily afford it, and otherwise likes the job, then it’s probably not a hill worth dying on.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Presumably this was part of your arrangement, and your compensation makes it worth your while. In the case of the OP, the de facto tradeoff for the employer is that they get to pay wages suitable for a cheap area while themselves getting to enjoy being in a more expensive area. Mandating additional expenses for the employee changes that calculus.

    3. Hollywood Handshake*

      Although it would be good for the company to pay the cost of travel, especially the if they did not indicate otherwise in your WFH agreement, the cost of one or two trips a year on your own dime is still a much lower cost than what every in-person employee pays out of pocket every day to commute: gas, car, public transit etc. This might be the calculus the company is using.

      1. Esmeralda*

        That really depends on what the costs are for each situation. Round trip airfare, transport to and from airports, a week at a hotel, transport to and from the hotel/workplace, meals for the week — that can be quite expensive. If OP is driving, then car expenses for the trip (gas, mileage, etc), plus hotel etc., plus the fact that driving long distances is tiring and comes with its own dangers.

        If the OP has children, pets — arranging and paying for their care.

        Plus travelling in a pandemic.

        Maybe that’s = to what non-remote employees are paying for their daily commute. No way to know for sure.

    4. anonymous73*

      There’s a difference here though. I assume you agreed to those terms when you were hired correct? For this OP, they had agreed to one thing and now new management seems to want to change those terms. So it could be a hill to die on for the OP.

    5. Stitch*

      I work for the government and part of our telework agreement is that we pay our own way back to the office. They do a required in person training every 2 years ish.

    6. Gingerbread Gnome*

      I work remotely and my company pays all travel expenses for me to come in. I would be VERY miffed if they suddenly told me I had to cover those costs myself. I would certainly want those travel expenses to be reflected in my base pay. As it is they get an excellent employee for less competitive pay than their higher COL area would demand. There are many reasons why some folks like WFH, and many reasons why WFH is a good deal for some business models. At my current pay rate having to provide transportation charges once a year would definitely cause me to side-eye management, and twice a year would have me looking at another job unless they increased my compensation about 15k/year (travel expenses plus getting me to industry standard).

      1. Sloanicote*

        To me, part of the issue of this is that the company doesn’t have enough incentive to really make the travel “worth the money” if they’re not paying. At my current job, the role is fully remote, but the ED just “likes” to have folks come in for staff meetings / happy hours or whatever every so often. That’s fine for me, as I live about 20 minutes from the office. However, another staff member lives hours away, and I know it’s a burden for him to travel in for these small things – one-hour meetings? Birthday celebrations? My company would never budget for travel for these events because they’d realize it’s not worth it, but there’s no cost to making this guy come in. A good amount of the time, he ends up standing around / the boss doesn’t make it in that day / the thing that was so urgent turns out to be very short / it could have been an email. Once or twice a year is the most I would do in this circumstance and I want it to be worth the squeeze.

  9. SoupySales*

    Re: #5, my LinkedIn profile is much more detailed than my resume. I’ve been working for a long time, and I was trained to keep my resume to two pages, so I only keep the most relevant work experience on my resume. I feel like you have more leeway on LinkedIn, so I include projects I’ve taken on that might be a little outside my area of expertise to show my versatility and willingness to be a team player. Also, I include examples of my work (PDFs of non-proprietary work products, links to articles in which I’m mentioned, etc.) in my LinkedIn profile.

    Am I doing it wrong?

    1. Indio P*

      Not wrong, just differently than many people. Most people don’t put that much detail on there, and what there is is often out of date because people update infrequently, and often only when a major change in their work life prompts them to.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Mine is the exact opposite, I only leave my broadest jobs on there with details about responsibilities, as I do a lot of very specific contract work and don’t want to/or legally can’t, add the nature of those contracts there. In an interview I’m able to say, “yes, I worked for xx company doing xx”, but the scope of some of those jobs are so specific I find that they rule me out more than rule me in on jobs. But maybe I should start doing it the other way. I don’t know, with short contracts, on linkedin it looks more like job hopping maybe?

      1. londonedit*

        LinkedIn isn’t really used a huge amount in my industry – I’ve never been approached by a recruiter via LinkedIn and people just don’t tend to use it beyond keeping their basic profile up to date. That’s all I do with mine – it just has my current and previous job titles/companies and a brief statement about me. A few of my authors want to connect with me and I accept their invitations but that’s about it. I’d never apply to a job using my LinkedIn profile – the norm in publishing is still CV and cover letter, and my CV has far more information about my actual employment history and experience.

    3. Dissimilate*

      LW #5 here – at the point of writing this letter, my LinkedIn resume was extremely detailed, more than the one page limit for a resume (in my industry at my level of experience). Also, I typically create a custom resume for each job, so I’d literally be unable to send my resume without speaking to the recruiter or at least having a job description to look at.

      In my industry, LinkedIn reach outs from sourcers are quite common, and talent is competitive, so it boggles me that they put passive candidates through so many hoops.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      You’re not doing it wrong, but most people don’t update their LI profile often, nor do they make them very detailed. Resumes usually offer more than a LI profile.

      A resume doesn’t tell the whole story – and neither does a job spec – which is why a discussion should take place, but it’s a pretty common practice to share those things early in the discussion process.

    5. korangeen*

      Yeah same for me. My LinkedIn isn’t limited for space and I keep adding to it over the years, so it has way more info than my 2-page resume that I tailor for specific jobs. My LinkedIn has every single job since college, tons of work examples, volunteer work and other activities, college coursework, and recommendations. My resume even has a couple spots where I say to go see my LinkedIn for full information.

    6. Momma Bear*

      Sometimes it is not about you, but HR. If we get people through various online services, they are STILL requested to submit a resume via our HR email. Does it make perfect sense? No. But that’s why. It’s helpful to include a link to your profile and/or portfolio on the resume if that’s where more information can be found.

  10. Magenta Sky*

    OP 4: One of the more frustrating things about retail work is erratic break schedules. You have to have coverage when the sales floor is busy, and it’s impossible to reliably predict when that will happen all the time.

    That said, it kind of depends on where it is, and how big the staff is. Some states (like California) have very strict rules about breaks (meal and on-the-clock both), so if the staff is of any size, management pretty much *has* to carefully plan breaks or they hit a wall where everybody *has* to take their break at the same time, or the business suffers financial penalties. Even if the state isn’t that strict, if you have a big staff, it’s still a lot easier to schedule stuff in advance.

    But that’s back to “could” versus “should.” Retail, as an industry, isn’t really known for the high degree of people skills it attracts in its managers. So I’d guess either your daughter’s manager isn’t very good at managing their employees time, or has a small staff and an erratic pattern of business rushes. Or both.

    It can get *very* frustrating, and is the sort of thing that tends to lead people to get another job, preferably outside of retail.

    1. Wendy*

      Retail is also particularly notorious for needing a lot of wiggle room when it comes to interpreting employment law. Legally, your breaks must be between X% and Y% of the way through your shift and there’s all sorts of rules about what you can and cannot do off the clock… but in most retail environments, being a stick-in-the-mud about it will just get you flagged as a problem employee. There’s always a delicate balancing act between standing up for your rights and acknowledging that sometimes there just IS no way to give you a proper 15-minute break in this specific 60-minute window. Some places are reasonable (“if you’ll be flexible for us, we’ll be flexible for you”) and some aren’t.

      1. Clefairy*

        Not to mention that in some states, there are ZERO laws mandating breaks. I used to manage front line hourly employees in Florida, and while I was super careful to provide reasonable breaks and lunches, from a legal standpoint, I could have given my employees zero breaks or lunches, even on a 14 hour shift

    2. WS*

      Regardless of the people skill of the managers, retail is an environment where breaks depend on a lot of external factors, especially in smaller places. You might be planning a series of half-hour breaks from 12 until 2:30 then head office sends a big order a day early and because there’s nowhere to store it, breaks have to be moved around to compensate. Or a busload of [people with interest in your product] suddenly show up and need to be looked after. Or that customer who will *only* deal with one specific staff member is here, so that staff member’s break gets moved. It’s a very changeable environment and it doesn’t surprise me that a manager doesn’t want to commit to a particular time for something as unimportant as “Mum delivers lunch” when they might be working around around other people’s medical appointments or childcare pickups or meetings.

      1. JM60*

        Of all the shitty things about working in retail, I erratic break schedules is one area in which I usually don’t blame the employer. When I was working in retail, the manager on duty often needed to wait until one person came back from break before sending another, or needed to send more people on break than ideal because they were behind on breaks, or they needed to hold off on breaks because we got a rush, and people are tied up. It would’ve been difficult and constraining to commit to a break at a predetermined certain time.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, I have worked one pretty poorly managed retail job and one spectacularly well managed retail job, and the poorly managed one was the one where my breaks were more likely to start when I chose. We’ll-managed job worked hard to get you on your mandated breaks (not legally required, but company policy) within 5 minutes of the planned time, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible.

        Whoever invents an algorithm that can tell you there will be a rush of customers at 11:36 on Tuesday will make a bajillion dollars.

      3. Biscotti*

        Agreed the skillset of being a good manager in Retail during the Holiday season and being able to tell an employee before the start of their shift when their lunch break is would signal a bad manager for me. I feel like the OP could have just posted this on Tik Tok as tell me you have never worked a Christmas Retail job without telling me you have never worked a Christmas Retail Job.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah. The professional norm is that “What time can my mum come in to give me a nice hot fresh meal–she needs to know so she can plan” is not a thing you tell your manager.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Yes, I’d say the real issue with this letter is that the manager is upset that the OP’s daughter is coming in early to find out when the break will be.

      Or maybe the manager isn’t upset…I don’t doubt the OP, but she’s getting it secondhand from her teen daughter, who may be taking “there’s no point in coming early and asking about breaks, because I don’t know ahead of time, so just stop asking” as “manager is upset.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m definitely picturing the second. And that it’s happening more than once, and the manager is getting frustrated at the worker’s inability to pick up on the professional norm that manager doesn’t know exactly when she’ll get her dinner break, it depends on unknown factors like busloads of coupon holders.

        1. Noisy Ghost*

          I was thinking this too – the wording that the manager gets upset when the LW’s daughter comes in early to ask about breaks makes it sound like this has happened more than once. If the LW is an overbearing parent, “my manager got mad/upset at me” might be a way for the daughter to manage that relationship.

          That being said, having worked retail as a teen, I also think that too many retail managers would rather go on a power trip with their teenage employees than take the time to actually help them navigate the job world. There’s not enough info in the letter to know whether the conversation was along the lines of “retail is too unpredictable to schedule breaks in advance, so I decide throughout the day to send staff on breaks when there are opportunities” or “I’m the manager so your break will happen when I say it happens.” Both are totally plausible based on my experience.

          Regardless of whether any of these are accurate interpretations, the LW needs to take a step back and let their daughter learn for herself.

      2. Clefairy*

        Honestly, the way OP4 phrased things (“Is it ok for retail managers to just fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to break times?!”) tells me that OP4 isn’t particularly reasonable- I’m guessing she’s overblowing what her daughter told her, OR her daughter was raised by her and is also not particularly reasonable.

        Honestly, the tone of this letter makes me think that if OP4 showed up to a busy retail location on a holiday and had to wait in an exceptionally long line to check out, complained to a manager, and was told “So sorry, I have the employee for the second register on their lunch break”, her reaction would probably NOT be “Oh great, I’m so glad you aren’t flying by the seat of your pants with your employees’ break times! Good on you for prescheduling them and making sure they are rested and taken care of!” lol.

        1. Nina*

          It sounds to me like LW4 comes from an industry where rigidly scheduled breaks are the norm, and isn’t familiar with an industry where they’re not.
          I’m in an industry where scheduled breaks, and expecting scheduled breaks, would be downright weird, and I can totally see myself writing in to AAM saying ‘is it normal that managers rigidly micromanage their employees break times so that even if you’re halfway through a task you have to stop right there and leave it half done or not get a break at all?’

  11. Language Lover*

    #1

    I’ve worked adjacent to massage therapists before and I don’t think any of them would care about massaging their boss in this scenario. It’s not the nakedness of a massage that’d be the issue unless you happen to be the type to moan or become involuntarily aroused during massages. Even though these things happen, I’d want to avoid being in that situation with employees.

    The thing that I’d be more concerned about is whether or not they lose out on a paying customer and tip during the time they’re providing the free service. Make sure they’re not in a position to lose money if they give you the massage (i.e. tip well).

  12. Cardboard*

    I really hope someone who knows about nude spa culture comments on #1. I wonder if it is normal for management to participate like that. I have a feeling it isn’t toooo weird since employees are desensitized to nudity.

  13. Wendy*

    OP2, if you decide to not take the extra peripherals, make sure you have that very very clearly in writing. If you don’t, I’d worry about you having to prove you didn’t “steal” their equipment (that you can’t return because you never received it) a few years down the line when you leave for another job or when they want it back.

  14. Beth*

    OP4: Getting a meal dropped off during your break is a lovely thought, but it’s far from the norm. Most people in this kind of work environment bring in food at the start of their shift. Yes, it won’t be a hot, just-made meal–but would that really be enjoyed to the fullest on a 15 minute break in the back room? Your daughter can pack a sandwich or some granola bars or whatever she prefers to bring along. Save the home-cooked holiday meal for when she gets home.

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

      I think as a one time thing it’s not that big of a deal. Worked where someone had this done multiple times.

    2. Stitch*

      I think growing up almost everyone in my family worked a Christmas day shift at one point. (My dad particularly, NICU babies still need care on Christmas).

      We waited for them to get home. It’s just sad otherwise.

    3. HannahS*

      I agree, it’s a lovely thought. A one-time special meal drop-off isn’t the end of the world, even if it isn’t common. I knew a resident doctor whose mother brought a hot meal to the hospital every time he was on call. No one thought it was childish; we were all wildly envious. I get that scheduled breaks aren’t common in retail, though, so it’s not really workable for the daughter to duck out and pick it up.

      Also, wanting to teach your teenage daughter workplace norms and her rights is a really good thing! I don’t get people upthread talking like the mom needs to back off and let the daughter fend for herself. She’s a teenager!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        But Mom is trying to teach her a workplace norm that isn’t. Like parents who tell you that the key to getting hired is to walk in the door, hand them your paper resume, and insist that they set up an interview with someone right then.

        If your teenager is trying to work a normal paying job for someone who isn’t you, you absolutely should back off and let them fend for themselves. (Until they mention the timecard fraud or something.) Because part of adulthood is not having mom rush in to handle things for you with your teachers, bosses, friends, etc.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        It’s a nice thought, for sure, but I wonder if it being a holiday thing may in fact make it even more impractical/hard to accommodate as a manager than usual. I would assume that the OP’s daughter was working over Thanksgiving/Black Friday or the immediately pre- or post-Christmas period, which are capital-I Intense times to be in the service industry. If the manager was trying to deal with Christmas crowds then they were probably even less able than normal to guarantee a specific break time (it’s very much all hands on deck, IME) and also emphatically not in the mood to hear about their employee’s mum’s hot lunch delivery schedule. I know it doesn’t seem terribly full of festive cheer, but that’s the reality of the service industry over the holidays.

        My guess is that if this had happened on a normal random Tuesday it might have been fine, but during the holiday period it probably became a “seriously, you’re asking me this right now??” sort of question. (And to me it reads like the daughter asked multiple times, but it seems a bit ambiguous.)

      3. Observer*

        Also, wanting to teach your teenage daughter workplace norms and her rights is a really good thing!

        Agreed! The problem here is that what Mom is upset about is actually NOT a workplace norm, nor is it in any way contravening the employees rights.

          1. Observer*

            True. Hopefully they didn’t say anything to their daughter or they share the reaction they got here. At least the ones that are not just nasty.

            PS Alison notes that we actually don’t know which parent this is, and I realized that she’s right. So, I’m switching back to they. Because Alison is also right that there is a definitely misogynist tone to some of the comments (including some that she pulled down.)

  15. Allonge*

    For LW3, I am now confused.

    I get the what the company should do part, but legally, how is paying for remote workers to come to the office once a quarter different from paying for normal, daily commutes? Why would a rarer commute be a business expense and a daily not (I don’t think that all commutes are paid in this scheme)?

    1. allathian*

      It relates to their place of business. For some remote workers, their place of business is their home. For them to go to “their” office, the situation would be similar to that employees who work at a branch office and who go to the main office once or a few times a year for a company event, and who can expense the costs of travel.

      1. JM60*

        And I think it’s also crucial that the OP didn’t sign up for that transportation either. While employees in the company’s office did sign up for their commutes as part of their negotiated jobs.

        1. Gingerbread Gnome*

          This! When you accept a job you make a decision on if the compensation will work for you. If they don’t pay enough to make that 2-hour commute feasible you are not going to take the job. The OP signed up for one thing and now the business is changing the rules. Also, OP specifically mentioned the pay works because she is in a lower COL area, if they hired closer to the main office the business would likely either pay significantly more or hire less experienced employees.

      2. UKDancer*

        Definitely! I am based in the London office of my company (albeit we’re working from home some of the time due to Covid) so I am expected to commute to that office and that is my journey to work for which I am financially responsible. If my company wants me to attend a meeting at their Glasgow office they need to meet the cost of it because I am travelling from my place of work (London) at their request. It’s the same as when they ask me to attend a conference in Brussels where I would expect them to pay for my travel and expenses.

        If your place of work is your home then you would be travelling from there to an office and so the employer should pay for any travel you do in my opinion.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think this depends a lot on how the company is structured! For example, I used to work at a company that had lots of ‘local reps’. Our headquarters were in Major City, USA but reps would be hired in cities all over the country. When there were in-person trainings or meetings (only a few a year), their transportation would be covered.

      This is because their normal place of doing business is their home and they were hired with the expectation of not having to commute.

      On the other hand, my partner and I have gone remote during the pandemic, but we were hired and originally planned to commute regularly. When we have to go in now and again, we don’t mind covering our own costs.

      Similarly, I think if someone negociates working remotely as a perk, but its not something the company orients around, that person should typically expect to have to cover their own travel expenses.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Sorry, I should caveat this – that last line is supposing a commute of less than ~2 hours. If a company hires someone 5 hours away (like in OP’s case) who negociates for remote work, I think it’s not unreasonable for them to cover the cost of travel.

    3. anonymous73*

      Most companies aren’t paying their employees for normal daily commutes though. I have worked for a company who gave their employees a stipend each month to use for public transportation (it was a big city with reliable public transit), but no other job I’ve had has given me money for commuting back and forth. The OP said they live a 5 hour drive away. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any employees with a 10 hour round trip commute. And expecting OP to round trip that commute for a one day visit is a little ridiculous. You can’t agree to an employee being full time remote, and then suddenly expect them to come into the office on their dime.

    4. Nope, not today*

      I don’t think its about the commute so much – a five hour car ride is not wildly expensive. But you can’t go to the office and go home after – it will involve at least one overnight stay in the city. And you may not be able to easily be away from home for a night if you have children/pets, it can be incredibly hard to find care and super expensive (last time I was away from home for two nights it cost me $400 to pay a niece to babysit/dogsit. And that was a great deal! and that isnt counting my hotel/food/fuel costs)

    5. Nanani*

      It’s not the same.
      It’s more like requiring travel to another office (since OP doesn’t work in the office they want them to travel to) or to an offsite event but not wanting to pay for those things.

      It’s not a commute at all and shouldn’t be thought of the same way.

  16. Eden*

    #5 – for what it’s worth, messages like “I think you’d be a great fit based on your experience” really don’t mean they actually looked at your experience! They may have, but I feel like most of the time it’s boilerplate and they just reached out based on my job title, in my field at least (software engineering). Sometimes they even cite experience I don’t have. Nothing to lose by responding if the job sounds interesting, and nothing to lose by sending a resume I already have on hand, I just don’t read too much into the fact that they messaged me “based on my experience”.

    1. Susan Ivanova*

      I get the “great fit” for job descriptions that overlap with my experience only in that computers are involved. I treat those as seriously as the phone calls about my expiring car warranty.

    2. Staja*

      I very much agree. I only started getting messages from recruiters this year when my job title changed…but I have no details about what I do in my job, so how do recruiters know what my experience really is?

    3. Nikki*

      This. I’m also a software engineer and I regularly get messages from recruiters saying they’re filling a Java role and are impressed with my experience in Java. I’ve never used Java professionally, just a bit in college, and it’s not listed anywhere on my LinkedIn profile as something I know how to do so they’re clearly blasting messages out to everyone with certain job titles.

      1. EPLawyer*

        My personal favorites are the ones for paralegal jobs. When I have lawyer clearly in my profile. Like they are thinking — hey its all law right? paralegals are just like junior lawyers right*?

        *A good paralegal is worth her weight in palladium. Some paralegals know more than lawyers due to their experience. But very few lawyers will take a paralegal position if they are already working (2008 was different).

      2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I’ll do you one better. I regularly get them wanting me to apply for Java Dev jobs, but I’m a sys admin/dev ops guy. The only place I have Java on my resume or profile is a brief mention of having to setup a bunch of Tomcat stuff at a previous job. What about “I have setup Java web backends” makes you think I can code in it?

    4. anonymous73*

      This. I get so many emails telling me that “based on my experience” I’d be a great fit, yet the job they are looking to fill is either something I’ve never really done or something I haven’t done in years. So clearly they didn’t look that closely at my resume…they just let a program find me and tell them I might be a fit. OP is putting way too much thought into this one.

    5. Quinalla*

      For sure the scattershot that search for engineer or maybe mechanical engineer – they aren’t looking at anything beyond that. Usually they are easy to tell and I just ignore or give the canned “Not looking right now, thanks” response. For someone who I can tell actually looked at my linked in page for more than 2 seconds, I don’t have a lot on there but you can tell years of experience and my industry, I’ve never had any of them demand a resume prior to a conversation. In fact, they often will call me either after trying a message first or just call first, so the ones that do more of a quality search and reach out are usually willing to talk prior to getting a resume. They won’t tell you everything prior to a resume, but they will at least give you some basic info so you can see if you are even remotely interested.

      Also, you don’t really need to build a relationship with a recruiter if you don’t want to. You can just reach out to one when you are looking for a job, they will be happy to help :)

    6. ThisIsTheHill*

      Agreed. I had to clarify wording on LinkedIn after I started getting messages about my skills w/ an industry-specific program. I am an end user, perform UAT & know the tables, but I’m not a programmer. The second I added the software name to my LI, I began receiving tons of “Your skills with X are impressive”, only to find out in my follow-up e-mails that they needed people who code.

      That said, my last 3 jobs (2 contract, one contract-to-hire) were all the result of recruiter cold calls from my LinkedIn page.

      1. Dissimilate*

        LW #5 here. I do know I’m overthinking this and that many recruiters are extremely scattershot. I just wonder, from the recruiter’s POV, how this is helpful for them at all. I did have one who reached out with a job description, whom I sent a customized resume to, and it eventually resulted in interviews and an offer. So if they just gave the basic information and not just “we’re looking for (generic area)” wouldn’t it be better for everyone?

        Fwiw I’m not a software engineer, so thankfully I don’t get messages based on knowledge of programming languages :)

        1. Nikki*

          A lot of recruiters are just trying to play a numbers game in the hopes that if they contact a ton of people, someone they contact will be able to help them fill a role. Maybe they’ll luck out and someone they contact will be perfect for a specific role they’re trying to fill. Maybe they’re just hoping to get that person’s resume on file so they can submit that person for future jobs as they come up. Maybe the person they’re contacting isn’t personally interested in the role but knows someone who is. I generally ignore recruiters who take this approach because they’re not interested in what’s best for me, they just want to fill a role any way they can.

    7. Missy*

      Yep. I have a degree in public policy and worked as a lobbyist, so the work “public policy” is throughout my linkedin page. LOTS of messages for jobs in insurance (because of the word policy) which is not at all where my specialty is.

      1. Rocky*

        Oh yes this happens to me too. Also, being a ‘policy analyst’ means I analyse government policies. it’s nothing to do with being a Business Analyst :-)

  17. Viette*

    #4: In food service or retail, it’s tough to know when the right time for a break will be, and sometimes twenty minutes earlier or later makes a huge difference. Mom probably doesn’t want to wait outside in the car for an hour or more for her daughter to get a break, but it’s impossible to predict whether five thirty or seven thirty will be a better time for a break.

    Also, despite the framing of the question — “is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have a break when they deem it is the right time and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?” implication: obviously NOT — actually, it *is* okay for them to play it by ear so that an employee doesn’t leave all her fellow employees screwed by taking a pre-scheduled meal break at the worst possible time.

    1. M*

      Plus, sometimes breaks will be scheduled in advance with the best intentions of making them happen at that time, but you never know what might come up even if it’s not actually busy. It’s so unpredictable. If her job’s break area has a fridge and microwave, she can take the food with her and heat it up, or she can take snacks and enjoy the meal when she gets home.

      That said, though, her manager getting mad about it is silly. Just explain to her what the deal is!

      1. Not A Manager*

        It’s possible that the manager has told her what the deal is, and that her family is pushing her to push back. It sounds like the daughter might be in a bit of a bind, here.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I was surprised at the way the question was framed given that OP says they want to teach their daughter about workplace norms. Retail and other customer-service-based jobs have their own norms, and individual workplaces too! It’s kind of silly to frame it like that but then get all snippy because the norm isn’t what you want it to be.

      (I mean, if this is one of these places where it’s always “you can go on your break in a minute” and in a minute never comes and you never actually get a break then that’s bad! Obviously! But if it’s just that they can’t predict exactly when the break is going to happen then yeah, that’s just part of a lot of these jobs.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Umm. I am trying to think of a workplace where it would be a norm for a parent to deliver a meal……

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I meant more about norms surrounding break timings – I’ve had some jobs where managers would be quite firm about when exactly breaks would happen so as to ensure coverage, and others where it was very “you go when you can”. The meal delivery thing would be pretty odd anywhere, yes.

        2. ecnaseener*

          I’ve had coworkers’ parents who work nearby drop things off for them. It wasn’t weird at all. (It’s not a NORM as in something that happens often, but it’s not weird to happen on occasion.) Maybe ill-advised for a 17 y/o who doesn’t want to be seen as a kid, but not weird when it’s an adult.

        3. Esmae*

          I can think of some where it wouldn’t be weird for a spouse to drop by with lunch, and I can see a mom who’s brought her spouse lunch regularly not to realize it’s weirder to bring her child lunch. Not that that makes it less outside the norm for her to do, just that I can see the logic chain that could have gotten her there.

        4. Lunch Ghost*

          I’ve definitely heard of hospital workers having meals dropped off for them when working odd shifts. Usually by partners, it’s true, but if it’s okay for romantic partners to do something but not other/actual family members, you’re getting into “partnered people get more flexibility” territory.

          1. doreen*

            I don’t think it’s a matter of partners vs other people. I think it’s a matter of 1) whether a particular work environment has predictable break schedules and/or whether 2) someone is insistent on dropping off the meal at the actual break time. I’ve dropped holiday food off to friends who were working on a holiday more than once, but it was never a matter of asking what time they would be taking their break and bringing it then. If they are working 4-12, I will probably drop off the food at 6 or so – but they may not get their break until 8. And I’ve also known people whose entire workplace shuts down at a particular time for lunch – to the point where there are signs outside saying “Closed from 12 pm -1 pm for lunch”. Bringing someone a meal at noon is not likely to be a problem there.

          2. Observer*

            I’ve definitely heard of hospital workers having meals dropped off for them when working odd shifts.

            You hear about this because it’s an outlier.

            It’s generally NOT common to have people drop off meals at work, whether it’s parents, partners, siblings or whoever.

        5. Jam*

          It’s not a norm for a parent to drop off a meal, but it would be a norm in my office that I could have something dropped off for me and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

        6. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It’s not necessarily a norm, but it’s not the end of the world if it happens once or twice on a special occasion. In a previous job where it wasn’t always easy to set break times in advance, it was my employee’s birthday and their sibling wanted to bring them lunch, so we made it work.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            That’s the particularly weird part of this. The job appears to be retail or service industry, and the “special occasion” appears to be a holiday meal. And… well, holidays are the *worst* time to try and “special occasion” in those industries. It’s like trying to plan a special romantic lunch with your tax preparer partner on April 15th.

        7. metadata minion*

          If my parents did it daily that would be weird, but if it were for a special occasion I’m pretty sure my workplace would think it was sweet.

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I was hoping someone had commented on the “fly by the seat of their pants” comment. It is very likely the manger is doing the OPPOSITE of that. When I was a retail manager, during busy days, I knew what my sales were minute-to-minute. I knew what areas were understaffed and might need one of my team to cover a break. I knew which people were minors and needed specific, employment law dictated breaks.

      I was almost OVER managing things, even though I would call and associate and tell them their break was in 10 minutes. Just because you don’t understand what’s happening does not mean they’re disorganized.

  18. Mary Poptart*

    For LW #5, I have been hearing that there are some low level recruiter types who want your resume because they are getting paid by the number of resumes they submit. My husband gets these requests too and a lot of times they won’t respond back with the actual job. They are basically resume harvesters.

    1. Dissimilate*

      LW #5 here – I’ve never heard of this, thanks for sharing! Did you or your husband notice any patterns in the recruiters who turned out to be resume harvesters?

      1. Mary poptart*

        Hi LW #5 – Husband says that there are different patterns at play. For the pure “harvesters,” they ask for the resume and then don’t respond to questions. Other times, it’s not pure harvesting but he can tell he is dealing with really junior people who don’t know enough to understand his LinkedIn profile and so will say “he’s a fit” for a position but then proceed to ask for a bunch of info because they can’t actually evaluate his profile on its own. Also the person who went to her supervisor and then came back and turned him down.

      2. Mary poptart*

        Hi LW #5 – Husband says that there are different patterns at play. For the pure “harvesters,” they ask for the resume and then don’t respond to questions. Other times, it’s not pure harvesting but he can tell he is dealing with really junior people who don’t know enough to understand his LinkedIn profile and so will say “he’s a fit” for a position but then proceed to ask for a bunch of info because they can’t actually evaluate his profile on its own. Also the person who went to her supervisor and then came back and turned him down. Huband is not always sure what the goal is. Feels like it’s panning for gold.

  19. Piffle.*

    #2 you can simply explain that “I already have all the equipment I need at home to work comfortably; if my needs change I’ll let you know.”

  20. Dinah*

    #4, if you really want to teach your daughter about work expectations, begin with the expectation that she will bring or buy lunch and not have it delivered by Mommy! That is, uh, not a good look in the workplace. And yes, it’s fine for her manager to figure out break schedules on the fly, and doing so is completely normal in retail. So setting that expectation early is also going to be important and helpful to her.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I read “holiday meal” to mean a one-time special occasion, not to mean the employee doesn’t usually bring/buy her own food! (The present tense in the letter does suggest it’s happened more than once, but everything else suggests one time.)

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Yeah, this sounds like a retail worker who had to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve and got a plate from the family meal delivered. That’s sweet, not something the LW and her daughter need to be chastised about. (But, yeah, the timing isn’t something the daughter is going to be able to predict. So maybe drop off the meal whenever and she can microwave it when she gets a chance)

    2. Meep*

      I am glad I wasn’t the only one who side-eyed Mom here. It is fine to drop off lunch occasionally. It should, of course, be done by leaving beneath the customer service desk. However, Mom’s contempt for the manager because they are “flying by the seat of their pants” (aka not giving into a nagging mother) bodes far worse for the teen.

  21. Paperdill*

    OP#4: I am a professional person of 40 and have worked since I was 15. I have never have a job where I have my breaks preplanned.
    In food and customer service as a teen, and in healthcare as an adult – breaks were always kind of preempted slightly (“We’ll try to start first breaks at 11, depending on xyz and see how we go”) but essentially had to roll with what what going on (especially on a busy intensive care ward).
    Your tone and statement that we’re “flying by the seat of our pants” bothers me a bit. No – we are managing our work as best we can and doing a craptonne of thinking and planning on our feet in a very dynamic environment.
    What really would not impress me would be a newbie coming in at the beginning of every shift asking when her break was. Especially if the reason was “mum wants to bring me food”. The optics are not great. I feel like it should have been obvious that things don’t work that way at her job the first time, even second time, she asked and you should probably stop getting her to.

    1. Stitch*

      I’m also going to say, that even in my white collar job, I’ve had it happen that I sat down with my lunch, had someone come ask for urgent help, the result being my noodle soup was a sad, congealed mess by the time I got back to it.

      1. Kippy*

        Yeah, I’m in a professional office and I had to delay my lunch twice last week because things cropped up at the last minute. It happens.

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          Yes. I joke that since I became a manager, I despair of ever eating my food at the correct temperature again!

    2. Missy*

      Yep. I may have the power to now take my break when I want instead of needing manager approval, but that still doesn’t mean that I know when that is going to be. Sometimes an emergency pops up and then it’s 3PM.

    3. Meep*

      Yea it came off as Mom is a bit overbearing. She could be protective of her kid for whatever reason, but the contempt at something pretty normal when you claim to be trying to teach your daughter life skills is a bit too much. The manager may have been rude but they have probably heard that question a million times from slackers who are there to do the bare minimum because they have to.

    4. hallucinating hack*

      Yes. I work in a job where urgent assignments can and will make landfall at the last minute. People try to keep reasonably regular hours, but every so often something will crop up right at the start of lunch hour, or worse still, right as you’re about to clock out. Sure, you can say no and head on your happy way, but know that the senior team members and the manager are not going to be pleased because guess who’s going to be doing that much extra work for that much longer? A lot of this comes down to optics and being a team player.

    5. Paperdill*

      OP: I just wanted to apologise for the “mum” assumption. That was sexist of me – so am sorry.

  22. Green great dragon*

    OP4 I was going to say that the manager can make that decision but shouldn’t need to get upset about it. But your letter is pretty antagonistic. They aren’t being prevented from enjoying a meal! And you didn’t say your daughter went in early to ask, you say she *comes in* early to ask – how frequently is she doing this? If it’s more than once, why?

    1. Tara*

      I assume so she can go back to the car and tell the parent / text or call without it being during work hours. But yeah, it feels unnecessarily disruptive / really makes her look young.

  23. jcarnall*

    OP1: Caveat – I’ve never worked in a nude spa.

    But, it seems to me that in parallel with other jobs, the key thing would be to rotate your free service among the employees with scrupulous fairness. If there’s a dozen massage therapists working there, and every month you book a massage with a different therapist, then you are not showing favouritism towards any one of them (I presume that while these services are free to you, the therapists get paid just as they would if you were a regular customer – if not, that’s a whole different problem) and you are still getting some experience of the spa as a customer, albeit a rather limited experience. Fair, providing you make clear this is what you are doing – not springing it on staff as a surprise inspection or an impromptu performance review.

    Because obviously once you manage them, you can’t ever go back to the spa as a regular paying customer not so long as you work there in management. And you might want to have the kind of insight into how the spa functions that someone using the facilities and services has – like the manager of a restaurant eating dinner there once a month.

  24. Erika22*

    #2 – since you technically do already have a monitor at home, can’t you just tell them that? (May be a bit late now that you’ve already asked to not have one in general, but you can try! Or if they’re sending a new monitor, maybe your partner would like an upgrade?)

  25. north*

    OP1: I’m a North American who lives and works in Germany, where using the sauna in the nude is very much A Thing. I’ve seen all kinds of bodies and social configurations: parents with adult kids, couples, single people, friends, bachelor parties… and, yep, I’ve run into colleagues. There are some basic etiquette rules: eyes up! Towel on in common areas! For showering etc. keep your robe close by! But, if you are really concerned, buy a large sauna towel and wrap your private parts in it while using the sauna. This isn’t common as normally people spread out their towels and sit in the nude, but it’s common enough that no one will bat an eye. You will probably find your colleagues follow much the same rules without embarrassment, though, and you’ll become desensitised to the sight of nude bodies soon enough that seeing a colleague enjoying the services won’t be awkward at all.

    1. Massage Therapist*

      The only thing I haven’t seen yet in the comments is this:
      Do not talk about work AT ALL. Do not allude to stress sources, and do not overshare about your personal life.
      Keep your intake simple, “I’m holding stress in my neck/shoulders, and my calves and feet are extra sore.” Then go to sleep during your service, and tip to bring the compensation up to a normal level. Rotate to try all the available therapists.

  26. MonkeyPrincess*

    Letter 4… if you’re trying to coach your daughter through career success, I can tell you that it doesn’t get much more annoying than a new employee hunting you down daily to ask when her break is before she’s even started her shift. At most retail stores, the mama her is on the floor dealing with things constantly, so not only does it look kinda lazy and entitled for her to already be dreaming of break before she even starts working (I mean, we all do it, but maybe don’t tell your boss about it?), she’s likely interrupting the manager as they try to do their job! Definitely NOT a good look.

      1. Alice*

        Could be that she has an office job where breaks are scheduled in advance to ensure coverage, e.g. of the phone, front desk, etc. But yeah, in retail… That’s not how it works.

        1. Simply the best*

          I’ve worked in an office for 14 years, covering the phones in all of those jobs. Not once have I had a job that had scheduled breaks.

  27. bamcheeks*

    #2 and #3would all have different answers in the UK, I think!

    #2 — the employer is responsible for you having an ergonomically safe workspace regardless of whether you’re working at home or in an office. If you’ve got a workspace set up and can say, “I don’t need another monitor, I’ve already got one” that would be fine, but if you told them you didn’t need it because you work on the sofa they would not be able to accept that answer.

    #3 — your contract would state where your place of work was. If your place of work was home, the company would be responsible for any costs associated with going to the office. If your contractual place of work was the office, even if you mostly worked from home, you would be responsible. (I worked for a union, and the worksite specified in the contract was a big deal to a lot of our members because they would have to work between two or three sites, and it could make quite a big deal to your costs whether A was your worksite and the company was responsible for journeys between A and B and A and C, or whether C was your worksite and they were responsible for the costs between C and B or C and A. And even more importantly, who was responsible for your parking costs at A, B and C.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      #2 is true in the US as well – OSHA. When my employer finally put out a remote work policy (over a year into COVID), I had to sign a form confirming I had a desk at an appropriate height, an ergonomic chair, etc.

      In practice, this particular manager may or may not know/care about the requirements, but to be safe I would just not tell him that I’m not working at a desk.

  28. Myrin*

    My mum is a retired massage therapist, so I asked her opinion on #1 (nota bene: we’re in Germany, so I’m not really sure where that falls on the US → Finland scale [probably closer to Finland, though], and she practiced from the seventies to the nineties; in recent years when she’s interacted with massages, it’s only ever been as a customer and not regarding people she worked with).

    She said that it’s very normal and not at all weird to massage your boss. Like Alison said in her answer, at least during hiring and then in regular intervals later, this is even more normalised so that bosses can accurately gauge how their employees massage and figure out any potential weaknesses or particular strengths. But there were also times outside those (mandated!) sessions where a boss pulled something or similar and had one of their employees massage them; the same was true vice versa, too, or for the employees among themselves. My mum says that with the boss, there was always a slight bit of tension the same way you felt when you were called up to the blackboard in school to solve a problem in front of the class, because it had a bit of an evaluation factor to it, but you got used to it over time.
    Regarding pay, she was salaried and says she didn’t care at all if she massaged a regular patient or her boss in that regard. She got tipped very well but by far not by every patient so that one instance of massaging her boss was unlikely to make a dent financially.

    My mum is, of course, on the other side of this situation compared to the OP and she has no insight into whether her bosses ever felt “vulnerable” when she massaged them. She strongly assumes not because it’s incredibly normalised but of course she can’t be sure. It’s like Alison says – in that kind of job, you become so desensitised to naked bodies in general and unless someone is being creepy or outstandingly shy, you don’t really register their bodies at all. She also, FWIW, never felt like massaging her bosses somehow undermined their authority – they were still the boss, after all, and like I said, if anything, there were a bit of nerves involved on the therapist’s side, not a feeling of superiority or “hurrdurr, boss’s nakey parts”.

    1. BigHairNoHeart*

      This is really interesting, thanks for sharing the perspective of someone who’s done this work and has first hand experience

  29. Amtelope*

    For the monitor, I agree that “I already have a monitor at home that I can use and I don’t have desk space at home for another one” is the best way to go. But if you haven’t tried using a two-monitor setup, you might want to give it a try just to see if it works better for you. Even if you’re not doing transcription, I found it to be a 100% improvement to my workflow to be able to see multiple documents at the same time, or a document and a Zoom window, or have my email open and visible but not in my main line of focus.

    1. Green great dragon*

      LW could also say she’d like to try without and will let them know if anything changes, rather than starting out from saying definitely not. (I love my second screen, even if it’s just got my day’s meetings and a clock on it, but others will differ.)

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        One screen for work, one for AAM!

        I’m a big fan of the second screen set up, which I do need for my work – I’m at a national umbrella organisation over many smaller non-profits, similar to the set up LW is describing, and honestly, I think it’s worth trying two monitors for a bit to see how it fits into the workflow. I don’t know what sort of role LW has, but if there’s any level of overseeing the smaller charities, there’ll probably be a certain amount of tasks that require side-by-side comparisons, whether that’s checking invoices, performance metrics, contact lists, etc, for which dual screens make a world of difference. It’s also great for lengthily zoom meetings where you need to get on with work at the same time (or just read the presentation/document/spreadsheet at a better resolution than screenshare offers).

  30. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP2 You’re taking on a new role! You may well have to modify your habits for new types of project teams.
    My company regularly has working meetings where the facilitator has something on display, and gives team members tasks to do right then. And that’s without an expectation of being on video.
    Depending on the kind of work you do, two monitors can be much more efficient. I’m a technical writer. Often my source material is on the left, and the item I am writing is on the right. Or checking a new hire’s work–their reviewer markups are on the left and their deliverable is on the right.
    That doesn’t mean you have the monitor out to use all the time, but you may need to find a surface you can use at short notice.

  31. Person from the Resume*

    LW#4. The business/manager isn’t “not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?”

    Employees get the breaks they get when it’s the best time and in legal limits. It may not be timed so they can get a hot meal delivered to them, but that’s not a horror of the working world. These kinds of employees bring a cold lunch, warm it up in a microwave, or buy one from a nearby fast food restaurant.

    You wrote a very adversarial letter where you clearly expected Alison to agree with you. You’re very off-base. Maybe you’re trying to apply office workplace norms to retail.

    It’s telling that your daughter didn’t write in, but you did. Is she even upset about it? Is she embarrassed that her mom is trying to managed her work breaks and bringing her hot meals in front of her coworkers? That infantilizing. People who work usually do so without family popping in and coddling them.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I agree. The LW in this case might not have intended it in this way, but it’s coming across like she doesn’t understand how retail/working environments operate. Heck, I’m a permanent salaried employee who works in an office environment, and even though I’m entitled to an hour’s unpaid lunch break, if I couldn’t take my lunch until 2.30pm most Tuesdays because there was an important meeting scheduled for 12.30 and it always overran, I’d have to deal with that and make sure I brought a sandwich in on Tuesdays and didn’t make plans to meet people at 1.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Well yeah, that’s why she wrote in to a workplace advice columnist…she encountered something in her minor child’s retail working environment that she wasn’t familiar with, so she asked about it. There’s no need for all this sneering. If all you’ve ever known are workplaces with set times for breaks (or even a 12:30 Tuesday meeting that always overran, which means you know in advance that your break is later that day), it’s totally normal to ask a question about it.

    2. ecnaseener*

      You’re honestly coming across much more adversarially than the LW. I wish you wouldn’t criticize them for writing in to an advice column for advice! They want to know if this is normal and okay, so they asked.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yeah, people are being oddly hostile about it. The OP is wrong about norms in retail and there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out or discussing it, but the level of hostility toward the idea of wanting to bring your child food on a holiday is weird. I don’t get it.

          And as an aside, I’m in my 40s, but if my mom wanted to drop off food for me at lunch I’d be delighted, especially on a holiday, but any other time as well. I wouldn’t care at all if a coworker thought it was infantilizing (although I don’t really understand why it would be worse than men whose spouses make their food for them). Anything she’d bring me would be way better than anything I’d procure for myself.

          1. Broadway Duchess*

            Yeah, this level off vitriol about this I’d strange. The OP was adversarial but I thought Alison gave a great response to that, so the mini pile-on seems out of proportion.

            I worked retail as a teen/early 20s and my mom would occasionally and for no reason drop off a meal when she was making something I liked or was near a restaurant I like. I don’t think it came across as anything unusual, if anyone even noticed.

          2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            I think a lot of people are triggered by:

            “ Should a company have breaks scheduled when they put out the schedules or is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?”

            The way this is worded comes across a rhetorical device rather than a question. Obviously these managers should not be “flying by the seat of their pants” and mistreating their staff so much they can’t have a hot meal, right? I mean, obviously! The letter to me comes across as someone who claims to be asking about workplace norms, but is actually seeking validation of what they think workplace norms should be.

    3. Observer*

      Maybe you’re trying to apply office workplace norms to retail.

      This is an issue not just in retail. And even in offices, it’s more than a bit off.

    4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Even office norms aren’t that you can take your break whenever you want to and/or that the break you started the day with is going to be when you actually go to lunch for many, MANY roles.

      I worked as a project manager for a small nonprofit–with only 8 of us in the office, if more than half wanted to go to lunch at the same time, we had to arrange everyone’s day to ensure in-person and phone coverage. It wasn’t a big deal, but many times I came in with a planned lunch hour starting at noon and ended up leaving at 1:30. OR I came in and told my coworkers in the morning, “I really need to go to lunch at 11:30 because I have an appointment/want to see my kid’s play at school/am fasting for a medical test/etc.”

  32. Random Bystander*

    For #4
    Even when a job has scheduled the break for a particular time, stuff happens sometimes. I used to work as a relay operator, and while my break might be scheduled at 3:30 (example), a call would start at 3:26. I had to be relaying the call for 10 minutes before I could pass to another operator (who was standing by to relieve), but my break then couldn’t start before 3:36. Or some days, there wasn’t relief, so I’d have to finish the whole call and start my break at 3:45 instead. The bridge (supervisor on duty) tried to get the breaks to fall as scheduled, but sometimes, it just didn’t happen, because when you get real people involved, perfect plans sometimes just don’t match reality.

    Similarly, for nurses–sometimes the break/lunch is taken when things are “q-word” (you don’t dare actually say quiet) even if it is early because you just cannot know what is coming. One summer, my daughter (then thinking of becoming a nurse) did job shadowing at the hospital, and one rotation was with ER, and the nurse she was shadowing took a lunch that actually shortened the shadow period by a half hour. Because you take the lunch when it’s possible, because there’s always the risk that delay means *major* delay due to something like a multi-car accident .

    As far as work place norms–sure for an 8 hour shift, breaks may fall at roughly 25% and 75% into the shift, with the meal break at approximately 50% in, but the work comes first, and one just needs to flex a little and not hold to a rigid schedule. Also, having food brought in (especially by one’s mother) just seems a little immature. Part of the work place norms is figuring that out (an insulated lunch bag… for example), and also recognizing that a lot of retail places have very minimal space for anything resembling a “proper” meal and the time to get elsewhere may eat just too much time out of the break. (I once worked retail in a mall–yeah, you could walk to the food court in 5 minutes, 5 minutes back, 15 minutes in line/getting the food … that left you five minutes to scarf the food.)

  33. ecnaseener*

    Re #5, the most annoying iteration of this is when you answer right away with your resume and STILL never hear from them again even though the LinkedIn has more detail! Like dude I’m not looking for work, you came to me, where did you go.

    In my case I suspect it’s that they aren’t looking at my LinkedIn beyond the current job title. They see “llama groomer” and message me, I send them my resume and THEN they notice I have less than 3 years experience and they need 5-10. Despite that this is very clear on my LinkedIn.

    1. Dissimilate*

      LW #5 here – That is so frustrating! I’ve never had this happen to me, but if it did, it would leave a negative impression of the company, and I’d be much more circumspect about joining them in future. Recruiters who reach out to passive candidates should at least close the loop.

  34. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    #2 hits home for me. I hate having a notebook (it’s just a waste of what little desk space I do have and something else I have to worry about getting damaged). I lobbied my previous bosses and am preparing to lobby my new boss for a virtual computer instead of a tangible one.

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

      Isn’t a notebook smaller than a laptop? Like usually a laptop had a disk drive and more processor or something and the notebooks were smaller under 14 inch screen and was super thin.
      Wouldn’t you still need a computer of some type to access a virtual computer?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve always heard Notebook and Laptop used interchangeably. I prefer Notebook because the lap is one of the worse places for a computer with built-in radios to go. Did you think I meant Netbook instead, maybe?

        I dislike desktop-replacement notebooks in general. They’re hard to repair, harder to upgrade, and if I work on one 40+ hours per week, I cook the batteries quickly. I’d much rather have something featherweight like a Netbook or Chromebook and remote into a proper tower or VM. I’m already using my own HIDs, displays, etc.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        A virtual computer is a virtual machine. It’s a computer that only exists as software. I would run it on my hardware; because it’s self-contained, it wouldn’t interact with any other software on the hardware.

        Yes, if I didn’t have a computer at all, a virtual machine/virtual computer would be insufficient.

  35. Wintermute*

    re #2: I would take it, all of it.

    People get oddly fixated on what they think your home office is like and if it’s sufficiently ‘office-like’ to mean you’re devoting full attention to work. I absolutely wouldn’t say you work from the couch on just a laptop screen! They have already pushed back on you working from a laptop screen, that is **useful information** for you here, they already expressed that this is a bit of a thing for them, in their mind.

    It’s just begging, absolutely begging, for if they are any hiccups in your new role for it to be seen through an uncharitable lens: “well of course she missed that important line in an email she’s trying to do all her work on a tiny laptop screen while lounging on the couch!” even if they never say it… they may well think it, even if they don’t think it in those exact words they may feel it.

    Unless you have a very compelling reason, far more than “I don’t want to have to store this” (like “I am in a high-crime area and I don’t want electronics boxes in view making me a more attractive target” or “I have pets that attack cardboard and I’m worried the box is going to looked like people were using it as a boxing bag within two days” or worries about damage to the equipment itself).
    I think you’re taking a real risk with your image if you push back whatsoever after they already implied there are low-key concerns about you being effective enough without a desk setup.

    -Signed, someone with two monitors, a docking station, a wireless keyboard and mouse sitting on my coffee table.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s a little….over the top. OP can just tell them she already has a monitor at home if needed. It’s not that serious and isn’t going to ruin her image.

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

    #4 really depends on what the job is. I worked in retail for 5+ years and we never knew when are breaks were. However the manger shouldn’t have gotten mad or anything. You can usually estimate when the busy time starts to dwindle down. For example if it’s a grocery store you know that between 4:30 and 6:30 is going to be the most busy time. The boss could have said an estimated time.
    And couldn’t the mom have come and dropped the food off even if the daughter was not on break.

    1. irene adler*

      Unless this is a situation where the daughter has to leave the floor to meet mom when she delivers the meal. Maybe they thought the least disruptive method here was to meet at daughter’s break time. Unfortunately, this job just does not lend itself to predictable break times. Better method: daughter brings the meal with her when arriving to work.

  37. Retail Joe*

    As a supervisor for young employees (teens) in retail, I would recommend to the mother that she abstain from bringing her child meals. One of the reasons your child is working is to learn how to be a mature and responsible employee. Bringing your child meals to her place of employment and disrupting the flow of the store during a busy holiday season does not help her reach those goals. That said, it’s perfectly fine for you to pack her lunch, but not in front of her coworkers where she’s trying to learn the rules of adulthood.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #4 – When I worked in retail we often took breaks when there was a lull in the action, and also based on our co-workers’ needs. Someone who came in to open would get a break before the person who came in 2 hours later. Also, if someone had specific needs, like medication, that got factored in. It always worked really cooperatively, and was known within the employee ecosystem.

    This letter sort of chafes at me, because it really lands like the parent trying to micromanage not only the kid, but also the workplace. And it seems very out of touch – sort of makes me wonder if this parent has ever had a job. If not, or if it’s been a long time, probably this parent isn’t the right person to be teaching the kid about workplace norms.

  39. Dwight Schrute*

    Op2: I’m a couch worker too! I have a desk with a monitor, mouse, keyboard etc in my office but I very rarely use it. I pretty much always sit on my couch and work from my laptop! I’d accept it and then not use it

  40. Dino*

    #4. At my first retail job there was a guy whose mom always brought him lunch/dinner. It was weird, and she wasn’t even trying to time it with his breaks! She’d come in, give him a Tupperware and he’d stash it in the fridge and get back to his duty post.

    He really wanted a promotion and a girlfriend but the weird mom lunch thing did him no favors. Management would always demur when a promotion opportunity opened up, and all of us women in his age range thought he was a mama’s boy and wanted nothing to do with him lest she constantly pop up on hypothetical dates.

    It’d be best if you dropped this altogether. Let your daughter handle her job on her own.

  41. Somewhere in Texas*

    LW #2!
    I’m happily in the laptop-only camp as well! Both my husband and my dad are always asking me if I need/want a second monitor and I’m staunchly in the “nope!” category. I travel quite a bit for work/fun and I don’t like having to adjust my workflow to accommodate different monitor set-ups, I am a creature of habit.

    I also fluctuate between couch work and desk work… depending on what I’m working on and my focus levels.

  42. Philly Redhead*

    #4 — has Mom never worked in retail herself? I worked several retail jobs in the ’90s and ’00s, and NEVER had a break scheduled. I had to wait until my manager told me it was OK to go. One time, I had to wait for a manager to get back from her extra-long lunch, and I passed out.

    1. Nanani*

      Even if she has, it may have been years/decades.
      School got a lot more micromanaged since the 90s, it’s not unreasonable to imagine teen jobs might be too?

  43. Stitch*

    So while working from the couch is fine, some employers will perceive it as being less dedicated (I’m not saying that this is accurate). So I wouldn’t volunteer that you work from bed or couch unless you know the employer is cool with it.

    If you have space, just take the monitor and shove it in a closet somewhere.

  44. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I would accept the technology and try it out. You may find that your productivity skyrockets with a second screen. (Speaking as someone who intends to add a third screen shortly.)

    If you only use one software product / window at a time, this may not be relevant to you, but I use multiple software products, about 15-20 online tabs, and a ton of documents at once, and switching back and forth on a small laptop screen is frustrating.

    Anyway, if it turns out to not be useful, you don’t have to use the screen. But at least you would have the option.

  45. WellRed*

    There’s some…less than kind comments to the OP asking about her daughter’s retail job. What’s that about, folks? Why does she upset you so much? (I agree there’s a certain irony in her trying to teach workplace norms and then asking the question, but geeze).

      1. Threeve*

        There’s always a fair bit of snark, but there’s been an unusual amount of snark directed at the letter writers.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I think we’re burnt out and starting to lash out. And shouldn’t.

        We’ve had another year of a really horrible, stressful situation when we’d burnt through all our reserves of patience in the first year. Now we’re into the situations you get when people’s minds have been under considerable stress for prolonged time (something I know all too well).

        Regardless of how worn out we all are, how many mental scars we’ve accumulated during this we do need to make sure we’re not taking out our frustrations on the wrong target.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I unleashed the worst torrent of swearing I’d done since April 2020 yesterday. I’m lucky the target was my broken PC and not another person. And I’m on meds specifically to *stop* me cracking up like that thus I assume everyone else is at a similar point.

    1. tech services staff*

      I’m also pretty bemused by this. It’s an innocuous (albeit somewhat out of touch) question.

    2. JimmyJab*

      I agree, and I wonder if it is a knee jerk reaction because of the letters Alison sometimes gets from parents of FULL ADULTS who want to/try to interfere in the job. This is a literal minor who is presumably still in school, so even though many of us know her expectations are way off, she is trying to coach a kid and wants to give the right info!

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agreed. OP isn’t in touch with the norms of the retail, and maybe the “flying by the seat of their pants” stuff rubbed folks the wrong way, but goodness. A turkey dinner is not a crime. Neither is worrying about your kid, who is on her feet working with the public for hours on end during a pandemic, not even having a guaranteed chance to sit down.

      That said, I think the actual advice is sound. No, breaks can’t be planned at this job, and OP/ her daughter need to accept that and plan accordingly.

      1. doreen*

        I think it was the whole “is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break? ” . If the LW had left that part out, and just left it at “Should a company have breaks scheduled when they put out the schedules?”, I think there would have been a very different reaction. The way it’s written, it doesn’t actually sound like she’s asking about the norms for this type of job – it sounds like she expected Alison to agree that it’s outrageous that the manager doesn’t tell her daughter in advance when the break will be.

        1. Observer*

          Very much this. I still think that people could – and should – have been a bit less harsh. But, this bit really stands out, and not in a good way.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            Yeah, that’s the part that jumped out at me as well, and from there I absolutely understand the inference that the OP just wanted Alison to agree. The level of vitriol in some of the comments (at least prior to Alison’s post) over such a small, low stakes thing was over the top, in my opinion.

    4. Dino*

      Gotta be honest, she’s coming across like a Karen customer except about her kid’s lunch break instead of an expired coupon. Retail veterans really don’t like that and we can whiff it out from miles away.

      But! I’m very glad she asked and Alison answered. I hope the advice helps her calibrate her expectations and makes her daughter’s work life easier.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        My kingdom for every Karen to write to an advice column and get their expectations adjusted. We should be glad when people have a chance to be corrected!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve actually found this place to be pretty supportive of parents in the workplace. And that’s coming from someone who’s vehemently childfree…

      1. JimmyJab*

        The “if you don’t already know this, don’t you dare write into an ADVICE column and ASK!” attitude is what’s really confusing to me . . .

    5. AngryOwl*

      Agreed, people are being outright unkind and acting as if LW stormed in to yell at the manager. All she did was write into an advice column and ask about something she didn’t know, y’all.

  46. AndersonDarling*

    I worked part time as a massage therapist for 15 years at three diff spas. The key is if the manager has a good relationship with the staff. All of my spa managers were really bad managers. They complained about customers non-stop, disappeared if there was problem, and mostly concerned with their own personal raises. In other words, they were judgmental people, and that made it incredibly uncomfortable to have them as clients. If they wanted a massage, I would sweat the whole time because I knew they were taking mental notes of what they could complain about later.
    If I had a good manager, this would not have been the case. I can see a scenario where massaging the spa manager would be part of regular training, especially in spas where the massage routine is consistent between all LMTs.

  47. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – It’s not abnormal for recruiters to be asking for your resume, as a lot of LinkedIn profiles are simply the highlights, and don’t have the same level of detail as a resume. That said, if you’re not interested in moving forward with a specific opportunity, I would refer the recruiter to your LinkedIn profile and tell them that you’d prefer to use that for now. Unless they’re setting up an interview for you, the recruiter doesn’t need more than that.

    If you were actively looking for a role, then yes, it would make sense to provide your resume. But you’re not. And you can stay in touch with the recruiter without them having your complete resume. Sure, the recruiter would like to populate their database, and it WOULD make it easier for them to find you again for future opportunities (if their database is searchable by keywords, skills, etc. etc.) But they don’t NEED it.

  48. Just Another Librarian*

    My SIL is a massage therapist and works at a resort spa (and has worked at several such) in the US. Every interview she’s done, she’s had to give the hiring manager a massage. It’s part of the normal interview process.

    As far as the perk, I’d find out how they pay for it and who it extends to. At her current spa, all the employees get to make occasional use of the facilities and treatments. The therapists ‘swap’ for each other, non-therapists they’re paid their base rate. Apparently management tips, the spa attendants (who do the cleaning and tidying) and reception staff usually don’t. Therapists also use each other and employees to practice new or special treatments, so if you are getting a free one you don’t usually get to pick what it is (so much as ‘Lucinda needs to give 3 more to certify for La Stone, who wants a hot stone massage?’).

    As for the water facilities, they do use them but tend to all wear swimwear/towels. Though apparently there’s some European immigrants on staff that don’t.

  49. Semi Bored IT Guy*

    #4 – I’ve never worked retail, but I’ve worked in customer service related businesses, including a theme park. At the park, we had a computer system that determined everything. When we’d clock in, the computer told us to either pickup a position (you were the first person in that position for the day), or take over a position and give someone else a break (and print out a little piece of paper to hand them with their break time printed on it). When they get back from break, they sign into the computer and get their next assignment.

    All the assignments are basically a big list. At the start of the day, our leads would try to adjust everything within reason, so you’re not getting a break an hour into your shift, and so there’s enough coverage to make sure everything goes out pretty much on time. However, sometimes things happened … someone would call in, someone else would get pulled to cover a different ride that was short staffed, and then a 3rd person would get stopped by a guest on their way back to the computer. Things would fall behind, and the lead would need to readjust.

    So, it might be possible at the start of your shift for the lead to let you know, roughly, when your break is scheduled. But that didn’t mean you’d actually get the breaks at that time (or even anywhere close)

    1. Stitch*

      I worked for the mouse and this is exactly how we did things. Sometimes the computer would glitch and not give you your break and you could ask a manager to give you a break manually.

  50. Michelle Smith*

    #4 – I never had a break at a specific time when I worked hourly. I took a break when it became available to do so. It depends on the other people working and their breaks as well as customers. If you are told your break is at 6:00 pm and you’re working with a customer at that time, you can’t exactly tell the customer “sorry, it’s break time!” and walk off back to the break room! That’s why it makes a lot more sense to pack up the holiday meal in a lunch bag with an icepack, just like any adult with a job, and eat it when you can, rather than trying to time a delivery. Not enough notice to enjoy a meal just seems silly to me. You have time to enjoy the meal by bringing it with you to work. Problem solved.

  51. Elenna*

    For LW1, there’s some comments talking about how this is fairly normal, which are probably right (I don’t know anything about the industry). But also, even if it is “objectively” normal, if LW is uncomfortable getting these services from their employees, they should probably go somewhere else. After all, a large part of the reason to get a massage or use the sauna is to relax – if LW can’t relax, no reason to force themselves to do it.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Except that these “freebies” aren’t usually meant as personal perks but are intended for spa managers to assess the skills/quality/service of massage therapists or other service providers on staff. I used to work in that industry, and have lots of friends who still do, and it’s really not weird or uncomfortable to use the services at your work. It’s totally normal. And if anyone did make it weird by trying to undermine the spa manager because they’d seen them nude, that person would be fired for lack of professionalism. Legitimate spas don’t tolerate creeps on staff.

  52. Beebs*

    For LW1 – I’m a massage therapist, and the industry definitely has norms and expectations that are very, very odd to people on the outside. Any job interview for a massage therapist position will almost certainly include giving at least a brief massage to the interviewer/hiring manager. And I have regularly given massages to my boss – however, I was always paid my full rate and he was one of the best tippers I’ve ever had! If you are given a free service as part of your package, just double check that the therapist is getting paid for their time, and tip as you would for any other service.

    Not to derail, but this is a little soapbox moment for me — massage therapists are trained professionals and once you are on the table, you may be thinking about your nakedness, but we are not. All we are thinking about is your musculature. Have you ever seen those posters of the “muscle man” drawings? Because once a client is on the table, that’s what I see. And you should be draped enough throughout your massage that the therapist will see less of your body than they would see if you were wearing a bathing suit. (Unless you have sciatica or glute issues, but that’s a whole separate topic!)

  53. ScreensEverywhere!*

    LW#2 – Funny enough this happened with our CEO. They worked from a laptop and insisted they never wanted a monitor screen. One of the departments I manage is IT, so one day we asked them to try a two 24″ monitor setup docked to the laptop. Within an hour they were raving about reduced eye strain, convenience of having email on one screen and working documents on the other (“working documents” may equal “youtube” at times…but it’s good to be the CEO?!). So my advice would be to try it. I like the flexibility of working from a tablet/laptop anywhere, or having 1 or 2 attached monitors. You do not always need it, but sometimes you do not know what works until you try something different!

    I also echo Wendy’s comment above – document whatever you do and do not end up receiving if different from the standard set up. It is hard on the tech folks to keep track of everything and it will avoid troublesome conversations down the road if you do not return everything they think you should have based on standard setups. Nothing malicious, folks just get busy and forgetful – the easier you make it to track things, the better for everyone (including you).

  54. Allonsy*

    If you want to decline the screen without discussing your blanket nest (some managers dislike this) just say you’ve worked from home so long you’ve already invested in your own preferred monitor. Not even a lie since your preference is “none”

  55. Bluebelle*

    Fellow desk hater! I left my extra monitor and all the other things I don’t use in their original boxes and slid them behind the sofa in my office.
    For those wondering- I have a sofa and armchair with an ottoman, I use a roller laptop desk that can adjust to any height all the way to standing. It is great, I hate desk chairs with a passion and desks are never the right height to let me sit the way I am comfortable.

  56. generic_username*

    #2 – let them know you already have a monitor at home. That should actually lean more in your favor. I am a desk person and have refused the monitor, keyboard, and mouse offered by my company because I have all of those things already. No one questioned it.

  57. MCMonkeybean*

    I would very norms on these things at a spa age pretty different. If you’re not comfortable, then there’s no need to pursue any of it! But if these things are billed as a major perk for the job I wouldn’t write it all off right away. Definitely try to make note of how others handle things and talk to people!

    My main question on the massage perk is how the masseuses get paid. Do they get paid more for doing more massages, or is it just a steady hourly rate? It seems awkward, but if I try to think about it objectively I think really it shouldn’t be much different than a doctor giving their boss an examination–I mean I don’t know how often that happens either but surely it must happen sometimes cause even the big boss needs to see a doctor!

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Massage therapists (not “masseuses” please!) get paid by the massage-hour. So we’ll get more for a 90-minute massage than for a 60-minute massage, but we get paid for every massage we do, including on staff. It doesn’t matter whether the client is there via paying the company or via using a perk, our pay for it is the same.

  58. Observer*

    #4 – I see you’ve gotten some push back. Some of it is perhaps unduly harsh, but most if it (even the harsh stuff) is something to think about.

    For one thing, if you are talking about workplace expectations, since when is it normal to bring meals to someone at work? Do you know anyone whose spouse / so / partner does that for them? If you have ever worked out of the home, has anyone ever done that for you? This is so out of the norm in all types of environments, not just retail, that you really need to re-calibrate your expectations.

    or is it okay for them to fly by the seat of their pants and decide who can have break when they deem it is the right time

    There are plenty of incompetent and just plain bad managers out there. But it’s generally a good idea that, absent other evidence of poor management, you start with the assumption that management may actually have a point. Rather than starting with contempt and the assumption that they have no idea of what they are doing.

    What you call “flying by the seat of their pants” is actually understanding that the ebb and flow of the work is not predictable. Unless a store closes at a certain time each day for lunch (or whatever meal) it’s simply NOT realistic to be able to put a rigid schedule in place. Any manager who tries is going to have problems. And it’s more likely to reduce staff ability to take a break than if the manager works with what’s actually going on. And while there are bad managers who would have no compunction about not letting someone take a break, even not great ones get that people need their break. Assuming that all that’s happening is that managers are arbitrarily flexing their authority simply betrays your lack of understanding about the work place. And teaches your child a really bad lesson.

    and not give employees enough notice so that they can be able to enjoy a meal on their break?

    Why do they need notice to enjoy a meal at their break? Are you saying that the only way to enjoy a meal is if someone drops it off for them? Even if it’s a matter of ordering takeout, you don’t need to know the schedule at the beginning of the shift – you just need enough time to place the order and have it delivered (assuming that delivery is even an option.)

    If you want your child to learn about workplace norms and also to learn how to stand up for herself, then you need to start by learning what IS a problem and what is NOT.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I agree they seem a bit off base in expecting to be able to know when their breaks would be, but it sounds like the meal thing was for a special occasion and not a common occurrence… and I brought my husband meals when he worked retail on occasion when we were in college. Is that really that weird? I don’t think it’s something you should like demand to be able to do or anything, but I really don’t think that’s wildly out of line with what’s acceptable either.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that it’s the end of the world for someone to occasionally bring someone lunch (or supper or whatever).

        That’s not the issue. The issue is that this seems to be more than a one off. Worse, it seems like the OP thinks that if people can’t know in advance what time their break, or not enough in advance to arrange to have someone drop off a fresh meal, they can’t “enjoy their meal”. And that any manager that can’t tell you in advance when lunch will be is “flying by the seat of his pants”. This is just a really bad take on the situation.

  59. Eldritch Office Worker*

    As an aside, when I managed retail I found it MUCH easier to schedule breaks. At least to have a target breaktime for each employee. It might get pushed +/- 5 or 10 minutes but it was easier to keep track of and make sure everyone didn’t fight to go at once when things slowed down. I personally find the ad hoc break time thing strange, and makes compliance easier to lose track of when you work in a state with strict labor laws.

    1. Elsajeni*

      I wonder if this is a smaller store — certainly breaks in the gift shop I worked at that had ~7 employees were more ad hoc than at the big box store that had ~70! Of course, we’re getting the manager’s answer thirdhand, so it could also be that it’s not exactly “there is no break schedule,” but something more like “when you come in early I’m still WORKING on the break schedule, I don’t have an answer for you yet” or “sorry, but when I say ‘probably between 2 and 2:30’ that is the best I got, I can’t help you with your drop-off schedule.”

  60. Captain of the No Fun Department*

    Re. LW 1
    I started at a retail chain in a senior management position and was quickly promoted to their executive team. After the promotion, I went into one of our stores to buy something and my 30% discount suddenly became a 100% discount. I was surprised and the cashier explained to me that he had applied the executive discount. I was appalled and embarrassed. It is so odd to me that the most highly paid people in the company received free products while out staff (who made more than minimum wage but not much more) had only 30%. It’s such a weird concept to give wealthy people free things.

  61. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3: I have been giving this more thought that it probably merits, to understand the disconnect. If making the trip feels like commuting to the office, then there is no expectation that the company would cover expenses. The office is where it is, and where you live is up to you. If making the trip feels more like a special event, then expecting the company to cover expenses is entirely reasonable. Consider those mandatory week-long “strategy sessions” at a remote resort. You might look forward to these with eager expectation or with existential dread, but either way you don’t expect to have to pay your own way. Or, on a more modest scale, you are sent out of state for some reason, to a different office from where you usually work. There too the company would pay.

    So what is going on here with the LW is that the company thinks of remote work as an extraordinary concession. It doesn’t change where the office is, just how often the employee needs to show up. On the occasion of the all-important meet-and-greet or the all-hands meeting where the CEO talks for two hours, conveying information better transmitted via a brief email, then it is up to the employee to show up. What it costs to do this is not the company’s issue. But from the LW’s perspective, they have an office, conveniently located in their house. Traveling to hear the CEO drone on is a trip to a different office, and this extraordinary expense should be on the company.

    I think this dilemma is a reflection of the novelty, for most people and companies, or remote work. Employers and employees have not yet arrived at a consensus on how to think of it. LW: Fight the good fight and stare them down. Do this both for yourself and for future generations!

  62. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: I work in a…well kinda office environment given I can be there or out fixing network issues and the only reason I have scheduled breaks that I know exactly when they are is because I have a medical reason for that.

    (Low blood sugar/lack of rest triggers my epilepsy. NOT something I want)

    It’s quite normal for my staff to go on break/lunch when things are a bit slower. We’re tech support so there’s times when it’s all hands on deck and times when nothing is coming in and you cannot ever predict it.

    Nature of the beast that is a job in customer service I’m afraid.

  63. Wisteria*

    OP #1
    Wouldn’t the best people to ask be the other managers at the spa? Ask them if they take advantage of the perk, how often, how they tip, how they minimize impact on time slots for paying customers, whether they wear a towel, etc. They will know far better what the norms are than someone who has only ever worked in a standard white collar environment.

  64. Cheap Ass Rolls*

    OP4: I was once a teenager working at a retail job that was much busier during specific holidays, and where our breaks were always “figure it out among yourselves, just make sure there’s enough coverage at busy times”. I did have to work the occasional holiday. My mom would sometimes bring a meal that I would stick in the fridge and reheat once it was break time. So maybe she could approach it as “When is it okay to have someone drop off my meal?” or “how would you like me to handle someone dropping off a meal?” She might get more productive feedback that way.

  65. ResuMAYDAY*

    Resume writer here. If you want your resume available to recruiters without being asked, upload it as an attached document in your profile. (The ‘about’ section or with your most recent employment is the best place.) A good recruiter will always ask if they can download it in anticipation of consideration, and you’ve made the process easy on them. Points in your favor above other candidates.

    1. SoupySales*

      Wouldn’t that make your phone number(s), e-mail address, and snail mail address available for anyone on LinkedIn to access? Or is there a way in LinkedIn to make a resume available only to “legitimate” recruiters?

      If I did this, I would upload a version of my resume that doesn’t include my contact information, so that the recruiter has to contact me via LinkedIn.

  66. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    LW3: I think the problem is that they are paying you a rural-area salary but want you to be near their expensive city. If they paid you the expensive-city salary, they could ask you to be in the office on your own dime; part of your salary is the costs associated with being in the office on occasion. However, when they pay you barely enough to live far away from their office, it seems like they need to either increase your salary to be in-line with the local market rate (so you could move there or just get a hotel every week or so), or adjust their expectations regarding your in-office availability.

  67. LizB*

    A slightly different angle on the last line of #4, about employees not having notice to “enjoy a meal” on their break… I think your ideas about how businesses treat employees, especially in retail, may be pretty askew. It’s possible there’s a retail establishment out there that wants their employees to enjoy their food (which I am interpreting as “eat a hot meal at a non-rushed pace”), and will take steps to make that possible, but that is so, so, so far down the list of priorities for most stores that asking about it here is making you seem wildly out of touch and possibly entitled/helicopter-y. From a business perspective, stores want employees to take the breaks that they legally have to take so they don’t run afoul of labor laws. That is the only concern the bottom line has. Yeah, it would be ideal if employees had enough time to eat their preferred food, unwind, chat with coworkers, etc., and good stores & managers will probably try to make that happen whenever possible — but those are nice-to-haves, not must-haves. And when it’s the holiday season during a year when retail is perpetually short-staffed, the nice-to-haves are gonna go out the window, your daughter is going to look pretty ridiculous if she asks for them.

  68. Empress Matilda*

    For those of you who work on the couch – how do you set everything up? Do you literally have the laptop on your lap, (or on a lap desk)? I assume you would change positions throughout the day – feet on the floor, feet on the coffee table, cross-legged, reclining, etc. I find I can’t think when I’m reclining – my body immediately goes into relaxing mode, so that’s it for me for the day. :)

    The thing I’m really interested in, is how people go literally paper-free and just use their computers all day. Maybe it’s an ADHD thing, but I have to have pen and paper nearby to capture all the extraneous thoughts that go floating through my brain. :) Is that a thing that NT’s can do, just sit at their computer and focus on one thing until it’s done? (Asking sincerely, since my office will be officially paperless if we ever get back in there, and I genuinely can’t picture working with just my laptop!)

    1. Wisteria*

      Not NT and I use a lot of paper as a whiteboard, but for things that I intend to keep, I have shifted from taking notes on paper to taking notes on the computer. I had to develop my own system for naming files and tracking things from day to day.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I have a Word doc that is always open, and everything I used to scribble in a notebook now goes in there. It’s searchable, I don’t forget it, and I can highlight everything that needs action *and remove the highlighting when it’s done*

    3. Adultiest Adult*

      When I’m working from my couch, I am usually sitting at one end, laptop on my lap, coffee table at my right to hold the headset when I don’t need it, drinks, documents, etc. I have a larger leather-bound planner in which I take notes on complex tasks, and if I’m note-taking in the planner, I set the laptop either further down on my legs on the couch, so I can hold the planner in my lap, or on the far end of the couch itself. Works for me and is perfectly comfortable! My knees and feet actually appreciate being elevated for most of the day!

  69. That didn't go how I thought it would*

    Op#4 is hoping to teach daughter about work expectations? This is a perfect example: you will have cruddy managers! Personally I have one now that will take a half hour break before some of her staff who arrived BEFORE her, can have a mere 15 minute break. I honestly hate half hour breaks, I just want to grab some food and a quick breather before I get back to it. I wouldn’t want a “holiday meal” as I’d want to consume that in a place I enjoy and at my own leisure.

    When I’m at work, I’m there TO work. My breaks have often been interrupted by co-workers needing help or customers wanting something. Two weeks ago, karma righted the universe for a few moments and my manager got pulled out by HER manager to go back to work because it was THAT insane. Having my break(s) being delayed is not my biggest issue right now. I just hope the daughter doesn’t learn the work expectation that so many people have learned: work can be terrible.

      1. That didn't go how I thought it would*

        You’re right, the manager could be the best darned manager they know how to be and it could be more of how everyone else was saying sometimes you just can’t predict breaks. Perhaps I should have said a possible work expectation is that “you can’t always get what you want”?
        -Sorry for the projection of potential blame or cruddy-ness.

  70. Agile Phalanges*

    For LW #!, it seems like a good (long-term) solution would be to arrange to exchange these services with a sister spa. Each place gets X treatments or hours of steam time or whatever, to dole out amongst their employees, for use at the other facility. That way if one is around their coworkers while nude, it’s mostly a coincidence like it would be if they just happened to visit the same steam room at the same time, and massages are also not done by employees. Obviously OP won’t have the standing to request this at first, but maybe could suggest it and work on implementing it at some point?

  71. fhqwhgads*

    #4, in terms of work expectations in many cases it is very normal not to have breaks scheduled in advance. People either have the autonomy to do it when they need it, or the manager tells people when to go as the workload (and labor law timing requirement, if applicable) allows – depending on the nature of the environment or role. Given that this is variable, it sounds like your daughter got her answer: in this job, not knowing when the break is in advance is standard operating procedure. It’s not unreasonable in this context either.
    In terms of why she wanted to know, I’d say it’s very unusual to need to time one’s breaks in order to have one’s meals dropped off. This strikes me as more of a 100 years ago thing. With refrigeration and microwaves being ubiquitous, I would not expect any job to work around an employee having a meal personally dropped off. They’re expected to bring it or obtain it when on lunch. This has nothing to do with managers not wanting employees to enjoy their meals, and everything to do with the practicality of the job and the fact that the first priority when there, after safety, is the work, not externals like someone’s food being brought to them.

  72. Introverted Extrovert*

    For OP #1

    Although I moved to the tech industry about 8 years ago, I started out my career as a receptionist at spa/salon in a major city in the Northeast. The nudity is actually pretty common and is not a Thing. Not so much in a massage setting since you’re draped, but elsewhere like the sauna or some waxing services. I can certainly understand your hesitation, and you might feel most comfortable starting out with facials or mani/pedis to ease yourself into it and get a feel for your employees and the culture. Then, as you feel more comfortable and settled, you can reevaluate.

    In the years I worked there, almost all my coworkers saw me naked. It was a little weird at first but it quickly became not a big deal to us, especially the estheticians since they see nude bodies all day long. I was even used as a model or practice dummy for newly hired estheticians to try contour spray tans and Brazilian waxing.

    Regarding other comments about estheticians/massage therapist missing out on pay, it’s certainly something you’d want to check into beforehand as it’ll vary by spa. At my location, we had different rates of pay for client work vs. other work (we called it desk/admin). Since they were earning tips and commissions from their client services that base rate was lower (I think $7/hour at the time?) and then any other work they did that wasn’t client services, was at the admin rate which was a little higher ($10/hour). This included anything from performing services on management, running an errand for the spa, or helping cover the phone etc. When management got any larger services, like a massage or facial they always tipped (40-60%). Small services like a brow wax were not usually tipped.

  73. Really?*

    Letter writer #4:
    If it’s a teenager working a first job, it’s probably in something like service or retail. Those areas typically don’t schedule breaks because it depends on customer needs, how busy they are, who is coming on and off shift etc. The best thing to do is to pack it for her and send it in with her in either a lunch bag with an icepack or in a refrigerator if one is available.

    1. Observer*

      The best thing to do is to pack it for her and send it in with her in either a lunch bag with an icepack or in a refrigerator if one is available.

      For a special occasion? Sure, we all like to have someone do something extra for us on occasion, and a teen-ager is no different. But if you mean that the OP should do this on a regular basis? No. The best thing a parent can do for their kid is to step back and let them mange this kind of thing on their own.

  74. LGC*

    So with 4: IMO (and…err..IME), I’ll say this as nicely as possible – I think your daughter is annoying her supervisor by asking the same question repeatedly when it always has the same answer. As to whether she should have a scheduled break – it depends on the state and also on the length of her shift.

    That said, I do think the supervisor should have said explicitly that your daughter should stop asking about her breaks. (As someone who also has trouble Using His Words: I keep forgetting that sometimes you need to actually say what you mean.) And I don’t think the question in and of itself is unreasonable. But to me, unfortunately, the message is clear – she doesn’t have a scheduled break time.

    That said, could you possibly drop stuff off for her quickly? Or is she absolutely not allowed to take stuff while she’s on duty? (I assume that’s the case, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.)

  75. raida7*

    2. Can I refuse home office equipment I don’t need?

    If they are offering it as a requirement that you use an ergonomic workspace, and you refuse, then depending on their policies maybe you don’t get the job, or you sign away all rights to workers comp due to any posture issues, eyesight, mouse use, etc.
    Where I work every person working from home has to fill out an ergonomic assessment of their workspace and confirm it is acceptable. Their options: Lie and sign it, which is fraudulent and jeopardises their chances of medical cost help due to not using a well laid out workstation, or have a set up that is acceptable.
    I see pictures of people all the time working at their kitchen table on a laptop and I think – what are you doing?!? their wrists are jammed into the laptop to type, their head in leaning down, they have no back support and their feet are dangling or hooked on the chair.

    Personally I’d rather curl up on the lounge chair, but instead I have a $120 keyboard and a $150 mouse, plus monitor on an arm, plus a laptop stand, plus a $600 chair, plus a footrest, plus a sit-stand desk, plus an under-desk bike.
    I’ve worked with people that just did what they liked and I am not going end up like them – injections in their wrists, hunched over shoulders and headaches and deteriorating eyesight.

    So – if there is no requirement that you have a workstation that passes an ergonomic standard, then you probably don’t need to accept the equipment. But I’d have a quick trip to a physio and get yourself checked out, see if you’re slowing creating issues via posture that can be reversed with a little effort before you decline.

  76. raida7*

    #5 – they are asking for the resume so they can put it on file.

    I would respond to them with “Let’s just have a chat first and if this role sounds like something I’m interested in then you can run me through what you do, how we’d proceed, what to expect.”
    bascially – you prove you have something I want, and THEN I will allow you to pitch me your services.

  77. Worker bee*

    Regarding LW#4, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask when to expect a break. The dept I work in at my current company goes around every day and asks people when they’d like to take lunch and only 1-2 people can go in a 30 minute period of time. It works well because some people prefer to eat early and others (like myself) preferred to eat very late.

    I much prefer that to a previous retail place I worked where I had no choice whatsoever about when I could take any break, lunch or bathroom (both unpaid). I was scheduled something like 9-5 and was given a 5 minute bathroom break at 10 am, lunch at noon, and another 5 minute bathroom break at 2 pm. When I asked for an additional bathroom break in the afternoon, it was denied and I was told to drink fewer liquids during the day or “wear something” if I can’t control my bladder.

    And to be perfectly honest, I think it’s poor management to not be able to tell an employee what time they will be able to eat a meal on any given day, busy or not. If the assumption is that employees can eat during a slow period and there ends up not being a slow period, does that mean no break? And, from personal experience, that happens more often than not if employees let it it happen.

    I’m pretty put off by the hostility toward this LW. People who work retail and service are still actual people and deserve the same respect and dignity that office workers and professionals have. Age this woman up two years, put in her in first internship, switch out “mom” to “doordash” as far as food, and what would you say then? Would she still be whiny and entitled to dare ask when her lunch break might be?

  78. Retired (but not really)*

    As a retail worker, it doesn’t really matter when your break is theoretically scheduled. Reality dictates that your break happens when it happens. Say your “scheduled” break is at 12:45. On a particular Saturday the shop is all hands on deck from 10:30 on until who knows what time and somehow 6 people out of 10 haven’t gotten a break and lo and behold it’s now 3:30/4:00. And then the next day there’s a lull at 12:20 so hey, take your break while you can. This incident happened to me during this past holiday season. And isn’t unusual either on a busy weekend. And one of my family members had brought me lunch (from a nearby vendor) which of course was definitely in need of the microwave when I finally got to eat.

    1. Retired (but not really)*

      And I (nor my coworkers) didn’t even realize what time it was because we were so focused on taking care of our customers that were coming in in groups of 3-5 at time. And personally I prefer a busy day to one where we’re standing around twiddling our thumbs wishing someone would come in which makes the day feel three times as long.

  79. Candi*

    #4 -if you’re in Washington state, breaks are literally enshrined in law, based on how many hours you’re working. So the manager should have them scheduled. Especially since there’s also a very energetic Dept of Labor. California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, and Oregon also require breaks.

    Otherwise, you have to look at your state law to see if minors get breaks that adults don’t.

    You also have to watch what the law says. In Washington, if you’re working X number of hours total, then you get a break after Y number of hours, period. (Nurses have an exception, but they still need to get their breaks as soon as.) However, if a state only has phrasing for Z number breaks in an X hour shift, you might find an (poor) employer insisting all breaks be taken at the end of the shift.

    (And yet, even with all these regular breaks for hourly workers, WA industry somehow survives. /snark)

    1. MonkeyPrincess*

      Having required breaks is totally different from having pre-scheduled breaks that are followed. I worked retail for many years, and there’s usually a general flow of who goes when, but it can very wildly by the day. “Mary usually takes her fifteen at about 10:00 and her half hour at about 12:30” doesn’t mean anything if the store is suddenly swarmed at 10:00, or if a customer made Jim in Customer Service cry and he needs to go chill out back for a few, or if Nancy (who is supposed to come in at 10) is late. Mary goes when her manager says she can go. So long as she gets her break, that’s just the way retail works.

      1. Candi*

        Not in WA, unless you have a bad boss, not even in retail. The breaks must be taken on time, unless you want the DoL on your case.

        I’ve stood at the head of a line 10+ deep in December while the supervisor came up and switched out the cashiers because it was time for the one on register to go on break. We’re talking big companies like Safeway and Target making sure the breaks are taken on time, as scheduled. The big corporations don’t dare fudge the law on even the lowest of workers in this state.

        Worst place I ever worked, broke all kinds of federal and state regs. Still didn’t break anything covered by the DoL.

      2. Mannequin*

        I’ve worked retail in both Washington state and California, and breaks & lunches absolutely are both scheduled in advance and required to be taken at the scheduled time. Did not matter if the store was busy or suddenly swamped, or if customers noses got bent out of joint- too bad, so sad, breaks are legally mandated and employees GO.

        I was a retail manager at Tot Hopic (corporate mall retail) and I had to come up with the break/lunch schedule at the same time I did the regular weekly coverage schedules, that’s how far in advance they were planned.

        This is how retail SHOULD work- everywhere.

  80. Working Hypothesis*

    I’m a licensed message therapist. It’s absolutely normal for employees of the company, including management, to come in for massages and to do those in the nude as everyone else does. We can work with clients who choose to remain clothed, but it’s frankly easier when they don’t; we have better access to the muscles we’re trying to work on, and that’s all we care about. In addition, massage therapists don’t actually SEE a client’s nude body during a massage. They’re under a sheet the whole time, with only the part we’re working on at that moment exposed. Since we never work on body parts that would normally be covered by a bikini (with the exception of a VERY few therapists who do occasional breast massage when there’s a clinical reason for it, and that’s definitely not part of a normal spa massage), the client/manager doesn’t need to worry about our seeing them nude… and neither does anyone else who might want our services! :)

    The one thing in all of this which does feel a bit off was that only the upper management get monthly spa treatments as a perk. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, it was a standard perk for all employees. Spa and wellness business usually believe in what they do, and want their employees to be in peak condition, so it’s in their own interests to offer all of them monthly access to treatments. It’s also a good way to cross-train your staff… when the front desk agents who book my services come to see me for treatment themselves, they leave the experience knowing more about what exactly I do, and so they can better match me to what the client is looking for. It’s a bad idea to restrict the privilege to upper management; there are too many reasons why it’s a good idea to extend it to everyone.

    But if there’s resentment from the staff, it’ll be because if that… what the manager is wearing during their treatment will have nothing to do with it.

  81. Not Sure*

    For everyone who’s so outraged by #4, you all do realize that we WANT parents to come to AAM with questions, right? And to admit when they aren’t sure about norms? Instead of giving their kid bad advice, or bowling ahead with whatever they think is right? I’m not sure why commenters are so eager to jump all over for this OP for… admitting she was unsure about something and writing to AAM about it.

  82. Mannequin*

    When I worked retail in both Washington state and California, breaks and lunches were both scheduled in advance and we were required to take them at those times, regardless of how busy the store was.

    I was a manager at a corporate mall retail chain, and we made the break schedule at the same time that we made each weekly schedule, that’s how far in advance they were planned. We were one of the smallest stores in the chain, but we still had enough coverage for people to take their breaks.

    I’m baffled by people thinking it’s weird for someone to want to drop off lunch for an employee. There have been occasions I’ve done this for a partner or friend, and