micromanaging goodbye emails, overhead lighting wars, and more

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

1. My company wants to micromanage internal goodbye emails

Since we’ve had new leadership come into my small nonprofit organization, one of many new policies implemented by Head Boss is a requirement that any staff leaving the company must have their “all-staff goodbye” message reviewed and approved by bosses before sending it. These are very banal “farewell, I’m moving on to a new company, wish you all the best, etc.” type messages.

Is this a common corporate practice that I’m not aware of? It’s accompanied by other new restrictions — our front desk person of 20 years was told she has to have her voicemail greeting approved — but this feels particularly draconian. I’m a comms manager so I’d like to push back against this if possible.

If you didn’t have new management, I would have bet money that this stemmed from someone sending a goodbye message that rubbed someone in management the wrong way. But given the other details in your message, it sounds like it’s just new management that wants a lot of control.

To be fair, if your front desk person’s voicemail message is the one that callers to the organization’s main number hear (in other words, it’s the organization’s main voicemail message), it’s not unreasonable that they’d want to sign off on that. But micromanaging people’s internal goodbye messages in a small organization, particularly if there haven’t been issues or reasons to fear issues, is A Lot.

If you’re seeing a push for a lot more control over casual, low-stakes internal communications, that can be a pretty big change and it could indeed be worth a conversation about the likely implications for culture and morale. But be prepared for the possibility that they might be just fine with those implications.

Read an update to this letter.

2. My employee is feigning ignorance of office policies

I have an employee who “forgets” well-established norms and/claim they were not aware of something. For example, last week they took an hour plus for one lunch. I approached them immediately after and said our lunches are a half hour unless they want to have a longer lunch and stay later/come in earlier to make up the extra time. They replied that they thought lunches were always an hour. I have a really hard time believing that someone who has worked here for four years suddenly forgot what the standard is.

Also, our sick leave and vacation leave are separate; you can only take sick leave if you can’t work due to illness or a sick family member. This employee has tried several times to use sick leave for time off that doesn’t fit that criteria. Every time I remind them of they policy, they claim they weren’t aware and/or forgot. Aside from documenting the problem, do you have any suggestions for how to handle this?

Is the employee forgetting other things too? And is it always in ways that work to their favor, never to their disadvantage? If it’s always in their favor, name the pattern and ask them to review your office policies again so that they have a refresher. For example: “You’ve recently forgotten a number of core policies that you previously followed, so I’d like you to take an hour this week to re-read the employee manual and make sure your knowledge is up-to-date.” And then if it keeps happening after that, it’s reasonable to explain that they’re responsible for knowing and following your policies, ask what they need to ensure they can, and then treat it like any other performance expectation.

On the other hand, if the person is forgetting a wider range of things, it’s worth suggesting they get checked out by their doctor in case something else is going on.

3. Should consultants charge for travel time?

I regularly do workshops and presentations for whoever hires me, mostly virtual, but an increasing number are asking for in-person versions. I have a rate for the sessions themselves, and places cover travel costs like gas mileage and a hotel room, but how does the travel time come into it? Even if the content itself is the same, it’s obviously a very different time commitment for me if there’s a lot of hours spent getting there and back, but I’m not sure how to account for that. Do people who do this sort of work have a system for charging based on travel hours, in addition to the literal cost of the travel?

You should definitely factor your travel time into your compensation since that’s time that you can’t spend on other work (or leisure). Some consultants have a standard travel time charge, broken out as explicitly that (by the exact numbers of hours, or by the half day or full day) and others roll it into the overall fee they charge for that project/that client.

As for how to figure out what that rate should be, some people charge their normal rate for that time. But it’s also pretty common to charge half your usual rate for those hours, unless you’re actively doing work for that client during the travel time (like if you’re doing work for them on the plane, in which case you’d charge your full rate for that time). And some of it too is just a judgment call — like if you know the client has a limited budget but you really want to do the work, you might try to keep the travel time costs on the very low end in order to make the project doable. Just don’t go so far in that direction that you’re under-valuing your time.

4. If I mute, will I be muted on the recording too?

I often have to be on the phone (we have a headset). When the call is recorded, can my boss hear what I say if I muted myself if and when he listens to the recording? I’m asking since I like to sing and don’t want anyone to hear when I do, as it’s not something I feel comfortable others knowing about.

If you’re muted, you’ll be muted on the recording as well. Given the sorts of things people do when they’re muted — things much more embarrassing than singing — that would be a terrible surprise for many people if it were not the case!

Nope, I’m wrong. Google this question for the system you’re using; apparently it can vary.

5. Overhead lighting wars

I joined my company about eight months ago on a hybrid schedule. On my first day, I noticed that about half the lights on my floor (it’s a huge multi-story office building) weren’t turned on. I thought it was odd, but it didn’t bother me. A few months down the road, the lights would be all turned on in the morning until one of my cubicle neighbors walked in and turned half of them off. Then my supervisor (“Ned”) said that a new manager (“Cersei”) on the floor (not someone my team reports to) had called a meeting to discuss the lights. Ned (with a long-suffering sigh at having been pulled into a meeting over this) asked what we thought since we’re the ones who actually work in the area that’s affected; all of the supervisors/managers work in individual offices that each have their own lighting, and the cubicles receive no natural light. The people on my team who have been there longer all said they wanted them off because people tended to get headaches when they were on, and I said I had no preference but would support what the rest of the team wanted.

Apparently we were either in the minority or our feedback simply didn’t matter, because Cersei sent out an email some time later saying that the lights needed to be left on but would be kept “dimmer.” And maybe it started out that way. But recently there have been days where they seem unbearably bright, and I’ve started getting migraines.

Other people are also saying they seem really bright. I’ve talked to Ned and he’s willing to bring it up again (I think his initial annoyance was due to the fact that Cersei is only minimally impacted by the lights). Ned has told me to tell the team to email him if they’re having problems; I did, and some people have. But is there anything else to be done? I’ve thought about ways to compare the brightness from day to day so we can see how it changes, but that seems over the top. The only other thing I can think of is asking Ned if I can work from home more (three days/week instead of two), but that still won’t solve the problem. I’ve been taking naproxen, but it seems incredibly unfair that I have to keep taking it for a seemingly arbitrary decision by a manager I don’t report to.

I keep trying to give Cersei the benefit of the doubt (maybe she has a team member with weak vision?) but it’s getting really hard when my head is throbbing and I feel like I might be sick on the train home.

You have the legal right to accommodations so your work space doesn’t trigger migraines, as long as the solution doesn’t pose an undue hardship for your employer.

Talk to Ned again and this time make it all about the migraines: “I’ve tried to live with the lights, but at this point I’m regularly getting migraines from them. Ideally I’d like to simply keep the lights off around my work area, which should stop my migraines. If that’s not possible, I’ll need to request some other accommodation, but since this would be the simplest solution, I figured I’d start here.”

That might give Ned the ammunition he needs to shut down Cersei’s meddling. If it doesn’t, then you can go the formal accommodations route (start with an email to HR with the subject line “request for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act”) and propose whatever solutions you’d be willing to live with (a change to the lights, a move to a dimmer space, and so forth).

{ 393 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – this is a good time to point out to the powers that be that you should only make rules that you can enforce.

    Ie. if someone wants to leave the email equivalent of the legendary “I quit” notice in spelled out in tilapia fillets, they’re going to do it, and nothing Head Boss can do will stop them.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Unfortunately there is a chance they would start shutting off email accounts early to prevent any messages. Overreaction sure. But possible and unpleasant.

      2. KatEnigma*

        Umm.. refuse to give them a reference? Or say vague things about how they refused to comply with basic standards when they quit- letting the person calling to check the reference left with the impression that they did something Very Bad, and not just that the office is wildly controlling. There are all kinds of things, without crossing the line of defamation (and of course, if you don’t get a job, you don’t know why you didn’t get it!) that a former petty employer can do to torpedo your career. Not everywhere has the rule of “just verify position and dates of employment”

        1. Seconds*

          That’s correct, but it is the same whether they approve goodbye messages or not. A person sending a dramatic goodbye message has already decided to brave the consequences, so that policy wouldn’t change anything.

          1. tamarack etc.*

            Well, it may change something for a person who sends an unobjectionable, but unapproved message, and the management goes ballistic over the fact that it was unapproved.

    1. Kaye*

      Although it may be that only certain people have the permissions to send to the ‘Everyone in $organization’ email list. Nothing to stop people putting in all the addresses manually, though!

    2. Shiba Dad*

      Exactly. Also, if they are going to try to micromanage something like this, they are going to micromanage plenty of other things.

      1. Miette*

        This is what I came here to say. I’d be on the lookout for other signs of uncalled-for micromanaging from this new boss, because…

        Here be bees.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, my new boss started with this kind of thing – and she’d ask me to draft emails and let her review before sending them (?? I’m midcareer and have never had an issue with my emails before) and then she started fussing about my email signature, which she wanted to look exactly like hers despite the fact that we have no official template and some of the info in hers was incorrect. Things have not improved, surprisingly.

        1. SBT*

          Came here to share something that happened to me. After being with an organization for a year, managing things quite fine on my own, as the head of communications, I was all of a sudden required to send every. damn. email. I sent to an external consultant to be reviewed. We’re not talking mass emails to donors or VIPs – those already had a multi-process check. We’re talking – quick bulleted feedback lists for vendors, post-meeting follow-up emails to internal teams, etc. And only for her to either sit on the email for days at a time (thus causing us to miss deadlines) or just respond with “approved.” Never substantial changes, and I was also mid-career (and head of comms!!). Needless to say I saw the writing on the wall there and was not surprised when they let me go.

    3. Antilles*

      I would likely just play dumb: Send my departure email like I normally would, wait and see if Boss says something, then just act like I’d totally forgotten about the policy existing.

      Though there’s a fairly strong chance I legitimately *would* forget the policy exists before sending my goodbye email – not “act like I’d forgotten” but truly and honestly “oh right that’s a thing”. The policy is completely irrelevant to my life for right now and X weeks/months, it won’t come into play at any point between now and then, I would be busy with a bunch of other crap on the last day, and writing up a goodbye email is something I’m spending like 5 minutes tops on.

    4. kiki*

      I worked at a place where any all-staff email had to be reviewed approved by somebody, but it was actually enforceable with the all-staff listserv. I could still, of course, manually add the hundreds of company employees to an email, but most people aren’t going to do that unless extremely motivated. I also think the policy wasn’t trying to micromanage folks’ goodbye emails so much as make sure employees weren’t spamming the whole company about buying candles from their cousin.

      The policy LW 1 described seems like it’s going to add undue process to all the employees who would send a normal goodbye email but not do anything to prevent the guy who decides to end his tenure with a profane poem dissing leadership.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Once you’ve survived a few “reply-all” storms, restricting the ability to send to all-staff email lists seems very smart.

        1. Lydia*

          I once worked with a guy who thought he was sending out an interesting tidbit to only our building (2 floors, maybe 40 people) and instead sent it to the entire company (many states, many thousands of people) and pretty much shut down the whole company for an afternoon. He got a serious talking-to, and we were forbidden from ever using All Company in the To line without approval on what we were sending.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          Oh the old reply-all storms…we had one in which an employee was on a list (some group that was business adjacent) back in the 90s, and someone had sent out an email to the whole group, and of course, multiple people had OOO replies, and so they kept bouncing back and forth immediately. I think before we got it shut off, there were over 6,000 emails back and forth! It was highly entertaining!

          1. anon for this*

            We had a reply-all storm TODAY. In 2023. Because someone set it up so that each school in the district has an “all staff” email list and an “all students” email list, and anyone, including students, can send email to any of those lists (even those they are not on).

            …we are not a small district.

            So anyway, The Youth got to learn what happens when a bunch of people start emailing “unsubscribe me from this list, I don’t know why I’m on this list” to large institutional mailing lists, just like we did last century. (I’m reasonably proud of how The Youth handled it, actually. A decent amount of shitposting cleverness and a lack of risque pictures compared to what my guess would have been for 12 year olds discovering that they could send messages to the entire district. We didn’t even get any minion butts that I noticed! I am, however, side-eying the adults who didn’t know better, particularly the one who teaches computer classes at one of the high schools.)

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

      True and I’m surprised that they didn’t come up with a policy of no farewell emails from the departing employee ever. That’s more standard IME. The goodbye email, if there is one, comes from a manager.

  2. StirThePot*

    LR#1, this is particularly weird, because what are the consequences for not getting approval? Isn’t the person leaving the organization anyway? If I wanted to send out a scathing email on my last day, I feel like I’d feel like bucking this rule anyway.

    1. John Smith*

      Most people leaving my department send farewell emails which are pretty much scathing of senior management who would just get laughed at if they tried to implement a policy like this. What are they going to do, sack you? I know a couple of people who sent less than complimentary farewell emails in the form of a timed out of office autoreply. The scramble to get IT to shut it down was quite amusing!

          1. John Smith*

            Just want to correct that – management are toxic and utterly dysfunctional. The email contents btw are factual and utterly deserved. The best – well, most honest – are from those retiring and nothing to fear from the petty bullies that are our managers.

    2. Technically a Director*

      The consequences are entirely social / reputational, so for the extreme cases, people will do it anyway. But it can cut back on the less extreme cases and let management have more “message control” over people’s departure.

      My workplace does this, as well as restricting access to the office-wide e-mail lists. It was implemented after some farewell e-mails that created controversy of various sorts (complaints about a line manager, accusations of someone sleeping their way to the top, etc).

      Hard to know how many of these the policy has stopped, but my bosses feel it’s like locking the doors… a determined bad actor won’t be stopped, but some people will be deterred by making it harder.

    3. ferrina*

      At one organization when I was laid off, HR read and approved my goodbye email. The lay off was sudden and only impacted me. My boss was restructuring the department and cut my role; pretty sure it was personal. She tried to say I was fired for making a minor typo- HR jumped in and said it was actually a lay off and my role was being eliminated.

      In that case it made sense- the lay off came out of nowhere, I’d gotten no negative feedback on my work, and I’d worked my butt off for that company. It was a nasty way to let me go, and it made sense that I’d be scathing. I think HR was doing due diligence in double checking (my email was actually very professional and sweet).

      But for a voluntary leave? Nah, any person sending a scathing email at that point is just making themselves look bad.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        There’s only one job where a scathing goodbye would have been warranted. However, everyone knew the reason why I (and as many people as could get other jobs) was leaving, so my writing it out would just have looked bitter or immature while changing nothing within the department. At home, I wrote the scathing goodbye I’d have loved to write in a word document. Writing it all out was a cathartic process and then I deleted it, which gave a feeling of closure.

  3. Over It*

    Fluorescent overhead lights are the WORST. I’m not a migraine sufferer, but I have light hypersensitivity issues to the point where fluorescent overhead lights actually cause eye pain for me, especially when combined with looking at a computer screen all day. But I also happen to be a lot younger than most of the people I work near in cubeland (late 20s vs 45+), and many of them can’t see well enough anymore to do computer-related work without the overhead lights if it’s not extremely sunny out. I wonder if that’s Cersei’s issue, but if most people are fine with the overhead lights off, getting desk lamps for those who need extra light would be a better solution. Anyway, I hope you get this sorted right away! There are a few possible solutions I can think (overhead lights off, being moved to a private office/different area of the building, and full-time wfh all come to mind) but suffering through migraines shouldn’t be one of them.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree.

      One of the first things I noticed at the start of full-time WFH in March 2020 was that I was no longer getting headaches several times a week. All of our lights are LEDs, so none of them flicker the way fluorescents do. At the office, we still have fluorescents, and as soon as I started going back with any frequency, my headaches returned. I don’t get them daily, but if I do, it’s almost always after a day at the office.

      I work in a two-person office with a window, but for much of the year, we only have a few hours of light in the middle of the day, so lights are necessary, particularly because I get eyestrain unless there’s some ambient light. I couldn’t possibly work with my monitor as the only light source.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        When I used to have a solo office with little daylight (ground floor, north facing) and harsh fluorescents, I managed to obtain a standing lamp and a desk lamp for those times I needed extra light but didn’t want to turn on the ceiling lights. Maybe an option for you too?

    2. BubbleTea*

      My office had this issue. Some people had migraines from the bright lights. Some people struggled to see without them. So our employer, being a reasonable and compassionate sort of place, got the lights redone so that the ones over the migraine sufferers’ desks could be turned off separately to all the rest. Because there are always solutions when you’re actually looking for them!

      1. Lost in Thought*

        We also had staff members suffering from migraines caused by the lights. We purchased light covers to help minimize the effect of the lights and had half of the light bulbs in the staff workroom physically removed so they can’t be turned on.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Was coming here to suggest removing alternate bulbs/tubes as well. One place I worked had those 2-tube fluoro light lights but they used only tube in it, and that worked well. Much dimmer overall but didn’t look as odd as having an entire bank of lights off.

          But I find the brightness/headache issue for me is usually anytime when my surroundings are brighter than my monitor as my eyes are straining so hard to focus with that peripheral light streaming in. What’s helped is cranking the monitor brightness to max, moving it onto a dark background (or dark poster etc behind) and covering up bright reflective desk surfaces directly around it. I actually wonder if a hat would even help cut down the overhead glare even more.

          1. Phryne*

            Having the monitors’ brightness at max is what causes eyestrain for me…. I always turn it way down. It looks too dark for a couple of minutes and then I’m used to it and don’t notice any difference anymore, but a monitor at full brightness can put out as much light as a bulb and I would get sore, dry tired eyes after a day staring at them… Come to think of it, I’ve not adjusted the monitor when going into the office lately and I had been noticing more tired eyes lately… Need to think of that…

            So yeah, I agree fiddling with monitor settings can help a lot too, but for everyone in a different way I guess :)

        2. Maestra*

          I came here to also suggest light covers. I work in special ed and we have light covers due to students’ sensory needs and they also amazingly has helped with my migraines! Win/win

      2. Badactors*

        My office had this issue. The resolution was to remove bulbs above the migraine suffer’s desk as dimming the entire office was an osha issue

    3. LW5*

      Thanks so much for all the ideas! I really appreciate them. Weirdly, the lights are actually LEDs, not fluorescents. They’re just super white and super bright.
      I’d love to suggest people get desk lamps. Honestly I was thinking about getting some soft lighting lamp for myself before Cersei turned on the sun. I don’t know if desk lamps will solve whatever her issue is though, because no one has any idea what the issue is! We just got an email one day telling us the lights would all be on from then on. (I might try to find the exact wording later.)

      1. misspiggy*

        Someone who knows about LED lighting should check the specifications of the LEDa used. There is big variation and the company may be able to solve the problem by choosing better quality, and/or a different colour temperature.

        1. Some words*

          YES! Different bulb types might go a long way to resolving this. There are many options between sitting in the dark & being blinded by too-bright artificial light. Decent management/HR will consider options. There are a few here.

        2. RIP Pillow Fort*

          This. When we switched to LED lighting in our building this was specifically something that was discussed.

          We had several people suffering from migraines due to the fluorescent lighting and the management wanted to minimize that problem with the LEDs. Bright white LEDs affect me but the warmer yellow tone does not.

      2. Random Dice*

        It’s really unreasonable (and arguably against ADA) for them to allow their workers to get migraines because of the workplace lighting, especially after multiple people complained.

        This isn’t something just to let go.

      3. Cat Tree*

        My first thought was that she found out that they have to stay on for safety and visibility reasons, although if so she should have explained that better. At my workplace we can’t just turn off lights in communal areas because it’s a tripping risk.

        That doesn’t mean that others need to suffer migraines though, or that the problem can’t be fixed. It might mean it’s a bit more complicated but as the boss she should do the work of figuring it out. Do you have a health and safety person? If so, she should ask them what the actual lighting requirements are.

      4. Carrie*

        I get migraines that are made worse by overhead lights. I requested they take a bulb out of the light that was over my desk and it was done. After Covid I moved into a new office with no light switch to dim my lights. Again I just request one be installed, mentioned I get headaches and it was done the next day. I use a desk lamp. No proof of headaches required.

      5. NYWeasel*

        Years ago, the company I worked at had a couple of ergonomic situations that resulted in lawsuits, etc. As part of the settlement, we were all given extensive ergonomic training. Lighting was a huge concern, and the expert training us explained that any source of light (lamp, sunny window, etc) causes fatigue and strain because as we focus on the screen, the light source is at a different focal point, so our eye has to jump between the two constantly to figure out what to focus on. Light sources that are too bright or flicker just aggravate this response, which is why fluorescent lights cause so many issues. Obviously no one wants to be sitting in a pitch dark room all day, but if you google “ergonomics and lighting” you will probably find some strong arguments in your favor to bolster your case.

      6. Van Wilder*

        I’ve seriously debated getting one of those green accountant visors for when my eyes can’t take anymore during busy season.

      7. Migraineuse*

        I was able to get lights off over my cube by submitting an ADA accommodation request through HR/legal. There was a form I had to fill out and my neuro had to sign it, but it was super easy and my company made it very simple for me.

        That plus 2 desk lamps cured my fluorescent issue.

      8. Jackie*

        I get migraine from uneven lighting. So in an office with windows and the lights off, I get one almost immediately.

        This is a more complex issue than you think.

        1. Angry socialist*

          I also can’t work with uneven lighting! I need it to be both bright AND even, which means desk lamps aren’t a solution.

      9. Maestra*

        I commented upthread about light covers. We use them in my classroom where we have LED lights that also give me migraines. It might be something to check out even though they’re not fluorescent.

      10. Captain-Safetypants*

        Health and safety engineer here: Fun fact; this problem is happening in a lot of office environments as old fluorescent lighting units are replaced with LEDs. LEDs tend to be a lot more powerful than the equivalent fluorescents or even incandescents, and the engineers or architects or building planners or whatever often don’t know that past a certain amount, the level of illuminance in a work environment can have strain effects on workers. At my old company, we had this exact same problem come up, and I was assigned to look into it. It turned out that while recommended illuminance levels for easy office work are in the neighborhood of 250 lux, with the new LED lamps the office was now sitting about 7000 lux–which is recommended for extremely exacting tasks requiring strong visual acuity in low contrast environments–like if you were trying to pick up tiny white things against a white background and do something intricate with them. The solution was simple–they just had maintenance come around and remove about 2 out of every 3 lamps and save them for replacements, and the office residents were happy once again.

        Which is all to say, you might not even need an ADA accommodation to get this fixed. Does your company have a health and safety staff? If so, I’d start with them, and ask them to look into the level of illuminance in the workplace, and whether it exceeds recommended level. There are very inexpensive instruments they can use to measure the illuminance. This page: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/light-level-rooms-d_708.html has a nice description of the different levels of lighting in different environments and the equivalent units of lux and lumens. To the best of my knowledge, there’s not yet an enforceable occupational exposure limit for visible light, and the recommended threshold limit value from ACGIH is scoped for preventing actual injury to the cornea and retina, but there are definitely published “best practices” for comfortable lighting levels in office environments, and your company should be using them.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      Before my team got changed to indefinite WFH, a coworker at the desk next to mine had a poorly-placed overhead fluorescent light that shone at a bad angle into her cubicle area and caused problems with her migraines. We did have dimming options but it controlled a whole row of lights (ours were near the windows so we had natural light as well, along with individual cube blinds), so she couldn’t turn the whole thing off or extremely far down. I found some light “drapes” online, basically fabric with magnets that you can attach to one or both sides of a fluorescent light fixture to block light, and we hung one above her cube to give her some relief during bad days.

    5. Darn, heck, and other salty expressions*

      There are fabric light filters you can get for fluorescent light fixtures that attach to the frame with magnets. One side of my cube farm has them on all the lights, in addition to only turning on 1/2 the lights. It softens the lights and reduces glare. We also use desk lamps so we can adjust the amount of light for our workspace. Removing 1/2 of the bulbs from the fixtures can help. You could also try requesting they replace the bulbs with a lower lumen bulb. If those solutions are not allowed, try using blue lens computer glasses to see if that helps.

      1. AJ*

        Would you mind sharing where your workplace sourced those fabric light filters from? I would really appreciate it; the lights at my workplace could use some dimming.

        1. Rach*

          You can also get an overhead shade for your cube! I live in Phoenix and we have floor to ceiling windows (seriously poor building planning) and strong overhead lights so 1/3 of cubes in my area have the cube shades.

      2. Jayne not Jane*

        I worked somewhere that you could request to have the overhead light above removed (the bulbs). This maybe an option for some people.

        Right now I work somewhere that says they cannot do this. A coworker asked bc they get terrible migraines. I may have to google this fabric light filter thing!

    6. Snow Globe*

      A few years ago I had to request an accommodation for this (in my own private office) because our facilities manager was of the opinion that OSHA required strong lighting. After multiple attempts back and forth with HR, I had to provide a doctors note that stated the specific light level (# of lumens) that would trigger a migraine. (Like, am I supposed to sit in the doctors office while he increases the light bit by bit until I get a headache?) So I got a light meter and checked the light in my office with one fluorescent bulb removed and put that into the doctors’ note (this was actually still above the OSHA requirement).

    7. Bright light lover*

      I have a severe astigmatism that affects my low light vision, and the new LED lamps beat the pants off any kind of overhead lighting at all. And they aren’t horribly expensive either.

      1. JanetM*

        (This is not in any way a criticism or a disbelief)

        Oddly, I have a friend who cannot see at all under LED lamps. She will walk into her kitchen and turn off the light over the sink so she can see.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Florescent lights are one of my migraine triggers and have been since my 20s. The switch to LEDs helped me, but when they’re bright enough to grow tomatoes I get a low grade headache by the end of the day anyway.

      The annoying thing was our office designers wanted/demanded the lights LOOK the same across a space even if functionality should be different in some sections of the space.

    9. Jenny*

      I actually have a significant amount if trouble reading when I am starting to have a migraine. It’s ine of the first signs (the aura makes it hard to read computer screens particularly). This office would be a nightmare for me.

    10. Office Vampire*

      My grandboss makes fun of me (in a lighthearted way, no ill will at all) for never having my office light on – has jokingly called me a vampire a few times (doesn’t help that I mentioned I have a sensitivity to garlic). My old office used to be a (well sized, not small) storage room off an interior hallway – no fishbowl window things off the side of the door like other offices, and the only natural light I’d get to see is if my boss down the hall left his door open. We had the horrible florescent bright lights, the walls were painted white, and I work best drowning out other noise, so I’d have my door shut 95% of the time. If I used the overhead lights, I swear they would get progressively brighter as the day went on. So I brought in my own two lamps with warmer bulbs, and never turned the overhead light on again.

      We moved to a new location where I have an exterior wall office with windows *and* those stupid fishbowl windows off the hallway… I put a sticky note over my motion sensor so my overhead light never turns on and still exclusively use my lamps. I actually love working from my office now.

      (Also, helpful tip to those who stare at screens all day – get blue light glasses. I had a pair with non-prescription lenses for years and both the amount of headaches and the severity of them drastically decreased if I remembered to use them. Just got a prescription for readers and made sure those new glasses had the blue light component in them too.)

    11. Generic Name*

      I prefer having the lights on. My office mates prefer the lights off. So I compromise and I have several task lights at my desk, and I turn on the lights when my office mates aren’t there. Perhaps OP could suggest this as a compromise for their company. Or maybe have a dark side and a light side of the office and move people around accordingly.

      I’ve noticed a trend when buildings started swapping out fluorescent lighting for LED the new LEDs are obscenely bright. Like twice as bright as needed. I wish facilities planners would take into consideration the output of the light in lumens so they aren’t blinding their employees.

    12. lilsheba*

      Fluorescent lights are evil and must be destroyed, and overhead lighting in general needs to just go away. The people who say they can’t see the monitors without the overhead lights are full of it, the monitors generate their own light, outside light just makes them HARDER to see. And if your desk area is darker than you want, a very simple solution is get a desk lamp. I had to fight to get overhead lights above my desk taken out for YEARS. And then in my last job when we moved to a new building they refused to take out lights, said they were LEEDS compliant and couldn’t be removed. I don’t even understand that one, it makes no sense and I never got an explanation. I am eternally grateful I work from home and don’t have to deal with that nightmare anymore. I also got migraines from the lights and they have stopped completely now.

      1. Observer*

        The people who say they can’t see the monitors without the overhead lights are full of it, the monitors generate their own light, outside light just makes them HARDER to see.

        Nope. It’s hard for some people to read their screens without other light. And overheads are often the best bet because (especially in constrained spaces) they are the least likely to shine directly on the screen.

        And then there are people who need to use paper as well, even people who are using computers all day.

        I get that you have an issue with overhead lights. That doesn’t give you license to just rudely dismiss everyone else who has a different set of needs to you.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I get eyestrain and migraines when my monitor is significantly brighter than ambient light. I’m basically playing with the “dimness” setting all day long.

        2. lilsheba*

          Having lights on with the monitor is never a good idea…and always makes harder to see. The lights flickering at a different rate than the monitor is guaranteed to be headache producing. Again if you really feel that light is needed with a monitor that produces it’s own light source, that’s why desk lamps were created. And overhead lighting is still not a good thing to have, ever. Side lighting like from a lamp, is much better.

          1. Observer*

            You are making a lot of flat statements, and they simply are not true.

            I’m sure you believe them, and I’m sure they work for you. But you’re not going to get very far trying to enforce them on everyone.

    13. Springtime*

      After we got some new lighting that was more efficient but brighter, a coworker got permission to wear a visor (like a golf visor) while working in that area. Eventually, the lights were modified, too. Visors might not be the most satisfactory solution, but certainly something that can be easily tried by individuals trying to stave off headaches in the immediate timeframe, and in many places wouldn’t even require special permission (in our case, it’s just that they are slightly out of the normal dress code).

      1. Observer*

        after we got some new lighting that was more efficient but brighter, a coworker got permission to wear a visor (like a golf visor) while working in that area.

        I like the idea. But I’m puzzled by the idea that they needed *permission*.

            1. Lydia*

              I’m not into head gear taxonomy, but a visor is considered pretty casual in most circumstances, so it wouldn’t surprise me that someone wanting to wear one would need to get the okay to do it.

      2. Rach*

        I keep repeating myself on this thread but I love my cube shade so much I have to spread awareness. They make shades for cubes and they work amazingly! They just attach to the top of the cube wall and protect you from the overhead light and glare from windows. It works wonderfully in Phoenix where some idiot designed floor to ceiling windows in my office building.

      3. lilsheba*

        I didn’t get permission but I did have to borrow a visor and wear it a while back when I was forced to have bright lights over my head, and a crt monitor plus a flat screen monitor that I had to switch between. Instant recipe for nausea. I was so happy when they finally turned off the overheads. And no I wasn’t going to ask permission if it’s use that or get sick.

    14. Observer*

      many of them can’t see well enough anymore to do computer-related work without the overhead lights if it’s not extremely sunny out. I wonder if that’s Cersei’s issue,

      Except that she has her own office, and can keep the light as bright as she wants there.

      getting desk lamps for those who need extra light would be a better solution.

      I’d probably suggest standing lamps. I have a desk lamp and it’s really, really not sufficient. I’m getting a floor lamp. We do have partitions, so it shouldn’t affect the light sensitive folks in the office.

    15. Oh no, it's HR!*

      A lot of people in my workspace use these giant fabric leaves made by Ikea to cut down on office lighting/help with headaches. They are large enough to cover one person’s workspace but don’t infringe on others if they need brighter lighting. They are also fairly inexpensive.

    16. Mark*

      There might be a way of dealing with it scientifically. There are a number of light meters on the market for under $50. They measure the brightness. (I didn’t even know about this until we bought one to make sure the lights over our ATM met specific brightness levels under state law.) You can always buy one of these, experiment over a period of days to find a brightness level that doesn’t cause anyone headaches, and go with that level.

    17. Artemesia*

      One office where I worked with the dreaded flickering overhead fluorescents, one Saturday a couple of the guys got a ladder and removed every other bulb, so the light came on, but half as many. It made a huge difference. They also specifically targeted the flickering ones which management had not fixed since it wasn’t their office.

      they hid or threw away the excess bulbs — but if management noticed they didn’t say anything. Because the lights came on as usual, I am not sure management even noticed.

    18. Syd*

      My husband started turning all the lights at home and I would be constantly turning them off because my eyes hurt. As it turned out, he was developing cataracts — his “too dark” and my “too bright” were both correct for our particular eye woes.
      Not trying to diagnose anyone — just wondering if older eyes might be in need of a check-up.

    19. Checkert*

      Same as many people, when COVID forced WFH my migraines miraculously decreased from 1-2 a week to maybe 1-2 a month. When I was forced to return to work on site, I purchased glasses meant to help with overhead/fluorescent lighting and despite looking really silly (think a deep rose color lenses) they do work! I also finally went around and asked the people sitting in my area that share the same light source if they would be okay if I dimmed them, and found that not only were they ok with it, they were actually totally for it and prefer them dimmed! Worked out well and I can reduce the number of migraines (not eliminate entirely, but it’s been hugely helpful). I should also note that I could request an accommodation and have the lighting directly over my seat dimmed/turned off, but since everyone was so ok with dimming it all, it turned into a bigger win situation for the group.

    20. Angry socialist*

      I apologize to everyone I’ve had to share an office with. Dim or uneven lights give me headaches! I need even, bright light at all times.

    21. Girasol*

      I prefer them off. Someone two rows over apparently agreed and put in a work order to have facilities bring a ladder and disconnect at least one of the light tubes over his desk. The person across the aisle saw him doing that and said, “You put that back! I need it!” And then from over the cube wall, “No you don’t! Get a desk light! That thing makes me sick!” And someone else, “But we need overhead lights to see!” until the poor man was surround by an angry fluorescent light mob. He left it on, grabbed his ladder, and beat a hasty retreat to talk to his manager. Some people started building cardboard cabins over their work spaces to shade the light. Across the hall another cube farm ordered giant leaf-shaped umbrella shades for light haters and started a sort of tropical vibe. Bad lighting is a pain but lighting wars can be fun.

    22. Kristina L*

      I sometimes get headaches from florescent lighting. At work, I was allowed to have 1 of the lights above me removed. I also started wearing a hat with a a brim wide enough that it helped protect my eyes. It made a big difference.

    23. Cheshire Cat*

      Pre-pandemic, the owners of the office building where I work removed all the flourescent lights and replaced them with LEDs. I had fewer migraines, but other people sitting near me started getting headaches. I couldn’t see my screen well with the lights off, though. What worked for us was me buying a lamp for my cube; I could see well enough to work, while my colleagues didn’t get headaches.

      (I asked if the company would buy me a lamp, but the approval process was drawn-out enough that I just bought it myself; that way my colleagues and I all had the right amount of light faster. And I was able to take it home when we all started WFH.)

  4. Just a Little Stitious*

    #2 – I’m curious if the employee moved from a different area of the company to your team? I had a manager that never worked state government before this position and never bothered to learn or enforce the lunch and leave policies correctly. He would always say he didn’t know and it would frustrate me because he was the manager and these type of violations could have a worker terminated or worse (hello time theft)! I’m just curious if it’s possible this worker had a lax supervisor before you that never followed the policies as closely as you do.

    #4 – We had to remove bulbs from the lights in the office every time the maintenance crew comes around to replace dead lights. We found just having 50-75% of the tubes in the light fixtures solved our migraine issues and you could always say the lights are on.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      (This isn’t the most likely explanation, but is potentially:) if he genuinely did think lunch was an hour, this means every other day he hasn’t taken the full hour is from his perspective “free” work he’s been giving to the company. Then the one day he takes (what he believes to be) his actual entitlement due to errands or whatever, he gets dinged for it. That would do a number on morale pretty quickly.

      1. LW2*

        No, this is not the case. We are very flexible about people taking taking longer breaks to take care of life stuff. The thing is that time is unpaid and needs to be made up by working earlier or later.
        In other words, I don’t care how those eight hours are distributed throughout the day but they need to actually work for eight hours.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          I don’t care how those eight hours are distributed throughout the day but they need to actually work for eight hours.

          Can’t help but wonder if you yourself are fully productive for 8 hours every day. That’s not even a dig – it’s a pretty frequent topic of conversation here how most people with desk jobs in everything but the most dysfunctional environments, work for far fewer hours than they are clocked in for.

          1. ferrina*

            There’s a difference between taking a few minutes to read AAM between tasks and taking an extra 30+ minutes on lunch (in addition to reading AAM). LW isn’t saying 100% productivity every single minute, they’re saying that the breaks need to be reasonable and in accordance with policy.

          2. Bob-White of the Glen*

            I need people to be here to work the desk. They may not be entirely focused on work, but they are here if someone shows up. Disappearing for an extra 30 minutes puts a huge burden on the rest of us. Agreed that I can’t, and know few who can, actually do productive work for 8 hours a day. But I do a lot of stuff, including crisis management and covering other people, that is more about me being here than focusing on a dense task. Sometimes we just need people around to have people around.

          3. Myrin*

            Well, but in this case, it is about being clocked in, which OP’s employee is not. Whether the employee works nonstop or barely at all during those clocked-in hours is an entirely different matter.

          4. I have RBF*

            So, there’s a difference between productivity and availability. Productivity refers to the quantity of work output, which can be zero even if you are at your desk all day. Availability means you are “clocked in”, eg online, and available for people to give you work.

            A long lunch is not being available. My job requires that I be available for 8 hours a day, but if I want to take a two hour lunch, I can, I just need to let people know and work later that day.

            My productivity varies from day to day. Today my calendar is full of meetings, back to back. I have to be available and present for the meetings, but they aren’t very productive.

    2. Anna*

      Im also wondering about the sick leave “not being used properly.” Like I can understand not using sick days tacked on to make a 1 week vacation 2, but I never tell my supervisor why I’m out, just “I’m taking a sick day.” If they asked me why I’d be shocked.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is why we ended up consolidating our PTO buckets – there was no way to enforce the sick v. vacation distinction without being more intrusive than anyone wanted to be. I don’t want to know why people are out, personally. (We also did have people who were actively gaming the system and using their sick time to avoid using their vacation time because vacation time was paid out on departure.)

        1. SpaceySteph*

          This doesn’t really make sense to me as a reason. You don’t have to be intrusive, could just let people police it themselves. Mental health day, Dr appointment, sick kid, etc. Will a couple people abuse it? Yes, probably. But on the other hand, you just gave all those people a bunch of extra PTO to use however they want so the outcome is the same for those employees. Meanwhile people who are chronically ill, have small children that get sick a lot, etc. are being forced to save all their PTO for potential sickness. And usually the PTO bucket is paid out on separation (by law), while in many places sick time isn’t.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I worked somewhere with separate buckets once. I took a “sick day” to take my significant other (not married) for shoulder surgery. We were allowed to request them in advance for doctor’s appointments, etc. but no one ever asked/verified so I didn’t think twice.

        We had a temperamental executive assistant for our VP, she snooped on my calendar to see what I was doing because it was my turn in the sun. She told on me to our VP. And while I did not get written up but did get a warning for misuse of sick leave – in the policy at the time it stated “care for self or family” and since we weren’t family, he did not meet definition of family and I got charged vacation time. She told me she felt ridiculous having to address it but it was *technically* against policy so she reminded me of the policy. I didn’t make it 3 years in that job.

    3. Alice Watson*

      Your answer to LW #4 …..Big Yes and Agree!

      At my previous company each light had 4 of those long florescent bulbs in them. Nobody liked them full force but some were OK with ore brightness. Management let us choose how many bulbs were over our desks and maintenance handled the removal. I went to two bulbs, coworker across from me opted for one. Everyone seemed satisfied.

  5. Heidi*

    The whole thing with the lights is quite puzzling to me. How could they be kept “dimmer” unless there were some sort of dimmer switch? And if there is a dimmer switch, what’s the deal with making it brighter and brighter to the point that people are having headaches?

    In any case, there are definitely meters that measure brightness if the OP thinks that a scientific evidence will be persuasive, but asking for the accommodation is probably the more direct path to achieving the OP’s goals. Keeping the lights off actually sounds like the opposite of a hardship since they’d be saving on light bulbs. In the meantime, I would start wearing sunglasses and carrying around a parasol, but that’s just my weird humor.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      My guess is that the dimmer control is somewhere everyone can access it. So someone keeps turning up the lights.

      I’d look into pointing a camera at the control. A very visible camera. Hopefully that stops the lights being messed with but, if it doesn’t, the letter writer knows who to blame.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I was also quite confused. Were the lights acually dimmer at the beginning, or only “maybe”? Does the brightness over the day or from day to day still vary (otherwise, what will measuring now prove – there’s no value from the beginning to compare to)?

      If there is indeed a dimmer switch, the LW does not seem aware of where it is, or who controls it. I must also say, I’ve never seen standard office lights (fluorescents) that have a real dimmer switch. At most, one could turn off every second light.

      1. LW5*

        The switches are where everyone can access them but they just look like buttons to me – I’m not sure if you can dim the lights using the switch, or if it just turns off half the lights. Having every second light turned off was the way it was set up originally. I have no clue how the brightness is fluctuating, but I’m not the only one who thinks that it is.

        I love the idea of removing some of the bulbs! Then it won’t matter if someone messes with the switch or not. I might bring up the idea to my supervisor as a potential accommodation.

        1. Lydia Bennett*

          They removed 3 out of the 4 bulbs above my desk. It makes my desk area pleasantly dim.

          And it only took a pandemic to achieve this! People returned from WFH and the complaining about the lights was instant and loud. Before that, management had stuck to the ‘this is standard so your eyeballs had better suck it up.”

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Sometimes standard-looking light switches actually have sneaky built-in dimmers that one can adjust by pressing longer. I don’t think it’s likely in your case, but worth a try? Would at least explain the fluctuation.

        3. Smuckahs*

          Try pressing and holding the buttons instead of tapping. If they’re dimmable, the switches are often setup as tap for on/off press longer for dimming.

          1. Smuckahs*

            Some managers think it looks “unprofessional” to not have the lights at full brightness. For some reason, it’s always the ones who don’t have to sit on the surface of the sun…

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              They’re probably interpreting “dim lights” as “half-shut-down office” and think that bright lights is full staffing, full activity, etc. No, maybe it’s just too freaking bright.

              1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

                Yep yep yep.

                I wish everybody who felt this way would watch a couple of submarine movies and see how people can be busy and effective in low lighting.

            2. Wishbone Ash*

              I see you’ve worked for my old boss. We had light dimming and would keep it workable for all of us, so she got maintenance to disable the dimmer switches on the lights.

        4. LizLemn*

          I think you mentioned earlier in the thread that the fixtures are LED. Many commercial grade LED fixtures can be adjusted for brightness, color temperature, etc. after installation. It’s one of the features of LED over Fluorescent. However, those adjustments cannot be made by the typical user, typically. An electrician or building manager may have to make those adjustments since they are usually “calibrated” as part of the install for exactly this purpose – user preference. You cannot remove bulbs in LED fixtures like you would a fluorescent fixture. Most newer lights in commercial office settings are going to be LED.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Was just going to say this. We were all geeked that we were getting “dimmable” LED replacements. Its nothing we can actually “dim” and it took a few tries with facilities (this is a whole separate six pack of beer type conversation) to get THAT correct.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            But you can remove LED bulbs from a converted florescent fixture. And it’s possible for a homegrown conversion to convert to a fixture 4x as bright as the original fixture. They’d never know it from current draw after all.

        5. Rach*

          If possible, look into shades for your cube! They work amazingly well and just attach to the top of your cube like a cross between an umbrella and sail.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I suspect it’s more like there is a bank of light switches. Cube dwellers preferably switch only half of them on (there may be some optimum combination that omits the brightest fluorescents but turns on all the wall sconces, for example). Cersei has lights on in her office, but when she steps into the cube zone it feels dim by comparison and she therefore wants all the lights on all the time.

      I am autistic and have strong physical reactions to artificial lighting, particularly fluorescent lights. Cube farms often have this battle and it’s very frustrating when supervisors/managers with offices, their own light switches and perhaps even WINDOWS even comment on the lighting in the open office. The usual solution is to unscrew every other tube quietly.

      I think nowadays there are lots of great low-energy amd highly localised solutions for those who like stronger light, including ring lights and SAD panels. I also think that modern LED ceiling lights are gentler on the eye than fluorescent.

    4. Miette*

      I worked somewhere where those plastic grids that covered the fluorescent lights could be replaced with ones that were shaded, which reduced the intensity of the bulbs, effectively dimming them.

  6. Purple m&m*

    #3 It might vary for different industries but I
    charged my full hourly rate for travel time. Travel time was time I couldn’t bill for working for another client. Travel is also inconvenient, there are time changes, bad food, not seeing your family or cats. Plus I spent time on the plane reviewing or working on client matters.

    1. Allison K*

      When I consult on video I am home, no travel time, eat when and what I want, wear what I want as long as the part on camera is professional. For on-site work I don’t have any of those things, and my rate is about 3 times higher for the actual work PLUS reimbursement for travel expenses and an amount I factor in for my time traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I stack events so no one client bears the travel expenses burden, but if you want me to leave home and convenience it’ll cost :)

    2. Miette*

      I am a freelance consultant now, and this is what I do as well. I didn’t used to charge for travel time, but the HR person at one client was adamant that I was basically a non-exempt employee, so when traveling on their behalf I should charge my time door-to-door.

      That said, there was a time when that client insisted that I be onsite 3 days per week (this was pre-COVID), and so travel to and from the office was not something to be charged. However, even if I did not have work keeping me 100% busy while onsite, I billed for all hours I was there, as I was considered on their clock while there.

    3. Antilles*

      In my industry, I’ve almost always seen the full hourly rate charged as well. It’s time that is done specifically for service to that client and which cannot be used on other clients/projects.
      The only exceptions I’ve seen are based on rare project-specific decisions – e.g., client with a particularly tight budgets, certain clients/contracts that disallow billing of travel time, etc.

    4. cabbagepants*

      I wonder if there are any freelance musicians on here who can answer this! My husband teaches music lessons and insists that it is rare even to charge a mileage rate, let alone travel time, when you go to a student’s home to teach. I put my foot down to at least charge the IRS mileage rate.

      Any other music teachers have input?

      1. Mostly Managing*

        Not a music teacher, but a parent who loved having in-home lessons for my kids over the years.
        We were never charged a separate “travel fee”. It was, however, included in the cost of the lessons and we knew we were paying extra.
        Going to the studio for lessons was $X per half hour lesson.
        Having the teacher come to us was $X+5.
        AND that was with a teacher who scheduled the in-home lessons all on the same day and on a route that minimized travel time between houses. So we were essentially told “your lesson will be at this time.”

        It would have seemed odd to me if the travel time were listed separately, but it seemed perfectly reasonable for “the lesson” to cost more if the teacher came to us.

        1. cabbagepants*

          This is similar to what my husband ended up doing. He teaches three lessons back to back in a city that is an hour away. He splits up the “travel fee” among the price of the three lessons. When he couldn’t travel and the students came to our house instead, the lessons price did not include the “travel fee.”

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I used to do in-home petsitting and dog walking. I didn’t charge a travel fee, but I did build travel time into all of my fees, and would offer “same neighborhood” discounts if people who lived near each other wanted compatible services at back-to-back times on the same day. Baking the travel time into the default in-home lesson fee and then offering a discount (related to the amount you’re saving my cutting out the travel) if they can get the neighbor kid to pay for the slot immediately before or after would probably be easier to explain to families that breaking out travel time separately.

    5. Really?*

      Also a consultant – currently for a smaller firm, formerly for Big Four (when there was one) – I’ve always billed travel time almost exactly as Allison stated. Half time when not actively working (driving, etc.) full hourly rate if I’m working on something en route (I don’t double bill, so if I’m working on another engagement en route, the folks I’m traveling for don’t get billed the time). And they get billed the expenses (mileage rate, airfare, parking etc.). It is always spelled out, in detail, in the engagement letter, so no surprises.

    6. Filosofickle*

      Yeah, plane travel is one of the tasks I am least likely to discount because it’s such a drag. I usually work on a project fee not hourly so it’s not visible, but I generously build travel time into my fees

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I would have agreed prior to having kids. Now flying alone for work feels like such a vacation I feel like I should be paying them for the pleasure. (3 hours alone to read a book, with nobody to bother me, and someone fetches me a drink*… is this heaven?)

        (*I’m talking about soda here, not even alcohol)

    7. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Self-employed consultant currently, and this is a very relevant question that does come up when submitting proposals and negotiating contracts! I have a healthy hourly billing rate. My current main client likes me to work on site one day a week, which is a total of 2.5 hours in the car. I charge them a flat rate for the travel which is less than my hourly rate, but then it is also deductible business expense for mileage and tolls for me. This is a steady, multi-month arrangement so in a way I’m giving them a discount for being a steady client. For a new project I just submitted a proposal for one deliverable, with a travel cost built into the total fee, not broken out as such. I am anticipating a two night overnight required for the project and estimated those costs plus my total work hours to complete the assignment. I might be off (in the client’s favor) but I want the project, so again I am comfortable with the potential discount.

    8. SJ*

      We are a very small firm and we don’t charge travel time but we have day and half-day minimum rates for in person meetings. So anytime a client wants an in person meeting they are automatically going to pay for at least 4 hours of billable time as well as all our travel expenses obviously. Our hourly rates are high so 4 hours minimum justifies the opportunity cost of travel. That’s a good model and post-2020 clients are really judicious about what needs to be in person vs. virtual.

  7. Splendid Colors*

    If someone has pets, they may need to pay for a pet-sitter. My thesis advisor didn’t go to many off-site meetings because he had to pay a vet tech to administer insulin to one of his cats. This was pretty expensive compared to the usual “feed cats, change water, play with cats a bit, and bring in the mail” type of pet-sitting visits most people have.

    1. Kit*

      Oh hey, I’m not your thesis advisor, but that sounds familiar! In our case, the cat gets subcutaneous fluids administered several times a week, and a daily pill, and that’s just a lot to ask of a pet sitter, so we don’t travel beyond day trips! Which is fine with me, as it’s provided a handy excuse to avoid the in-laws who live several states away…

  8. Free Meerkats*

    There are light meter apps for phones so you can get data on day to day light levels and see if they are actually being changed.

  9. WS*

    LW 2 – and once the person who forgets things has been reminded, they also need to have consequences. If they have an hour-long lunch, they need to make up that half hour. If they take sick leave where they aren’t entitled, they get to choose not getting paid or using leave.

    Also, I’m guessing by these policies that they’re in a job where coverage is important and their behaviour is having a serious impact on their co-workers. But in the case that it’s not, is it actually important or required for all staff to take only half an hour if the work is getting done? Is your workplace’s sickness policy too strict?

    1. LW2*

      Your first paragraph is spot on and I should have clarified in my question that it is perfectly OK to take a longer break and make it up by coming in earlier than usual or working later.
      To your second point, coverage is not important and people set their own schedules. They just need to work the actual number of hours they are paid for.

      1. Cakeordeath*

        Does this employee (and the others) get all their work done? Are they an otherwise great employee? Because if they are why do they need to work x hours? If they get everything done in 7.5 hours instead of 8. People are not productive 100% of the time. Forcing them to “work” the extra 30 minutes is unlikely to net you any more output. They will just spend the extra 30 minutes being annoyed that they have to be there for no reason.

        I am not saying they should always get longer lunches or to finish early. Especially if they get work done very quickly. But if they are an otherwise stellar employee demanding they must be working for 40 hours because their contract says 40 hours is going to demoralise and eventually drive them away.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I think this is probably the employees perspective, or they worked somewhere with this perspective. The problem is that they now work somewhere with government rules.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I agree with you on principle, but I have always worked in jobs where there is no such thing as “all work is done”. My work has always been functionally infinite. And that’s not because we are understaffed, but because there is always more research to be done, and always improvements possible. It would be infinite with infinite staff also. “Done” doesn’t exist.

          So what then? The only way is to work exactly 40 hours and call it fair enough. Though if a 10-minute extra coffee break will make one twice as productive in the next hour that’s also fair enough.

          1. Amey*

            This is my position too. I have never understood this and wonder if I have misinterpreted what people mean by this. My work is never done – there’s not a set number of tasks I need to do for that day or week. There is ALWAYS more work. You do your best to organise around ‘this is what I can realistically achieve in 37.5 hours’ (the official work week at my employer) and make some attempt to stick to that. At really busy times of year, you go over, but during quiet times, you definitely don’t go under!

            1. Cakeordeath*

              My job is like that as well. Its never Done Done. There will always be more to do. But if enough of it is done that we are always comfortable and not rushing. Have the occassional slightly longer lunch or finishing 10 minutes early, extra coffee break is better for morale then a strict you must do 40 hours. I wont be efficient all 40 hours. But a little bit of freedom and flexibility is better for morale and means the hours I am working I will want to be productive. And I stay at employers longer because of this “benefit”

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I agree that insisting on 40 hours exactly will probably backfire. For example, we often take slightly longer lunches as a team, because it’s good for teamwork, and sometimes work matters get discussed, and it probably actually leads to more productivity in aggregate. Someone from another team complained to our boss about it and he just shrugged, because he understands this. We also take plenty coffee breaks on work time (and a lot of tricky problems get resolved by giving the brain a break and the body some movement).

                However, we all know that one person who is being flexible in one direction only – to his advantage. He’s never staying late to help you with something, but always up for leaving early. That guy is also bad for morale.

                1. I have RBF*

                  However, we all know that one person who is being flexible in one direction only – to his advantage. He’s never staying late to help you with something, but always up for leaving early. That guy is also bad for morale.

                  This, here, is the issue.

                  I’m exempt. I can flex my time a lot. I have weekend work, after business hours work, etc. I do my best to balance it out so both the company and I “break even”. The company gets what they pay for, but I don’t burn myself out by constant overwork.

                  My manager doesn’t have to track my hours. No one on our team has to time watch. But we are available, responsive, and meet our obligations, because we are adult professionals.

                  If someone started to be unavailable when they were needed, then our manager would have words with them. (We have someone in another group who has this issue, and it’s a management issue to handle.)

            2. ThatGirl*

              I’ve had both kinds of jobs – some where there was really always *something* to do and others, like my current job, that are project based. There are deadlines to meet and people to make happy, but if that’s happening there’s no reason I need to work 8 hours in any given day. (But… that’s not official company policy so I can’t be too blatant about it.)

              1. Lexi Lynn*

                If my employer insisted on my working exactly 40 hours that would be the maximum they got. If I have to “make up” time when I need a longer break, they are not getting any flexibility from me for their needs.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  We had a VP who strictly enforced (via a time logging system) spending no less than 40 hours a week on specific things like projects and meetings. The 15 minutes you’d spend getting coffee and asking a colleague about their day did not count against your 40 hours. (We were exempt and none of our time was billable, so it remains a mystery why this policy came to exist.) And the end result was exactly as you describe. It was at a time when working long hours or working through lunch to meet deliverables was very common, and people would just shut down their computers and walk out on Friday afternoon as soon as they’d hit 40 hours on their timesheet.

          2. Riot Grrrl*

            I’m glad to hear this because I often notice a lot of talk in these comments about not worrying about time/attendance, etc. as long as everything gets “done”. That definitely works for some jobs, but for many jobs–particularly so-called knowledge work or creative work–there’s just no such thing as “done”. All there is is stopping at some point.

        3. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Because for the norms of our system, if someone is paid for X hours a week, they need to be on the clock for X hours a week. There’s nothing here to suggest that OP thinks that he needs to be actually, literally working for 8 hours, just that they need to be clocked in for 8 hours a day and ready to work/getting the work done. It sounds like they’re only clocked in for, say, 7.5 hours a day.

          1. Anecdata*

            Yeah, and OP mentioned upthread that this is a coverage role, they need someone physically at the desk, which makes a big difference

        4. Fluffy Fish*

          It’s very normal to have salaried jobs that still require a certain amount of hours worked. I’ve been in a position like that for 20 years and have not yet become demoralized because I have to work 40 hours.

          Being flexible when you can is fine, but this is an employee who is trying to game the system. The flexibility is in the flex hours offered – do what you need as long as you get your hours in.

        5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Eh, I doubt it. Someone who “accidentally” doubles their lunch hour isn’t going to be working extra hard to make up the lost time. And even if they only work 50 minutes in the average hour, that just means that their employer has lost 25 minutes of work instead of 30.

          Also, I have left undone work at work every single day since summer of 2020 when business was dead. Literally, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Some days the important stuff was done. Some days it wasn’t and had to get done the next day. I went home on time all of those days.

      2. WS*

        If people set their own schedules, is there a reason that working the exact correct number of hours is important? Obviously it’s not okay if someone never shows up or if their work is falling on other people, or in some kinds of employment (like drivers) where exact hours of work is a legal and safety issue…but if it’s not, why does it matter so much? And are other people sticking precisely to their hours too?

        1. redflagday701*

          A good manager needs to be flexible and shouldn’t be nitpicking over employees getting precisely 40 hours/week in (and I don’t get the sense LW2 is doing that). But a good manager also has to enforce some standards, because if you let Bob get away with working 35 hours on a regular basis, then all of a sudden Jane is doing it, and then Steve, and pretty soon you’re expending a lot of time and energy on what should be a very basic assumption — that people generally need to be available during the time they’re being paid for. You should treat employees like adults and trust them to manage their own schedules, but it’s OK to set standards that those schedules need to meet.

      3. Cat Tree*

        It really is Ok to tell the employee that they are responsible for remembering things and then hold them to they. I have occasionally worked with people who used it as a convenient excuse to do whatever they want. I recently managed someone like that and was finally in a position to do something about it.

        He had many other work problems in addition to “forgetfulness”. But I included that part in the list of things to improve. I told him directly that it his responsibility to remember things relevant to his job and to develop a system for doing that. As his manager, I offered several suggestions for him to try to helphim do that. I didn’t think I needed to tell an adult to write things down and refer back to them, but apparently I did. And he improved after I made the expectation clear. He’s not a top performing employee but he’s adequate now.

        The other commenters have a point that if the employee is getting his work done it’s probably worth letting this go. But I get the sense that more is going on and this employee has other problems. When discussing the other problems, it really is Ok to directly address the forgetfulness too. And then if he does it again, refer back to the original conversation where you explained that he needs to remember things and ask what he’s doing to improve in that area.

      4. EPLawyer*

        If it is salaried and not coverage based is he ever required to work over time?

        Sometimes you gotta be flexible.

        On the other hand, the I forgot excuse is not acceptable either. Either its okay to be flexible or its not.

        Also what qualifies as too sick to work? Do mental health days get counted as sick days or vacation days. I hope sick days because I would not want to use up all my vacation days just because I sometimes need a day off to recharge. A day that if I came in because I wasn’t sick enough to qualify for a sick day not a whole lot would get done anyway.

    2. AM*

      For me, a 30 minute lunch most days is fine, but occasionally I may need a little more. If everything is covered and work is getting done, this may not be a battle worth fighting. No one likes feeling micro managed. Also, if sick days are part of the compensation package, people should be allowed to use them however they see fit. Our company does not ask why someone is taking a sick day. It could be for a medical appointment, but it could also be because you have to take care of something like a car repair which may be difficult to take car of outside of business hours. Even if they are using a sick day to catch up with a friend or just have a break for a day, they let them. Sometimes these days are use to help relieve stress.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        It depends on the specific workplace policies. At my workplace, while we also aren’t asked to justify sick days, it is understood that sick leave is specifically intended for when we’re sick (physically or mentally), taking care of someone who is sick, or going to a medical appointment. Yes, sick leave is part of our compensation package, but that doesn’t mean we can use it for anything. For vacations, we are meant to use annual leave. For life admin stuff like car repairs, we are meant to use personal leave. Using sick leave when you’re not sick in order to hoard annual leave (which carries over year to year and gets paid out when you leave, while sick leave does not) is dishonest. (That said, there is still some flexibility. My boss allows us to use sick leave for sick pets, for example, which is technically against the policy but which seems appropriate to me.)

        Of course, I understand other companies function differently. Some offer just one bucket of PTO. Some (most?) don’t offer any kind of personal leave besides sick leave. In those cases maybe it makes more sense to use sick leave when you are not strictly sick. But if LW’s company has policies similar to mine, I can see why using sick leave for vacations would be an issue.

        I also think a longer lunch every now and then is no big deal as long as your job isn’t coverage based, but in this case it does sound like coverage is needed.

  10. Lmoore*

    Re: overhead lights. IKEA sells a cradle leaf cover that can be installed overhead in a cube. At home I have only indirect and natural light, and so the return to the office florescents was quite painful.
    Another coworker brought in a small deck umbrella for his cube.

    1. Data Slicentist*

      I have definitely seen that IKEA leaf adorning a cube when I go into the physical office. It is delightful!

    2. BellyButton*

      YES! I mentioned that below before seeing this. That is what people used over their cubicles at my last company.

    3. KatEnigma*

      My husband’s cube mysteriously had cardboard attached to block the lights above his cube. He doesn’t know how that happened, because obviously it would have been dangerous and against the rules for a tall person to stand on his office chair to do such a thing. And in the summer, magnetic vent blockers appeared on the vent blowing directly onto him. They “fell off” in the winter.

    4. Artemesia*

      I’m guessing the sort of boss who insist you work in blazing flourescent lighting would also ban a room full of sails, and umbrellas and other artful devices that make it look like a summer camp.

    5. Rach*

      They also make actual shades for cubes that work far better than the IKEA leaf! I had an IKEA leaf as a stop gap before my cube shield arrived and while better than nothing, it is not quite as effective. Because I live in Phoenix and our building has floor to ceiling windows (so dumb), at least 1/3 of my area now uses them.

  11. John Smith*

    Re #2. I had a combination of Covid induced brain fog and a new manager who went all Dolores Umbridge on us. I genuinely couldn’t remember half the existing rules, never mind the exponential growth of new ones. Do follow Alisons advice on checking if this forgetfulness is all in his favour. If it is, he’s taking the piss or at best, careless. If it’s in other matters though, there’s something going on. Hopefully not something like my situation!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      COVID enduced brain fog is real and intense. I was a little wobbly on Alison saying the manager should proactively suggest a doctor, but given the statistical likelihood that this employee had COVID at some point, this sways me.

      1. I have RBF*

        Also, there may be other physical issues as well. If this is a new-ish thing it might be really good to suggest that he get it checked out by a doctor.

      2. MeepMeep123*

        That’s how my wife lost an employee in her law practice. She got COVID for the second time, and her work just went down the tubes. She started forgetting things, missing deadlines, turning in shoddy work. When she failed to show up for a court hearing because she hadn’t put it on her calendar the right way, she quit before she could get fired.

        Considering that so many people are getting COVID these days, I think it’s a very likely possibility here.

  12. Ismis*

    I started getting migraines due to brightness and I found some pink tinted glasses which did the trick for me.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There are absolutely things the OP could do to help their symptoms in the short term, but this shouldn’t be an issue in the first place. If the migraines didn’t start until these lighting wars, the lights should be returned to pre-war levels.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Very much agreed. Just turning off some of the lights is a far easier option. I’d definately phrase it as being detrimental to my health to have such bright light.

        (I got them to install uplighters at work in the office. Sadly not in the LAN room – that’s still the blinding glare)

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        While it of course makes sense for the LW’s main work space to be set up for their needs, if they find that tinted glasses also help, even if not as much, then they have a tool that they can use in other situations where they’re less able to control the lighting, such as shopping malls or airports. Worth exploring if possible.

  13. KR*

    4 – in my workplace, the boss would be able to pull your recordings and listen to them even if you were muted from the call. This would depend of course on whether your boss has the time and desire to go listen in on covertly, and your specific phone software. At least where I work though, if you mute from your headset then it will mute everything no matter what the program says and your boss wouldn’t be able to hear you

    1. Wehaf*

      Yes, Alison, you answer on this one is wrong. There are *definitely* videoconferencing programs which have different mute settings for “muted for the call” and “muted for the recording” – I work for an organization which has run into serious problems with this (trying to keep official recordings of meetings, for legal purposes, but having “muted” people speaking over the real meeting).

      1. Geek5508*

        I dial in to our company Zooms using my personal phone. This lets me get audio directly to my Bluetooth hearing aids, which lets me control my own mute

      2. Dover*


        Talk about poor usability and system design. Why would anyone want the system to work that way?

  14. LW2*

    Hello, LW2 here. The forgetting is definitely self serving; in fact that is the description I was looking for but couldn’t find the words.
    The policy manual is a great idea. It’s easy (at least for me) to feel personally responsible for problem and forget (ha!) external resources to help with the problem.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      Hi LW2
      Hopefully pointing out explicitly the problem you’re seeing, getting him to reread the manual and confirm in an email he has done so will flag you’re onto his shenanigans and be enough to put a stop to it.
      Maybe another way would be to track his Time Off In Lieu – so if he works longer he can claim the time later but also if he takes time it is logged so can see what he owes.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I’m not sure what you mean though about taking sick leave when they shouldn’t. Are they using that for a mental health day or for doctors appointments? It’s quite common for those things to count as sick time.

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, OP says “you can only take sick leave if you can’t work due to illness or a sick family member” so “taking sick leave when they shouldn’t” presumably means a situation that is not that. Or am I misreading you?

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          I’m just trying to see if OP2 is taking a very literal definition of ill but the policy is actually more flexible than that. Many years ago I had a coworker who was taking off to take her mom to doctors appointments. Our boss was insistent she had to use vacation time because mom wasn’t sick, as in currently had a fever or whatever. HR had to come in and clarify that yes she could use sick time for that or any other appointment.

          There’s a los sadly too many people who still don’t recognize mental health days as a legitimate reason to use a sick day. So that’s why I asked what they are actually using the sick time for.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            My workplace made a big deal several years ago of changing the sick leave policy in our handbooks and communicating it to everyone; to say that sick days were now only to be taken for unplanned illness. We only got three sick days a year and that new policy had me losing a sick day or two every year because I hardly ever get so sick unexpectedly that I cannot work. Went around it once – I had a planned surgery that I took a vacation day for, as per the new policy – woke up the next day and sent an email to the manager saying “I expected to be able to be back at work today, but am unexpectedly still recovering”. Put a request for a sick day into our system and went back to bed. It was a retina surgery that you have to be facedown 24/7 after. That was in no way unplanned, I’d just had it with the policy. Was happy when company moved to all PTO in the same bucket and I finally stopped losing my sick days. TL;DR some companies have really restrictive sick day policies and OP’s might be one of them. I don’t like it and probably wouldn’t police it a whole lot as a manager, which is reason number 698467398 why I’m not a manager.

            1. tusemmeu*

              I get disproportionately happy when I see someone else here say they prefer PTO in one bucket like I do (and I have several chronic illnesses so it’s not that I’ve never considered it from that angle). I’ve seen so many people who prefer separate sick and vacation days get so dogmatic about how that’s obviously the better way.

          2. Mockingjay*

            I’ve worked for places with very sticky sick leave rules. Vacation could be used for anything, but sick leave had a very narrow definition similar to LW2’s agency rule.

            As for working a full 8 hours: most government agencies require 40 hours, even for salaried positions. It’s about budgeting: agencies are usually funded annually and they have to figure out staffing/pay/infrastructure/overhead/etc. to fit that set amount. 40 hours is the denominator to plan those things.

            1. Lana Kane*

              I work in healthcare and am salaried – 40 hours is definitely an expectation because of project work. I work on several projects that have hours assigned to them. It’s not that I have to use them all if I don’t have to, but usually the projections are pretty close to what would be needed assuming 40 hrs a week. I honestly think that having these kinds of expectations is more normal for salaried folks than just “working till you’re done”, which to me is a fairly squishy rubric.

        2. Clisby*

          Yes, I have worked where sick leave didn’t cover routine medical appointments. If I was going to the doctor *because* I was sick, it would cover that.

      2. PsychNurse*

        The OP makes clear that she is using sick leave inappropriately (because she “forgets” that vacation and sick time are separate pools). A response of “maybe her use is appropriate” is a little weird.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          It’s really not weird at all.

          LW2 only listed two use cases for sick leave, and the fact they only listed the two, weighed against the (sudden?)* hawkishness about lunch, does call into question of just how narrowly are they defined. Are non-urgent, preventative or maintenance medical appointments considered? What about mental health/behavioral health appointments? Are you only considered ill if you are contagious? Is a migraine considered sick? What about flares of other chronic disorders? When “taking care of a sick relative,” is the person policed on who these relatives are? If they stay home to take care of their cohabiting-but-not-married partner, is that considered a violation? If they take care of a sick nibling who can’t go to daycare, is that considered a violation? What if they have a disabled cousin for whom they are primary caretaker, but this is a second cousin twice removed so doesn’t fall into “immediate family”? And so on.

          It’s not off base at all to wonder how somebody who is a rigid rule follower in one regard, interprets other policies, too. If somebody is a “letter of the law” person in one category they’re not likely to be a “spirit of the law” person in another, but it’s not unheard of (plenty of people choose their stances a la carte).

          *I say “sudden” because it’s entirely possible this behavior has actually been long established by this employee and the LW2 is the one who is only just noticing. Which would also explain why the employee is saying “I always thought the policy was X, not Y”, because maybe they got away with X for all four years they’ve worked there. Meaning, it’s not the employee’s behavior that has recently egregiously changed, but LW2’s own perception/observation of it.

          1. ferrina*

            Well….there’s actually 3 types of rule followers:
            1. Those that follow the letter of the law
            2. Those that follow the spirit of the law
            3. Those that follow whichever version gets them what they want, and whines if they are called out (think: certain politicians and celebrities)

          1. Grammar Penguin*

            I see it as people commenting on what sounds like arbitrary and unnecessary policies at OP’s employer that OP is tasked with enforcing.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              That is the way I see it too. It’s not on OP. OP didn’t make those policies or demand enforcement. The policies themselves though, do sound too rigid and unreasonable.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        OP doesn’t need to recount their entire employee manual to us – the point is that the employee isn’t following policy, and claiming ignorance when it comes up. If they want to push back on policy for whatever reason, that’s a different letter.

      4. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve had coworkers in past jobs who didn’t want to use vacation time for anything that wasn’t fun, so they tried to claim things like waiting for a repair person as sick time, which was against policy. I assumed LW’s employee was doing something similar.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I think they mean using sick leave for something that’s unrelated to health – like trying to use it when you are having a parcel delivered.

    3. ferrina*

      Do you manage my ex? He had an amazingly bad memory when it served him (to the point where I was telling him he either needed to remember things better or get to a doctor). He would “forget” conversations where he had promised to take care of something, or “forget” that I had asked him to do X, or “forget” that I had said I couldn’t do Y, so since he had forgotten and he really needed me to do Y, could I just do Y for him. He also had some serious weaponized incompetence and had noped out of most of the chores because “it’s hard and you do them better and faster, so can’t you just take care of it?”

      He always wanted to know where the line was so he could walk right up to it. When he crossed the line, it was “How could I have known that’s where the line was? That’s not fair!”
      The only way to manage him was to give him exacting instructions and expect that every so often I’d need to redraw the boundary (if you gave him an inch, he’d take it forever, then ask why I was so stingy and wasn’t giving him more inches). Make it not worth his while to try to push the rules- making him re-read things or take him off his favorite project so he has time to review the rules. Make sure there’s consequences (even if it’s mild inconveniences). It’s exhausting, but might be manageable in a work setting.

    4. QuilterGirl*

      Reading your question, I was immediately reminded of advice on the “quiet quitting” subreddit. Is it possible your staffer is disengaged from their job and defaulting to the barest minimum?

      1. Snell*

        If that’s what the employee is trying to do, what they actually do is less than minimum (such as taking more than double lunch). It’s just weird to LW that the employee has worked at this place for years, only under LW’s management, and is “forgetting” the company’s standards.

        I’m not clear on if this is a new problem, but the phrasing “someone who has worked here for four years suddenly forgot what the standard is” seems to indicate that this is a new thing the employee is doing. Which, yeah, could be an employee taking advantage where they shouldn’t, but could also be done in innocence, in which case, still real weird, and still a problem LW as manager has to address.

    5. Specialized Skillets*

      LW2, I’m so sorry people are being the way they are to you here. For what it’s worth, I work in government and know exactly what systems you’re working within and how frustrating it is when people abuse it. I worked with someone who would take all of her 5 weeks of vacation and 6 weeks of sick leave and additional bonus leave each year – she definitely wasn’t sick that much and we have very generous vacation! Her sick days were always Mondays and Fridays also. She then ran into a situation where she didn’t have any banked sick time and asked people to donate theirs to her (we have a compassionate leave donation program). If she’d been responsible she would have had plenty banked to cover her illness – that’s why we get so much. Anyway, rambling but I get your frustration.

  15. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #5: It took me a fucking year to get the overhead lighting at my desk removed and replaced with LED standing lamps.

    I’m autistic and any kind of fluorescent lighting gives me headaches and drives me insane.

    I had the note from *my* doctor, the note from the *company* doctor, I had the backing of the disability coordinator, but HR and work place safety were tying themselves in knots over the smallest things.

    -But the LEDs make a very cold light. Won’t that give you a headache?
    No, light temperature is irrelevant for me. It just can’t flicker.

    -If the fluorescent tubes flicker, they’re going out. We just need to replace them!
    No, I don’t mean the flickering of a broken tube! I can see the frequency of the power grid!

    -But, but! Humans can’t see that frequency!
    Most can’t. I’m autistic. I can. I can also hear bats. People are different!

    We went in circles like this for ages.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Huh, is that an ASD thing? I’m late diagnosed and have been deeply affected by electronic lights/noises that others can’t perceive my whole life.

      FWIW the cold light temp would really bother me, though, it’s too harsh and makes my head hurt almost as much as the flickering. I choose warmer LEDs and do best with moderate light – not too dark, not too light.

      1. Nina*

        Electronic noises are absolutely a thing for us, sorry! Can you hear the transformer hum from your computer power cord too? I can hear which side of the toaster has a filament loose and I’m told that’s unusual (that said, I’ve mainly lived with other aspies who all have different but related annoying noises)

        this is my first time realizing I see the flicker in normal fluoro tubes, but does explain why I have my screen refresh rate cranked up so high.

      2. Phryne*

        Not uniquely. It is a hypersensitivity thing that many ASD people have, but others can as well.
        Such as me, I’m hypersensitive to bright lights and sounds, although not all the lights sounds bother me in the same way. It is mainly loud sounds that are very triggering, but also white background noise can be very tiring, like the humming of the ventilation system at my work. After working from home full time in 2020-2021 I noticed how much energy the background noise at my workplace takes compared to my house.

    2. Rach*

      For future reference, they make cube shades that attach to the cube by velcro kind of like a sail/umbrella. I was able to get one as a reasonable accommodation and then moved buildings to one with floor to ceiling windows (in Phoenix of all places!) and now 1/3 of my area has them. They work tremendously well.

    3. Nina*

      omg that explains so much about all the times I’ve helpfully reported fluoro tubes that looked flickery/broken to facilities management and gotten weird looks in return.

      (I’m not stupendously dumb, I just knew that for fluoros, ‘flickery=broken’ and I was amazed the first time I saw one that was actually on its way out and flickering in a frequency normal people can see.)

  16. Heather927*

    4 – in my old job we were not muted on the recordings if we muted ourselves, we had to physically unplug our headsets to not be on the recordings.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Yeah, it really depends on the specifics of how the call is being recorded.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there are places where a mute in software can be overridden by paranoid management.

      1. misspiggy*

        Huge if true – can anyone weigh in on how that would work technically? Would it only happen with certain types of headphones?

        1. Wings*

          I believe it’s not so much about the headphones but rather the software that’s used to record the calls. Like, if it’s a call center type environment where all the calls come through a software and they are being recorded, maybe if you mute from the software, it might only mute your voice to the caller and not necessarily on the recording (like if you are consulting a colleague on another line that could still get recorded). Then if you mute yourself from the headset, the software wouldn’t know anything what you’re saying/singing as it isn’t even transmitted to it (the software/recording would just believe you are sitting silent).

    2. UnpopularOpinion*

      Interesting, we only record things with the intent that someone else may need to listen for the information. Like they joined the team later, they missed the meeting, someone needs to review a decision/discussion. Having non-muted voices would render this useless. Heck, when I’m listening to recording and someone is not on mute and should be, I get annoyed even though there’s definitely no way to fix it other than going back in time to tell George we can hear his stupid clicky clacky keyboard.

      It’s (sadly??) never occurred to me that the software might record the muted parties.

      1. NaoNao*

        I believe the parties are talking about two different work environments. I’ve worked in call centers as some are describing–and yes, Citrix or Avaya will record *everything* including background noise, even if you’re muted *to the caller*. So Alison is slightly wrong on that one, and by the way the LW describes and context clues, it sounds like it’s the former–a call center environment where all calls are recorded.

        In a professional desk job type place where you join Zoom or Teams or whatever, no, your muted remarks will not be recorded.

          1. HQB*

            (including other videoconferencing systems that are similar to Zoom and Teams and which serve the same business purpose)

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I don’t think they are referring to recordings of meetings through Teams/Zoom/etc. where the recordings are used for informational purposes. They are referring to call centers where the recordings are used for QA.

      3. Heather927*

        To clarify, I am talking about working in a call centre, not team meetings over Zoom etc. We had random call monitoring by managers and people would sometimes get mildly reprimanded if they said something unprofessional on mute. This was because customers could request to hear the recording if they made a complaint.

  17. sequitur*

    Our former CEO was super micromanagey about intro emails from people who’d recently joined the company, to the point where he created a guide about the type of content he expected the emails to contain (lots of stuff about their professional lives, limited info about their personal lives & interests even though we otherwise have a relaxed culture and generally want to know that kind of stuff about colleagues if they’re open to sharing it) and what was or wasn’t a suitable photo to circulate (preferences for photos where people weren’t holding beverages that might be construed as alcoholic, or wearing sports apparel).

    It didn’t improve how these emails came across to the vast majority of employees, and it did make him look like a heel who cared too much about inconsequential details.

    1. Allonge*

      At least micromanaging the intro email makes more sense than the good-bye one – this can have actual consequences for the org culture, however light. Still, any time I see stuff like this I wonder what kind of time people have to spend it on this.

  18. GythaOgden*

    As a receptionist you bet our building voicemail is signed off on!

    I’d imagine a goodbye email could be screened in order to make sure there aren’t any coded or overt messages about why they’re leaving. Tightening up on messaging has always been a thing — even at my pin-money job, my boss coached me on what to say to advertising clients and what not to say, because of a need to not overshare about internal workflows.

    I’m actually surprised there wasn’t any previous oversight.

  19. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I once had an employee try to claim not to remember things in order to avoid doing things she didn’t like to do. I simply told her she is an adult and I expected her to remember. I suspect my no-nonsense tone of voice went a long way and we never had that problem again.

    1. Owlet101*

      The department I was in before has a employee like this. Been there for years and management hasn’t done anything since she started forgetting. My former coworkers are going on a year of babysitting now. People are leaving and she is definitely a reason they are burning out quicker.

  20. Medium sized manager*

    Re OP5: we had the same issue when we were back in office except people would sit in the straight up dark and then get upset when other people wanted some light. The number of meetings and complaints over “make it just bright enough that everybody can see” was absurd

    1. Angry socialist*

      Darkness gives me headaches, as does uneven lighting. To actually see what I’m doing, I need bright and even light (desk lamps don’t solve it). Such as that which comes from overhead fixtures!

      1. Medium sized manager*

        Same! So I’m very happy that we all work from home now so everybody can control their own dang lights.

        Which, ended being the original solution as well – it triggered a shift to finding ways for people to work remotely even before Covid.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I bet it is more like a call center thing where LW4 puts a client on hold to go look something up and they sing while doing so

    2. NaoNao*

      It’s totally a call center where they’re like “boop e doo…where’s the accounttttt….wasn’t me, she caught me on the counter, isn’t her account, wasn’t me…account, account, wasn’t me…” you get the idea. At least that’s what I’m picturing!

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’ll sometimes sing in meetings (if we’re all very lucky, virtual meetings while I’m on mute and off camera, but no promises), but only a line or two as short commentary on the meeting topic, not, like, full-on Meeting Karaoke or something. I have the kind of brain that always has a song going inside my head, and often it tries to pick one related to the current topic.

  21. Dinwar*

    #3: I’ve been a consultant my entire career, and I’ve always been told to charge travel time. If I’m driving, that’s work–I’m performing a task critical to the completion of the project you hired me to do, and can’t do other things at the same time. If I’m flying it’s more complicated. Time spent at an airport between flights may or may not be billable–but I usually find a way to work (ie, bring a laptop and review project documents, do expense reports, or otherwise find billable work to do).

    For my part, I go by the “Can I have a beer?” rule. If I can have a beer and you as the client wouldn’t be bothered by it, it’s not billable time. If I can’t, it’s billable. So driving to and from your site? Billable. Sitting at an airport bar because I have a three-hour layover and nothing work-related to do? Not billable. Time in the air? Billable (I can’t drink because I’ll have to drive either to the jobsite or the hotel). Please note that I’m NOT saying that I’m drunk all the time when I’m not at work. This is just a framework for thinking about billable hours. Geologists are widely known for enjoying a good drink, and this is a method for explaining billable hours that most seem to understand readily.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      We frequently have technicians come in to work on some of our instruments and most of the time, there is a ‘Travel time” charge on the quote.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      +1 – though personally if you’re stuck at the airport I would count that as billable. Maybe not at your full hourly rate, may so, I think that depends on the contract. Sometimes there’s a reduced travel rate, or a flat travel fee, or whatever you negotiated. But layovers or travel delays are part of your client commute.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I agree. Being at an airport puts constraints on what you’re able to do with your time. If you need to eat or drink anything while you’re there, it can be quite expensive. The seating arrangements aren’t comfortable or ideal. And you wouldn’t be waiting in an airport for several hours if it weren’t for your commitment to the company you’re traveling for, so it makes sense to charge for that time.

      2. Dinwar*

        I’m usually busy enough that I don’t worry about it. Either the company travel system forces me to have a 45 minute layover (and of course the next flight is at the other and of the airport, and of course the incoming flight got delayed…), or I use the time to review project documents or deal with administrative stuff like I said.

        The only times I’ve said “Screw it, I’m getting a beer” were when I was on the last flight of the day and it got pushed to the next day. I do NOT like sleeping in airports, but I like going through TSA even less, and if the last flight is at 10 and the first is at 6, sometimes it’s worth it to just stick around. Can’t really charge the company for that.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      That’s an interesting way to frame that. I’m going to file the “can I have a beer” model away for future use!

  22. Nope.*

    I worked in a medium sized room (about ten cubicles) where the majority preferred all lights on but a coworker and I didn’t because of headaches. Facilities and our coworkers had no issue with us having the fluorescent directly above our own desks removed (they just popped the bulbs out and stored them away). It helped immensely in our areas but did not affect our coworkers who preferred it brighter. Might be a solution, if the setup allows it.

    1. irene adler*

      There ya go!

      Our overhead lights are wired wonky. So if one bulb is out or removed, the other bulbs in the lights adjacent won’t work (who thought that through??).

      We purchased task lighting that goes on the lab bench to illuminate the specific area where folks want a lot of light. Then the overhead lighting can be reduced (or completely off) for the entire room.

    2. LizW*

      I did this, and had to put a note on the empty ballast so maintenance wouldn’t go on autopilot during plant shutdowns.
      I was on vacation and missed the entertainment of my coworkers trying to prevent the new maintenance person from installing bulbs in my cube.

  23. Lacey*

    OP#5 Is in a no-win situation. I used to work in an open plan office where half of us got head-aches if the lights were off and half of us got headaches if they were on.

    Of course they could have just not built such a stupid building, but it was a little late after the fact.

    1. UnpopularOpinion*

      Fortunately, our open office plan has the overhead lights in groups and you can dim them by section (while maintenance can, the light switches are in a locked closet). Unfortunately, if a light is in a “exit row,” it is undimmable (shakes fist at safety).

    2. Angry socialist*

      Preach, Lacey! Offices are designed by people who have their own personally adjusted workspaces and then built and installed by people who don’t work in an office at all. I think all designers must be forced to inhabit the spaces they design for long periods of time, or they won’t stop. And the people who don’t want to pay for upgrades must also work in the space.

  24. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    “Also, our sick leave and vacation leave are separate; you can only take sick leave if you can’t work due to illness or a sick family member. This employee has tried several times to use sick leave for time off that does fit that criteria.”

    Umm…could this be a typo? Because if the employee has tried “to use sick leave for time off that does fit that criteria” then what’s the problem?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      There’s a link for reporting typos. It shows up when you start writing a comment.

  25. One HR Opinion*

    OP #5 – I wonder if you could suggest twisting a few of the bulbs above you and any other headache sufferers slightly so they turn off. In my office only having 2 of the 3 bulbs above me lit makes a big difference. When they come around to do bulb checks, I just tell them that one is on purpose and no need to change it.

    I also like the suggestion of adding light covers to soften the lights above certain people.

  26. 2023, You are NOT Nice.*

    Ugghhh too bright lights!! Years back at my church job the fluroscents were replaced by lights more suitable to an operating room than a professional office. The pastor was so pleased by this, but I hated it passionately. Caused me all kinds of headaches, light sensitivity, I can’t overexaggerate how bad it was. I wasn’t the only person to hate it. After a few days the maint. man removed the light tube closest to my desk which helped me a lot, and eventually they all got replaced by normal lights. I cannot imagine why that man loved the brightness. HIS office didn’t have those lights.

  27. MicroManagered*

    OP2 The employee has worked there for 4 years, but were you their manager that whole time? Is it possible that a different manager was more lenient about lunches or when to use sick time than you? For example, I’ve let my employees use a sick day for an unplanned mental health day but I know of another manager on my team who would push for that to be vacation.

    1. Clisby*

      If you someone calls in sick, how would the manager know whether it was for a mental health day? Are they demanding to know exactly what sickness is involved?

      1. MicroManagered*

        You can tell from context when they’re calling off, for example “I need to take the day off for personal reasons” or “I’m going through personal issues right now and just can’t be at work today” etc.

        Obviously if they say “I’m sick” I don’t know specifics on what that means and don’t ask.

      2. LW2*

        We absolutely do not ask what sickness is involved. It can be mental, physical whatever.
        The issue is using sick days for, say, a road trip to the coast.

  28. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP1 – I bet you a box of donuts that they are afraid these messages are contributing to a cascade of people quitting for more $$.

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      In our office the standard had always been that the Big Boss would send out an e-mail announcing somebody’s departure. They would send out a mass message to everybody in the office, and there would always be some sweet or saccharine expression of gratitude and well-wishes for their future endeavors. This was the case when anybody – including part-timers and interns – left, for any reason except a termination with cause.

      Last year we had a mass exodus from our office. It was indeed demoralizing, and I’m sure at least some people were emboldened by seeing others leave. Instead of making efforts to assess what we could do better to retain people (like re-evaluating the rollback of WFH policies, or considering title changes, promotions, and/or raises, or even bare-minimum superficial efforts like pizza and donuts for office staff during periodic staff meetings…), our Big Boss’s response was to stop announcing people’s departures at all, and publicly grumble about how “nobody wants to work anymore” and the Great Resignation. You wouldn’t even find out a person was gone until you tried to contact them. It was a terrible approach that makes me question Big Boss’s maturity.

    2. DataSci*

      That was my thought too. Not that the emails were insulting or profane, but “I’m starting a great new job at NewCompany for 25% more. Stay in touch, you can reach me at….” They want to prevent poaching.

  29. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    Re OP 2: I think we all need to accept that the LW means what she says about her employee needing to be logged in and ready to work for X number of hours/day.

    I am salaried/exempt, so I know that my hours are often longer than my ‘official’ 7.5-hour work day. But my hourly direct report needs to work 37.5 hours/week. If that means she takes a long lunch one day, she works later that day or comes in earlier or somehow makes it up.

    Conversely, it means that when someone tries to drop something on her desk at 3.30 pm on Friday, I step in and say, ‘Nope. Failure to plan on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency for us. If you truly *NEED* this today, her OT payment will come out of your budget OR I will do the work and YOU will explain to the executive director why that’s happening.’

    Requiring people to be logged in and available to work during the hours they’re expected to be working and being paid for working is a reasonable request from LW2.

    1. Pugetkayak*

      Yeah I agree. I could never work in an environment like yours Marketing, as I can’t be bothered with when adults do their jobs, how long they go for lunch, as long as they get their job done, but if that is the environment you are signed on for, then that is the environment you are signed on for.

      1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

        Yep! And to be clear, I don’t care HOW my direct report gets to 37.5 hours as long as (a) she does and (b) it’s spread over five days. She WFH two days/week and still gets her deliverables done and I’m fine with however that works out (on WFH days, she often starts earlier, takes a break to get the kids from school, and works later. That’s cool!) But since she’s hourly, I need 37.5 hours to make sure we’re paying her appropriately.

        Her previous boss was apparently much more stringent than I am. I figure we’re all adults and I’m not going to police her. I trust her and she does great work.

      2. Sunflower*

        It’s pretty common for people to have to manage non-exempt employees. Jobs must meet a certain number of specific requirements to be considered exempt and it’s not up to the company to decide that (ofc they could pay them a ‘salary’ vs hourly but they’d still need to pay them OT).

        Unfortunately our country has a number of people working exempt jobs that should be non-exempt and the company is getting away with not paying them deserved overtime.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree with you, and I also have sympathy for why people want it to be unreasonable.

      It really does depend on the job. I need to be pretty available. That’s part of my job. People need to be able to find me when stuff comes up, and stuff comes up at unpredictable times. That doesn’t mean I can’t ever be flexible with my time, but I do need to communicate pretty clearly if I won’t be available.

      I love the push back against butts in seats when it doesn’t matter, but we don’t have enough detail on the job to make that assertion, so I think we have to take LW at their word that this is an issue.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I suppose a lot of people get squicked out by the rules because it hardly ever happens that, after having to work through lunch, we get an email from the management saying we can now leave 30 minutes early, but at this workplace, people are promptly reminded that they’d need to stay late to make up for their extra 30 minutes of lunch. (To me it’s just another day in the corporate world and I’ve learned to live with those things.) But like others also said, that’s not on LW2, LW did not make the rules.

    4. Buffy Rosenberg*

      Yes thank you for this post! Of course it’s reasonable to say that if you are supposed to work xxx hours, and have a one hour lunch (assuming that has been reasonably communicated to the employee, which it sounds like it has) then you can expect those policies to be respected.

      That said, half an hour lunch instead of an hour, as standard, doesn’t seem right to me. I generally work through mine anyway but in theory having an hour seems like best practice. I’m in the UK so maybe it is different here. But more importantly, it’s immaterial here because the policy is what it is, and employees should follow it.

  30. JustMe*

    LW 2 – Slightly different, but I work in a university and have a student who also conveniently forgets very important things when it’s not convenient for him. As annoying as it is, I always send him a follow up “per our conversation” email with links to relevant policies that he claims he cannot remember, and when he inevitably “forgets” something, I always refer him back to the email he received previously and reiterate that it is his duty to communicate with me if he is unsure how something works. In the case of this particular student, there are very real consequences for the things he is “forgetting,” and so I often tie it back to something like “If you do not remember to attend llama grooming class, you will not get off your academic probation. The dean of the llama care program will not consider this a reason for an extension of your probationary period and you will be dismissed from school.” If your employee’s “forgetting” has an impact on his work (for example, when he “forgets” lunch is just an hour he often misses the staff meeting, or he misses a busy period at work and other people need to cover for him) then he needs to be told that, i.e. “It is your job to be here to do xyz, and when you forget you need to come back, it unfairly affects the rest of your team. I need you to figure this out or [insert consequence].”

  31. Emily*

    OP5 – Lighting is hugely important for occupant comfort and productivity. Not just the overall lighting levels but also the color of the light, and glare. Occupants should have some control over their lighting levels as well, which could be in the form of a dimmer or individual desk lamps. If you want concrete recomendations to bring to admin, I suggest this LEED credit: https://www.usgbc.org/credits/new-construction-schools-new-construction-retail-new-construction-data-centers-new-2?return=/credits/New%20Construction/v4.1 or this WELL standard: https://standard.wellcertified.com/light

  32. Pugetkayak*

    OP #5: Since this doesn’t seem like it’s even limited to one person, I wonder what the heck is going on with these lights. I realize some people have light sensitivity, but this seems to be affecting a large number of people! They need to figure this out.

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      Fluorescent lights are not only super bright, they have a persistent flicker pattern that can trigger headaches or migraines even in people who aren’t prone to them. In fact, I’d bet good money that people kept the lights half off, in the first place, trying to find a workable stop gap *because* enough of them were having headaches from the lights.

      1. Not Australian*

        They can also strobe with closely-printed/woven patterns in carpets, people’s clothing, upholstery, etc. I remember my ex virtually having to be carried out of a certain department store because the lights, interacting with the carpet, made the floor seem to move and gave him the equivalent of vertigo.

        1. JustAnotherKate*

          Yes! I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to death-grip a stair railing — particularly going down — because the combination of flickery fluorescent lights and patterned stairs (carpet, marble, etc.) produced the illusion that the steps were moving, rippling, etc. I do have some unusual visual issues, and no one else I’m with ever sees it, but it’s SUPER disconcerting. Thankfully the lights in my office don’t strobe with our patterned carpet.

          1. Kyrielle*

            There was a stairwell in an office building I worked in several decades ago, that I had to descend with my eyes on the wall in front of me, hand on the railing, taking the steps by habit. Because if I looked down I was going to end up dizzy at best. It had been fine, but then they recarpeted the whole building and this pattern was…just awful for that.

  33. Avril Ludgateaux*

    OP5: It’s not only “unfair” that you should have to medicate yourself to cope with an irrational policy. Taking OTC analgesics (including naproxen) too frequently can lead to something called a rebound headache which is recalcitrant/unresponsive to most meds and you may need (prescription) steroids to treat.

    (And they may or may not work, and you may end up with a head-splitting post-steroid headache, and it may take 3 months from onset of the initial headache that caused you to overmedicate until you get your headache pattern reduced to “just” 2-3 affected days per week.)

    Ask me how I know.

    1. PostalMixup*

      That was my first thought, too. In my experience, Step 1 of getting migraines under control was getting a handle on the medication overuse headaches. It’s a miserable time, don’t fall into that trap!

      1. LW5*

        I’ve heard of that, but not in so much detail. Oof. No worries, I’m not taking it every day I’m in the office for exactly that reason (though it does make me even more peeved about getting a migraine in the first place). Thanks, guys!

  34. Aarti*

    Lighting is so hard. I feel like in my experience the dim lighted people always win and I am reduced to working in half darkness, which I HATE. And as I get older I need the bright lights! I have never found a good compromise because I despise coming into an office that is all gloomy and dark – I already don’t want to come into work and now I have to come in to an office that looks so depressing (to me).

    1. jane's nemesis*

      could you get a personal desk lamp to brighten up your area so that you’re not working in the gloom?

    2. Humbug*

      Oh same! I understand bright lights hurt, but so does darkness. It’s incredibly frustrating to feel your way around your work space because you’re working like Bob Cratchit under Scrooge’s single candle. I have had to add lamps. It’s a softer light that only lights up my space.

    3. H3llifIknow*

      I recently visited one of our gov contractor facilities, and we walked thru several buildings. I noticed one was super dim, and others varying degrees of lit. Our sponsor explained that people can choose their work environment, as there were also a variety of floor plans ranging from high walled cubicles to completely open. I thought it was GREAT!

      1. Clisby*

        That’s how it is where my husband’s worked for some years. There’s an open area with a ton of natural light – I don’t think the folks who work there usually turn on the overhead lights. My husband is in a small office where the only light he turns on is one of those small ones mounted under one of those desktop hutch things. And of course there’s the light from the computer monitor. He’s honestly baffled by why so many people he works with yearn for natural light, but at least everybody’s light preferences get accommodated.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          I suspect that many of the people who want natural light – especially at this time of year – have some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

          1. Clisby*

            Entirely likely – although probably not here. This is in coastal SC, and this is one of the most beautiful times of the year. Good thing – something needs to mitigate the hellscape of June-Sept.

    4. your friendly office bat I guess*

      Yes, this is my frustration. I sympathize with people who get headaches, really I do! But tinted glasses exist, and I wish more people would try those as first resort. I have very limited night sight. What other people see as dim is pitch black to me, and what other people see as pleasantly lit is too dark for me to distinguish letters on a paper document. I have five desk lamps on at all times and I sit next to a window, and if I didn’t also have fluorescent overhead lights going full strength I wouldn’t be able to see well enough to do my job on overcast days. I also carry a flashlight, because otherwise I’d walk into things when walking through less well-let sections of the building.

      1. giraffecat*

        Desk lamps also exist and that seems more of a reasonable first resort than asking those who get migraines to wear glasses. Dim the overhead lights and everyone can use a personal desk lamp if they need more light. While there are tinted glasses, they don’t always work. For those not used to wearing glasses, the pressure behind the ears and on sinuses can also cause headaches. I really don’t understand why having personal desk lamps is not a logical solution to this problem. Plus, glasses designed specifically for migraine prevention can be expensive.

        1. giraffecat*

          Sorry, I re-read your post that you do use desk lamps. I got ahead of myself there in responding to your comment about glasses for migraine sufferers.

          1. your friendly office bat I guess*

            Yes, as I said, I use five desk lamps at all times and walk with a flashlight every time I need to get a document from the office printer, because otherwise I will walk into walls.

            1. I have RBF*

              I hate to say this, but this is very much not normal. I hope you get it checked out.

              It is not fair to ask your officemates to have to wear special filter glasses because you can’t see without what to them is blinding, painful light.

              1. I should really pick a name*

                I think they’re quite aware that their limited night sight is not typical.

                If there are people who require accommodations to both high light levels, and low light levels in the same office, there’s unlikely to be a solution that works for everyone, but that’s up to the people involved to sort out. You’re not involved in the situation, so you’re not really in a position to say what is fair to ask.

      2. Wishbone Ash*

        I tried tinted glasses but they don’t do anything for lights coming from overhead or in your peripheral vision. I used to have safety glasses and a large brimmed hat I’d wear on bad migraine days, just to protect myself from the lights.

        I’m a fan of indirect lighting, which offices never seem to have. It’s either blazingly white hot lights or dimness. I wish there were some better solutions.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        In your particular situation where you have a competing accommodation, yes, glasses make a lot of sense. But absent that, dimming the lights seems like a very reasonable first resort solution as it doesn’t require additional equipment.

    5. giraffecat*

      The dim light people tend to win because it can be a legitimate medical accommodation vs just personal preference. Personal desk lamps or light boxes can be used to brighten up your own personal space.

      1. your friendly office bat I guess*

        Making it possible for people with low vision to navigate an office is also a legitimate medical accommodation, and I wish you would stop dismissing that.

        1. giraffecat*

          I wasn’t dismissing that, and I agree that it can be. I’m sorry if I came across dismissively. But the person I responded to here did not mention that it was a medical accommodation, just that they personally disliked dim lights and lamented that the ‘dim light people always win’, so I was pointing out that it could be because of a medical accommodation and suggested solutions that might work for them to brighten up their space. If there are competing needs for accommodations, that is a conversation that can be had to find a good compromise.

    6. Observer*

      I feel like in my experience the dim lighted people always win and I am reduced to working in half darkness, which I HATE. And as I get older I need the bright lights! I have never found a good compromise because I despise coming into an office that is all gloomy and dark

      Two different things here. And you would be much better off focusing only on the first issue.

      You need more lights to work- that’s something that your employer needs to accommodate. A desk or floor lamp at your desk could work well.

      You don’t like that the office is dark and dreary? That’s your problem and it doesn’t over-ride the people who need to not get migraines.

      And that is really the core of the problem – the person mandating these lights it no actually working in that area. She has an office of her own where she can have lights are bright as she wants and needs.

      1. Angry socialist*

        I need bright and EVEN lighting. A bunch of desk lamps is almost as bad as not enough light, because it’s all spotty. Every proposed “just add your personal lamps” solution ignores this problem!

        1. I have RBF*

          IMO, you shouldn’t have your “even” lighting at the expense of multiple other people getting migraines or having to wear extra glasses and hats. There needs to be a middle ground, and “preference” does not override “gets migraines”. Migraines suck, are painful and debilitating, and should not be a consequence of just coming to work. But this is also an adverse consequence of open plan offices – inability to have lighting accommodations that don’t adversely affect others is what happens when you take away cubes and offices.

          There are ways to arrange and direct desk and floor lamps to make them less spotty – for example I hate them pointed straight at me (glare) and always set them up so that they reflect off a light colored surface, which evens out the light.

        2. Observer*

          I need bright and EVEN lighting.

          If you are in your own office, as Cersei is, that’s not relevant. She can close her door and the lighting is even in her office.

          If you need even lighting in your space, get one light that is strong enough to light your space or a few lamps that overlap enough to give you a similar effect. As much as I need lighting, it’s not reasonable to insist that everyone get stuck with a level of lights that will make them sick so that you can be comfortable everywhere.

    7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I can definitely relate. Definitely had to bring in lamps and stuff. It helped me see my work, but the space got extremely cave-like at the end of the day during winter, when the sun sets at like 4PM.

  35. Cough cough*

    Re sick days vs vacation days: LW 2 why are you needing details on why they are out? Out is out. Sick days vs vacation shouldn’t really matter. Just dock it off whatever they tell you. Perhaps their sick days don’t roll over and their vacation does and they want to keep their days? If that’s even the case in this speculative game, how would that actually affect you? Let it be and chill.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I agree and manage my team this way, unless it’s something really blatant like “I want to use a week of sick time for my cruise to Jamaica in June.” Like, I can’t let you use sick time for that and that just can’t be overlooked.

      But if you put in 2 hours of sick time for an unspecified appointment, I’m not gonna shake you down for exactly what KIND of appointment it was and then be a hard-ass about sick vs. vacation. I think that just encourages people to lie about what they’re using sick time for… and eventually they’ll lie about using that time to interview because they can’t stand being micro-managed!!

      However, if the company OP2 works for has a requirement to show a doctor’s note to use sick time, etc. then she may not be able to be that lenient without neglecting HER duties.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      It may not be as simple as “let it be and chill.”

      If you’re working for a company that’s got strict rules about which leave codes can be used in which situations, those policies frequently include managerial enforcement. When I was a supervisor in an environment like this, our time off policies specified that if a supervisor knowingly approved time off in a code that should not be used for that purpose, the supervisor could be subject to discipline “up to and including termination.” If LW’s policy has similar wording, or if their own managers are strict about the time off policy, they’d be putting their own employment at risk over this, which isn’t something we should expect them to do.

      1. ferrina*

        In some states there are laws that differentiate between sick time and other forms of PTO. This can also impact the amount of capital that companies need to designate for PTO payouts.

        1. Cough cough*

          I know that some states differentiate, but still, why is the manager needing details? Just dock it the way the employee says and stay out of it. If they need a Drs note for all sickness, ok, that’s different. (Get out of that place if that’s the case, Life willing.) But if not, let them claim their days how they’d like and chill.

          Minnie when you managed in that situation, it sounds like you should have asked for less details so that you didn’t put your employment at risk.

          1. ferrina*

            The letter doesn’t say that LW was asking details. It’s not uncommon to have a ‘reason’ field on the PTO request form- it’s very possible that the employee was writing things that didn’t match what PTO he was using (this happens all the time- our HR person has to manually reconcile these, and it’s a pain and a waste of her time). Or the employee mentioned something off hand and manager realized it didn’t match the PTO request: “Tomorrow I’ll be out because I’m doing X” “Hey, on your PTO request form you marked sick time. X isn’t sick time, it’s vacation. You’ll need to fix your PTO request to reflect that.”

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Thanks for laying this out, it’s an accurate blueprint of conversations I’ve had with staff. I never asked anyone why they were taking time off, but a lot of the time people would tell me when they made the request. Like “I need to take my car in for service, is it okay if I work a half day on Thursday?” I’d say yes, and then I’d go into the system to approve their time off request and see half a day of sick leave when it should have been vacation.

    3. H3llifIknow*

      I wonder if this person is talking about “I went away for a long weekend,” or whatever when they return but their timesheet reflects they took sick time vs. PTO? If they have used up all their PTO and are now using sick time instead, I get that could be annoying, but not sure if I’d bring it up on its own, but since they’re “forgetting other rules,” too, then I could see it being part of a larger conversation.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes I’m guessing she is doing something like requesting a week off and then filling in 2.5 days of vacation and 2.5 of sick time to save on vacation time (it’s pretty common for sick time to not carry over)

        1. skunklet*

          I work for a company where NOTHING carries over; therefore, sick is used whenever I want, my bosses, thankfully don’t care. but we should all be on PTO.

  36. TX_Trucker*

    #5. We had a Christmas cubicle decorating contest. One employee built an elaborate cardboard gingerbread house. He enjoyed working in the dark space so much, that it’s still up. He sits next to the window and I offered to move him to another location that is not as bright – but he is happy in his box.

  37. H3llifIknow*

    Our govt office building was also super brightly lit. Eventually enough people complained about headaches, and even nausea etc… from the bright and constantly flickering lights that they turned most of them off, and those who want more light were given additional desk lamps. We all already have under cabinet track lighting, so this seems to have worked really well.

  38. LW1*

    LW -#1 here…funny enough since I wrote in, several people have been laid off including myself. My email was shut down as soon as they notified me. I’m just contacting my closest colleagues by cell phone.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I’m sorry to hear that, LW1! Best of luck finding a new job soon (assuming that’s what want).

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh wow! So they were being proactive, huh?

      We had several rounds of layoffs in the recent years and, at least after one of them, nothing was shut off and we got goodbye emails and chat messages from our laid-off teammates. “Thank you all, it was great working together, my personal contact info is: …, Oh almost forgot, they just laid me off.” Everyone was very nice and polite in their goodbye messages, but I guess the company didn’t want to take any chances because on the next round of layoffs, we didn’t get any messages from anyone.

      Good luck on the next step in your career, LW! May it be better than the one you wrote in about.

    3. oh, she's an ingénue*

      Ugh, OP I’m so sorry.

      My first thought on reading your letter: they’re about to let go of a bunch of people and are trying to get ahead of it. Sounds like the new management would be horrible to work under, if it’s any consolation. Wishing you a quick and successful job hunt to something better.

  39. BBB*

    #1 this is hilarious to me. wtf is your employer going to do to enforce such a rule?

    #5 I get eye strain and headaches from fluorescent lights too, so I sympathize. can they not just leave the overheads off and buy lamps for anyone who needs additional light in their cubicle? or explore other types/color tones of lighting that are less assaulting to the eyeballs?

  40. ZSD*

    #4 Recording when muted – I have a similar question. This was discussed in my last workplace, but we never got a clear answer. If a Zoom session is recorded, including the chat, are only the chats that go to “everyone” recorded, or are the private chats sent to one individual also recorded? E.g., if students in a Zoom class are chatting to each other about how boring the professor is, would the professor be able to see that when they looked at the recording later? (My last employer was a university, and 2020-2021, all classes were over Zoom.)

    1. Mostly Managing*

      Yes and no.

      The public chat is, obviously, part of the recording.
      So are any private messages sent to the person who records the meeting.

      If Alison is hosting the meeting, but has asked me to be in charge of hitting “record”, any messages you send me will be part of that recording, and will be included in what I later send Alison.
      You can send a private message to Bill, or Susy, and it will stay private. But if Bill, Suzy, or you send ME a message it will be part of the recording.

      Safer to stick to some other method for private messaging!

  41. Becky*

    LW2: So you approached them “immediately” after their hour long lunch to tell them they had to stay 1/2 hour late that afternoon to make it up?

    And this is a company that routinely accommodates longer breaks and where employees set their own schedules?

    I’m…not getting this. “You can set your own schedule” is completely at odds with “You get exactly thirty minutes for lunch and nothing more”. Is this person getting their work done? Are they salaried? If the answer to those questions is yes, this really seems like micromanaging.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      They can set their own schedule in that they can either take a longer lunch and then arrive early/stay late to make up for it. Not sure how that’s hard to understand?

      1. Becky*

        “Employees can set their own schedule” implies that they’re given a degree of autonomy to manage their time as long as they’re performing as they should. It’s odd for a work culture that promotes autonomy and some degree of asynchronization to clutch pearls over an employee taking an hour long lunch, especially when hour long lunches aren’t necessarily uncommon at said company, either.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It doesn’t definitely imply that. It can also be read exactly the way the OP is saying–they have to make sure they get in X hours of being at work during the day, so if they take longer than 30 minutes for lunch that’s ok, but they need to come in a little earlier or stay a little later. It’s really not that unusual for hourly employees with office jobs, for example, if their job doesn’t require coverage.

    2. Lily Potter*

      I’d imagine that LW has responsible employees, who are well aware that their long lunch today means a longer workday later in the week. However, the Problem Child that she’s writing in about will conveniently “forget” about making up the time later, and thus needs reminding that LW is aware of their ins & outs and will be watching accordingly. When you’re managing non-exempt people (or exempt people that are tied to hourly billing), a part of the manager’s job is to babysit such things. In an ideal world, the manager could trust everyone to get their time in and not have to worry about watching. However, this LW clearly has a Problem Child that will take a mile for every inch given and needs reminding about workplace policy.

      1. Becky*

        Respectfully, we don’t know if the LW has a “problem child” (which is kind of an icky way to refer to an adult in a professional setting), or if they’re being unreasonable as a manager. All we know is:

        1. The employee took an hour-long lunch, something that is not uncommon or unheard of in this company,
        2. LW approached them “immediately” following said lunch,
        3. Their job does not require coverage, and
        4. At least once they coded PTO of an unspecified nature as sick leave

        That’s really all we know about the situation. We don’t even know if the employee is hourly/tied to billing, as some commenters have implied (and would change my assessment).

        So yeah, by my assessment, it sounds like LW is a micromanager or at least has some bias against this employee.

        1. Lily Potter*

          LW2 gives us enough information in this letter to lead to the conclusion that s/he’s dealing with only the latest of a string of issues related to timekeeping. 1) first line indicated that this is only the latest of a string of issues : “I have an employee who “forgets” well-established norms and/claim they were not aware of something. For example….” and 2) “This employee has tried several times to use sick leave for time off that doesn’t fit that criteria. Every time I remind them of they policy, they claim they weren’t aware and/or forgot.” (note the phrase “every time”…..this is not an isolated event….likely this has happened multiple times)

          Again, I highly doubt that LW2 cares about a single hour-long lunch. They’re writing in frustration because they have an employee that’s trying to skirt the rules of their workplace. Commenters here at AAM may not like their rules and think “who cares about the clock if the work gets done?” but that’s not the reality of LW2’s workplace. It doesn’t really matter is LW2’s workplace is billable or needs office coverage. LW2 has one employee that is continually “forgetting” the rules that everyone in the office apparently has no difficulty remembering and following without constant oversight.

  42. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP: Long time migraine sufferer here who is exceptionally set off by bright lights. Here’s how I got our place to do something about it:

    I composed an email to my boss and to HR saying that I needed to have the overheadlighting reduced above my desk as it was drastically affecting my migraines to the point where my work was suffering.

    HR consulted with facilities and in the end they installed some kind of uplighting shades on the ceiling lights so that they were not shining right into anyone’s eyes anymore. Yes a few people complained (“oh we’re all vampires now are we?” Yes, we’re the IT department..) but overall it’s been ok.

    At home I barely even have the lights on.

  43. El l*

    If you worked for a consulting firm (like me) that’s larger than a few people, this is a common question and there should be a policy that is explained to you early, ideally as part of onboarding. But it sounds like you’re an independent consultant, so you’ll have to set your own policy.

    To me, what makes the most sense – and if in doubt be explicit with the client about the policy – is:

    Charge for travel time – but do your best to do emails, phone calls, or even just thinking for other clients which you can bill to them instead to make it more reasonable.

    Because that’s why you charge for travel time – you could be billing that time elsewhere for other clients.

  44. Squirrel!*

    I have a co-worker who deals with migraines due to the lighting in our office. They regularly wear pink-tinted glasses (and a baseball cap), which they say really helps. I’ll add the glasses website as a reply to this, in case anyone is interested.

  45. TiredMama*

    LW #1. Given that you are dealing with new management, I would approach the conversation as a learning rather than pushback. Maybe they have a good reason (not that I can think of one).

  46. BellyButton*

    The overhead lights became a BIG DEAL at my last company in a newly remodeled area where the software engineers and developers sat. They hated the shorter cubicles and hated how bright the overhead lights were, but they were told they couldn’t touch them. A few weeks later I was in their part of the building and noticed that about 75% of the cubicles had put up a small bed canopy from IKEA (I will link in a comment) The CEO wasn’t happy, but no clients ever went in that area, so he left it alone.

      1. kiki*

        Obsessed with this but also surprised somebody didn’t make them take it down due to it being a fire hazard (in my office, everything fun was a coincidentally a fire hazard).

  47. Observer*

    #5 – Migraines.

    Alison is right – this is about the migraines. It would not matter if you DID report to Cersei – she doesn’t get to impose a non-safety related thing on you if it makes you sick.

    My boss has a noticeable reaction when he sees offices where people are working with the lights off. I sympathize because I simply cannot work with low light. But I also know that others find the lights difficult and / or migraine inducing. I pointed that out to Boss, who sighed but DID stop reacting (at least visibly).

  48. Anon (and on and on)*

    LW4, I don’t know if this bug has been fixed, but my husband read about someone who discovered that while they were muted they were still being transcribed by closed captioning!! They were only yelling at their cats, but still. I might proceed with caution.

  49. Lacey*

    I have a coworker like LW2’s employee. She’s constantly doing the wrong thing and saying, “I thought that was how we were supposed to do it!”

    But, half the time the things she does wrong are more work for her, so I think she’s just genuinely not very good at remembering the procedure for anything.

  50. What She Said*

    Orange/amber lights are way better on my eyes then blue lights. We fight about this in my house but I have a mix of them so I can use amber ones over blue.

    So many options mentioned above I won’t go into them all. In my office we’ve done the mix of light covers, removing bulbs, and personal lamps. They work. Just gotta find what works for your team.

    Also, some bosses believe the darker the office the less welcoming. So sometimes it’s an optics thing for them not that someone else needs the extra light.

  51. Nea*

    Ugh, light wars. Those have been raging at my office for years, because some of us get migraines when it’s too bright and some of us get migraines when it’s too dark.

    Solutions have been:
    – the dark dwellers wearing sunglasses, ball caps, and having umbrellas or shades over their desk
    – fluorescent bulbs removed from over dark dweller desks
    – the bright lighters having extra lamps on or by their desks

    At the last reorg I LOUDLY suggested that it not be a question of who worked on what project (because that is subject to change) but instead the dark dwellers in one row and the bright lighters in another, which has led to a certain uneasy peace.

    1. I have RBF*

      but instead the dark dwellers in one row and the bright lighters in another, which has led to a certain uneasy peace.

      This is a good solution for open plan offices – a low light area and a bright light area, and have people able to pick where they sit. Since you can’t really collaborate face to face in open plans without disturbing others, it doesn’t matter if you sit with your team.

  52. Danish*

    Lw2 says above that it’s definitely all self serving forgetting so it’s likely deliberate (though strange after four years!) but gently suggesting a doctor visit if it continues is still probably a good idea. I went through a period a few years ago where I was sleeping so poorly that I could not remember…. Basically anything, and according to my coworkers was “a zombie with no personality”, but also I couldn’t tell – so tired I was unable to recognize that I was forgetting things or not engaging in conversations until it was pointed out to me. In retrospect it was actually very scary! And possible Covid means sudden memory issues are not completely unlikely, too

  53. She of Many Hats*

    LW 1,

    I can see where the new management would want to review exit emails if they’d been at a toxic organization beforehand. But I would also be very alert to other potential red flags regarding micromanagement and unreasonable expectations. Hopefully, they’ll realize how much goodwill and trust they could lose and realize they only need to preview those they know are bad apples. Better case scenario, management is unlearning bad leadership habits, worst case is they were the last place’s toxic management.

  54. Marna Nightingale*

    LW1: If someone’s going to that much trouble to micromanage what departing employees can say to those remaining, I’m inclined to think that a) there are about to be a lot of goodbye emails and b) they’re expecting the people writing them to have some pretty negative things to say.

    I could be wrong, it could just be general micromanagement, but it’s … INTERESTING … that they’re so worried about to what departing employees might say to those remaining.

    1. Marna Nightingale*

      Rereading this it’s maybe a bit strongly phrased but somebody in management is suddenly thinking about how to stop ex-employees badmouthing the org and that just seems like it calls for a stir of quiet alertness.

      1. oh, she's an ingénue*

        Nah, turns out you were right – OP says they and others were laid off shortly after.

  55. Narvo Flieboppen*

    OP 5, I feel you. We had a similar lighting war in an office where I worked, with the full lighting causing headaches for one coworker and another person (who sat right in front next to the only window!) complaining it was ‘too dark’ without all the lights on.

    The half lighting folks were in the majority, though to truly win the battle we had maintenance remove the bulbs from every other overhead fixture, so they could not be turned on at all.

  56. I have RBF*

    #5 lighting wars.

    Oh, argh. Cersei sounds like a real pill, especially if she has an office with its own lighting. Her messing with your lights sounds very micromanager-y and meddling in things that are not her business.

    You, and others, may have to have building maintenance remove some of the bulbs from your overhead lights as accommodation. I’ve known several people who get severe headaches from overhead fluorescent lightings. They may need to A) remove bulbs, the fixtures often have four but only need two, or B) break the lights down into zones, and C) forbid Cersei from touching yours.

  57. ijustworkhere*

    I have the opposite problem–I am visually impaired and need more light than most. I have used a desk lamp that I can direct onto what I am reading to help with that. No need for everyone in the suite to feel like they are under police interrogation.

  58. rat pants*

    LW5 you have my sympathies. I was recently upgraded to my own little office with horrible florescent lighting. I put in a standing lamp and kept the overhead lights off until we had a VIP come to the office and I was told I had to turn on the overhead lights. That entire day I did fuck all because of the migraine, all for some fancy pants who probably didn’t even care that one office was dimmer than the rest.

  59. InsufficentlySubordinate*

    LW#5 : Maybe not as much a solution but it is commiseration. When we were in the office (WFH permanently now), there were many lighting wars in our area (open floor plan, no cubes just lots of tables and monitors everywhere). First people in would turn on all the lights, and then other people would turn off half the lights or half the floor, and then someone else would turn some on, etc. Every Day. Then Maintenance or management got fed up and put locking clear cubes over the light switches. And on one part of the floor, half the lights still got turned off sometimes. I happened to find out why from a little bird that showed me someone had broken the lock then glued it back in so it looked like it was intact to Security. They kept track of Security patrols and would turn lights on or off accordingly.

  60. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    #5 I wonder if maybe Cersei is the one who has difficulty seeing. I know when lights are super dim I have a hard time seeing. Once we had a meeting and the previous group in the conference room had the lights dimmed for a video and no one turned them up. I was squinty the entire hour of my meeting and it was distracting to me and actually caused me to have headaches. If Cercei has a similar problem and he has to go through that area often he may want to keep the lights on. However, they should not be so high they cause everyone problems. I wonder if there is a way to turn off every other row of lights? Or maybe they can put dimmers in so certain areas can be dimmer but the main traffic areas are brighter?

  61. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    I wonder if maybe Cersei is the one who has difficulty seeing. I know when lights are super dim I have a hard time seeing. Once we had a meeting and the previous group in the conference room had the lights dimmed for a video and no one turned them up. I was squinty the entire hour of my meeting and it was distracting to me and actually caused me to have headaches. If Cercei has a similar problem and he has to go through that area often he may want to keep the lights on. However, they should not be so high they cause everyone problems. I wonder if there is a way to turn off every other row of lights? Or maybe they can put dimmers in so certain areas can be dimmer but the main traffic areas are brighter?

  62. Qwerty*

    So much sympathy for LW5. I wonder if there was a switch in lightbulbs that made it brighter – everybody changed sides in the lighting wars when we changed lightbulb-rod manufacturers. I’ve been realizing that LED lights trigger migraines for me.

    One solution that worked great at a previous job was to loosen some of the bulbs overhead the people who needed/wanted dimmer lights. That way it wasn’t a fight over the light switch or a dimmer switch – when the lights are on everybody automatically got their lighting needs. Default was having 2/3 of the rods in the lighting fixture on. You still need to be on the same page with your desk neighbors, but it’s easier to rearrange within your own team according to lighting preferences.

  63. nm*

    #4 is indeed an unpleasant surprise! I guess in my case this means people listening to recordings will bear witness to my obnoxious loud nose-blowing.

  64. SeekYou*

    OP#4 – The reason that you’re worried because you sing while muted is the cutest thing I’ve heard this week. Thanks for making me laugh!

  65. Blueberry Grumpmuffin*

    My previous workplace used to allow farewell emails without intervention. Some time after said workplace got acquired (though remained independent in operation), senior management started overseeing these emails, although nothing was said about it. But I heard stories about people being asked to revise their farewell emails, and one person wrote a polite but criticizing one that got blocked – but only on the all@ address. They managed to send it to individual department emails.

    This was a <100 employee place, fwiw. Also, said criticizing email was warranted; the company had Issues, but that's another story.

  66. redflagday701*

    “How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say, ‘I forgot’? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, ‘I forgot armed robbery was illegal.'”

  67. Bopper*

    Overhead lighting wars:
    I once visited a client (think Telecom) who has many cubicles in what used to be a tire factory. They had those big can lights and if you happened to be under one it was very bright…I saw Beach umbrellas through out the cubicle farm to block the light.

  68. Nerdgal*

    I’m a consultant. I charge my full rate for travel time. It’s capped at 8 hours per day so for example, I don’t charge for the whole 12 hours it takes to fly to Tokyo or wherever.

  69. raida*

    5. Overhead lighting wars

    A BIG improvement at one office I’ve been in was simply having light shields – specifically at the desks that need them.

    Then the overall lighting is consistent, the headaches are not from walking around but from being at the desk with bright light while using the computer.

    They look silly. But nobody cares because the other, most effective, approach is sunhats.

    However you need the impetus to act and not change things to suit the person that has an *opinion* but isn’t *affected*
    Record every instance of a negative physical reaction to your office environment, you cannot be *made* to get a headache to do your job and having clear records is very useful. Ned should get every single person in the area to do so, to show that it’s not one person’s medical accommodation but rather an environment issue that needs the business to address it – this will prompt people to record and realise the impacts.

  70. symmetry*

    #5: As a frequent migraineur, I recall a feeling very uncomfortable and at the center of several conflicts like this before my doctor wrote an accomodations letter for a small (7’x7′) canopy over my desk as well as an accompanying sunwall; I wore sunglasses or (later on) rose-tinted wraparound migraine glasses when not under my “tent.” Very efective l0gistically speaking.

    Downside: This solution got TONS of notice; I quickly grew weary of the “clever” comments (that I’m aware weren’t intended to be mean, but there were just so, SO many of them :()

    Upside: The canopy + sunwalls went a long way toward hiding the pair ofhuge monitors I ALSO need as a visual impairment accommodation. Before the “tent’ there were a lot of envious comments and questions about those monitors, but the reality was that they only gave me almost as much screen real estate as what my more visually abled coworkers had, so again, kind of exhausting when I just wanted to be heads down and do my work rather than respond politely to a seemingly endless stream of passersby and coworkers who felt the need to ask questions or comment on how “lucky” I am to have such big monitors. The “tent” actually got a lot less envy and fewer comment than the monitors did.

    (I changed jobs about two years ago and am now fully remote. While that has its drawbacks, it does make me feel a lot less singled out: barely anyone on my team even knows of my disabilities! Also, I’m in a lot more in control of my work environment… not only light, but also sound and temperature — it’s extremely helpful to be able to do good, focused work without having to wear noise-cancelling headphones, a winter coat, and fingerless gloves at my desk.)

  71. Buffy Rosenberg*

    Without knowing more, I don’t know that the oversight on leaving messages to all staff is so unreasonable.

    Messages to colleagues you’ve worked with closely would be different; that’s your own personal emails to people you know. But once an email goes to all staff, it has the qualities of being more of an official communication.

    I’d certainly be on the guard for more evidence of micromanaging, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume these changes are examples of it in themselves.

    And completely agree with Alison about the voicemail; if it’s the organisation’s voicemail then it makes complete sense for it to be an officially agreed message.

Comments are closed.