Insurifind April 27, 2020

The End Of Open Offices, I Keep Missing Meetings, and More

The End Of Open Offices, I Keep Missing Meetings, and More
The End Of Open Offices, I Keep Missing Meetings, and More

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

1. Is this the end of open offices?

Do you think coronavirus will be the end of open office floor plans and hot-desking?

It should be. Will it? I’m not optimistic. Employers have moved to open offices and hot-desking because it saves money, and so I’m skeptical it’ll die out entirely. But we might see fewer people per square foot.

I suspect, though, that we’ll see a lot more openness to letting people work from home — and a lot more pressure from employees to allow it.

2. Is it ethical to furlough our nanny and have her collect unemployment?

My spouse and I, both working full-time from home, employ a full-time nanny for our toddler. We miss her dearly right now! We’ve been paying her full salary and benefits for over a month now while she stays home since before our local stay at home order came through. She lives with and cares for an elderly relative, so we wanted to be extra cautious.

As long as we’re both still getting our full salaries, we can afford to keep paying her just as we would in normal times. However, as the stay at home orders extend to many months, would it be morally acceptable to look into options like furloughing her so she can apply for unemployment while staying on our payroll for her health benefits? No matter what, we’ll make sure she’s covered, but is it reasonable to look into options where the local and federal government help out? Would it hurt her credit? Is this why we pay unemployment insurance, or is it our duty in these times to not tap those resources so they’re available for others? I feel icky even writing this. I mean, working from home with a toddler is extremely challenging, but it’s nothing compared to what the front line health care workers, delivery people, grocery clerks, and other essential employees are going through right now.

If you reach a point where you can’t continue to comfortably swing her salary, it is not wrong to look into options that would allow her to collect unemployment while still having you cover her health insurance. This is indeed why you pay into unemployment insurance — so it’s there when your employee needs it. And collecting unemployment will not affect her credit in any way.

Be aware, though, that in normal times, unemployment will only pay her a percentage of what she earns with you, not her entire salary. Normally that would be a reason for putting off doing this if you can — but right now, there’s an extra $600/week from the federal government getting added on top of the regular weekly unemployment benefits. It’s possible that means she would be getting her full salary, or even more — and since it only runs through July 31, that’s potentially an argument for doing it now and bringing her back from furlough when that ends (if you can).

3. I keep missing meetings now that we’re working from home

I would like to ask if you could suggest how to gracefully apologize for missing video meetings, and if you know a good way to keep track of time when working from home with no real external markers.

My job is a mix of fairly finicky paperwork and mid-level cross-team meetings. In the office, it’s very clear when there’s a meeting because people get up to go to it or say “are you joining?” or even “shall we get a tea before the Important Numbers meeting?” I’d also usually keep the detailed document-checking for work-from-home days where I could just get on with it, but now work-from-home is quite a different proposition!

Now I’m in my living room, trying to match up spreadsheets and approval documents, and when I finally finish it’s half an hour after the meeting was supposed to start. This has happened a couple of times now. I’ve been sending an apology to the chair and my immediate colleagues and boss to apologize and acknowledge, basically “I’m sorry I missed this, I didn’t see the time. Please let me know if I have any actions,” but should I be more apologetic/less explanatory/something else?

Well … it’s more important to stop missing meetings! If it just happened once, okay, and sending an apology made sense. But if it keeps happening, continued apologies will ring hollow — instead, your boss and colleagues will rightly expect you to find a way to stop losing track of the time. Letting it happen more than once looks pretty bad; people will rightly think, “Now that she knows this is a problem, why isn’t she doing something about it?” You’ve got to take it more seriously.

The easiest solution is to set an alarm — on your phone, on your computer, whatever you’ll definitely hear. Set it for 10 minutes before each meeting, and this should solve itself.

4. Is it gauche to mention coronavirus in my cover letters?

As I’m writing cover letters, I sometimes feel tempted to mention the coronavirus. Sometimes very subtly like “your org’s work is important now more than ever and I want to be a part of that work” or sometimes jokingly like “even if I don’t meet any of my new coworkers until the fall, I’m still very excited at the prospect of joining your team.”

Is this gauche? It’s not like anyone reading it will say, “Oh man, I forgot about that until you reminded me” but would hiring managers at struggling companies find it to be in poor taste? I want to add humor to my letters and acknowledge these are hard times, but not at their expense.

It’s not gauche, just unnecessary. Neither of those proposed lines will strengthen your cover letter. There’s nothing wrong with them and if you want to include them, you can … but they’re not adding anything! I’d focus instead on making a compelling case for why you’d excel at the work.

5. How does telling us to use vacation time cut costs?

I work for a city council and our CEO has asked if people could take annual leave while we’re working from home to cut costs. My question is, how will this make a difference to the budget? I can only think that it will stop us all from immediately taking annual leave once we return to work, but since my workplace needs a certain number of people there to be open, we won’t all be able to take leave at once anyway. I’m ha ppy to take leave, but don’t want to use it all up now when I can’t go anywhere, so don’t want to do it unless it’s actually going to make a difference!

They’re getting a liability off their books, which can help when they’re requesting loans and other financial assistance.

And if you’re in a state that requires vacation to be paid out when people leave, they’re lowering that obligation as well.

You may also like:how can I avoid taking a job in an open-plan office?what can I do about a senior coworker who always misses meetings with me?I’m the boss who’s always late

the end of open offices, I keep missing meetings, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.


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