can I Zoom from my patio, coworker is violating shelter-in-place, and more

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

1. Can I Zoom from my patio?

What are the stipulations around Zoom calls and location? Weather in my area has been very nice recently and I enjoy working outside when I don’t need my full monitor. My apartment has a private patio space — not huge, but enough for my dog to run around in. I have furniture outside to work on. Can I take calls that don’t require note-taking outside?

If it makes a difference, I am in an extremely high-cost-of-living area and very lucky to have an outdoor space. My position (and salary) is middling/low, so it’s not like I’m a CEO flaunting an expansive yard and pool oasis. But even if I was, would that make a difference?

Everyone always seems to mimic an office environment on calls ….meanwhile, it’s sunny outside! I just want to enjoy the sun while I can.

To some extent, it depends on your team culture — if everyone is in office attire and working from work spaces that wouldn’t have been out of place before the pandemic and your culture is pretty formal in general, I might not choose to be the one person outside on a patio, but otherwise I think you’re generally fine.

But yeah, if you were a CEO taking video calls while you lounged pool-side with your horses frolicking on your beautifully manicured acres in the background, a silver pitcher of iced tea glinting in the sun next to you, you would look tone-deaf to your workers. A more standard patio type space? Not a big deal.

2. Is it rude to forward someone an email to point out they missed instructions?

When someone sends me an email asking a question about something I previously sent them in an email, is it okay to re-forward the email to them, or is that really pushing it in their face that they missed it?

For example, on Friday I sent instructions for a virtual meeting to a group of volunteers, for a meeting this Thursday. I planned to send them a reminder on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, in response to another email in which I referenced the Thursday meeting, one of the volunteers emailed the group, “Are you going to send us the instructions and dial-in number for the meeting on Thursday?”

So, I responded to the group, “Sure, I’ll resend the instructions” and then I re-sent the original email from Friday (showing the date and time I sent it). That way, everybody had it (in case someone else had missed it).

However, I always feel kind of rude doing that, as if I’m saying “Look, you messed up.” I suppose I could just answer, “Sure, here it is” without referencing my previous email, but then I feel like then it looks like I never sent it and I messed up. Or I could say, “Sure, I sent it Friday but I know how easy it is for emails to get lost in the shuffle!” Can you recommend a tactful way to handle this kind of situation, where I can cover myself without making the other people feel bad?

It’s fine to forward the original email! Just make sure your tone when doing it is reasonably cheerful and doesn’t sound like you think the other person is inept.

You could add something like “I know how easy it is for emails to get lost in the shuffle!” but honestly I think that’s making too big a deal of it. They don’t need you to excuse their mistake for them (and that kind of language risks sounding patronizing, and will seem insincere if you use it more than once with the same person). It’s easiest just to treat it matter-of-factly — people are busy, they might not always retain everything in an email, maybe they missed it entirely, no big deal.

More here:
how can I tactfully point out to coworkers that a miscommunication error is theirs?

3. My coworker is violating shelter-in-place and we work in a hospital

I work in a in-patient hospital pharmacy, and last night a coworker posted online that she “would no longer be sheltering in place and if you don’t like it, don’t invite me to your house.” I’m a pretty “live and let live” kind of person, but I suppose that was pre-coronavirus. Is this something that rises to the level that warrants me flagging it to management?

This coworker is a pharmacy technician, delivers medications all around the hospital, and works shifts mixing IVs. My main concern is that we are still tracing asymptomatic carriers and she is exposing herself to the virus and then exposing us and by extension our patients. We are still under state-wide and county-wide shelter-in-place orders.

Yes, let your management know, since this coworker is in regular contact with patients and health care workers. If your management is fine with it, then they won’t act on the report and no harm is done. If this violates safety protocols they have in place, then they need to know about it because lives are at stake.

You can frame it as, “I was alarmed to see this given her contact with so many people here, including patients, and wasn’t sure if it was something I should share with someone.”

4. We’re being re-hired for work that doesn’t exist

I work at a large nonprofit theater company. My job laid many of us off. We were laid off for a few weeks, and now that their CARES package came in, they are “re-hiring” us at full-time. I believe this is incredibly short-sighted: All of the programming for the next few months has been cancelled. We are being hired back to do nothing. Additionally, with no work being done now that generates any revenue, there’s a high probability that many people will be laid off again in July, when the stipulations for their loan/grant are met. They are also saying that our hours are not being reduced. This disqualifies us for the additional unemployment stimulation (the extra $600/week from the federal supplement to unemployment payments, which ends in July), which would have been far more helpful to us who were laid off (none of the six-figure-making higher-ups were laid off). I feel frustrated because I, along with everyone else who was laid off, am essentially giving up almost $5,000 for the organization to employ us for “good” publicity, only to be laid off again.

If I decline to get rehired, how does that effect my unemployment? Due to this and many other short-sighted and bone-headed rhetoric from the C-levels, I am also planning to make a career change in August.

Yeah, this is not good. If they won’t have paying work for you once the paychecks funded by the loan run out, they will indeed have to lay you off again — and at that point the federal supplement to unemployment payments will have run out and may not be renewed. So they’re bringing you back to do nothing, and possibly releasing you again into conditions that are worse than if they’d not brought you back at all. I don’t blame you for being frustrated; this sucks.

If you turn down their formal offer of employment, you will be making yourself ineligible for unemployment benefits — so you likely do need to go back, if only so that you’re eligible for benefits once they release you again later this year. It’s also true that some people in this situation are talking to the employer informally to see if they can persuade them not to offer them the job back; if they don’t offer it to you, you won’t be turning it down and your unemployment eligibility should be unaffected. That said, that’s not in keeping with the spirit of how this is supposed to work (unemployment benefits and the federal supplement are really for emergency situations where you don’t have other reasonable options), and they may say no since their loan forgiveness depends on preserving their pre-layoff headcount.

5. What’s reasonable for an employer to provide when you’re working from home?

Due to Covid, my employer is seeing that working from home is feasible (and I don’t disagree!). I am happy to see the company make changes that I feel are modern. I would, however, like to better understand what my company should provide for me outside of the standard computer and desk, now that I’m being moved into WFH permanently. I am also concerned about the fact that I live in a very small, one-bedroom apartment with one other person who is also newly working from home. Would it be reasonable for me to ask my employer to help me find and afford different accommodations?

In theory, your employer should pay for any costs incurred by you working from home (desk and chair if you need them, computer, printer, supplies, ergonomic equipment, additional data, better internet plan if necessary, etc.). In reality, employers vary widely in what they cover. Some will send you a computer and nothing else. Others provide generous stipends to cover whatever you need. I’d make a list of whatever costs you’re incurring and present it your boss — although if your company is not on the generous side, you might adjust your list to account for anything you’re saving as well (on your commute, etc.).

Generally, whether it’s considered reasonable to ask your company to help you find and pay for other accommodations — like renting a desk in a co-working space — will depend on how senior you are, how much standing you have, and what your company is doing for others (as well as for their reasons for making WFH permanent — if it’s to save money, they’re less likely to do it). But co-working spaces aren’t realistic in most locations right now anyway, so that’s something I’d wait a few months on regardless. (I’m assuming that’s what you were asking about and not whether you could ask your employer to help pay for a larger apartment. But the answer to that would definitely be no — and it would come across strangely to even ask, so absolutely don’t do that!)

can I Zoom from my patio, coworker is violating shelter-in-place, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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