There are five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Companies that incentivize vaccines and return to work

My company provides a return to office incentive to pay for office supplies when you stay home or wardrobe updates when you go back to work. No receipts need to be submitted. It’s $ 1,000 which is no small amount. Have you heard of other companies offering similar incentives?

We also received a $ 200 vaccine incentive earlier this year, which is now increasing to $ 500, and if we qualify for the $ 200 we get the difference.

That seems incredibly generous. Since I’m smart, I suspect the company is trying to minimize the attrition from going back to the office. Any other thoughts on the reasons behind the generosity?

Yes, they are promoting the vaccine because it is in their best interest to have a vaccinated workforce that won’t die or kill others, and they give people who previously received the lower vaccine incentive the difference to this new one because they did want to be fair / don’t want complaints / don’t want people to wait for the possibility of an even bigger incentive later. Many companies offer vaccination incentives. Legally, they could just ask for a vaccination (with the usual medical and religious exceptions), but some companies believe they can get this done with less hassle.

They use clothing money to make it easier for people to get to work because it is good for morale; It’s something that nobody would expect from them but is very much appreciated and that builds loyalty and generally makes people feel better about a potentially difficult transition.

Paying for office supplies when you stay home is just a good thing – employees shouldn’t have to pay business expenses, and many employers have been far too happy to work from home to cover the company’s expenses over the past year (from Printer ink to shipping costs to physical work facilities that affect limited space in people’s homes). Your company sounds like it is doing this right (even if it should have come sooner!).

2. Drop your hair in a meeting (literally)

I am a cis woman who is blessed with an incredible amount of hair – so much so that I shave the bottom half of my head just to stay healthy. I have shoulder length hair and I always pull it back at work because otherwise I will lose SO MUCH hair on my clothes, workplace, paperwork, food, etc. (My doctor assured me that I have no disease, just LOT of hair.)

My problem is that after about 30 minutes the weight of this hair on my scalp becomes unbearable, whether it’s down, pulled back, braided, etc. There is no comfortable position for my hair. (I’ve cut it short before, but that doesn’t suit me, nor does it solve the hair loss problem.) I often have to keep my hair out of its bun or ponytail in the middle of a meeting just to relieve the scalp pain. However, I feel like touching hair in the workplace is a strange, intimate affair, and the image of a woman letting her hair down has long been sexualized. Do I think about it or is it generally considered unprofessional to touch one’s hair in front of colleagues? Any tips for dealing with uncomfortable hair adjustments at work?

As long as you lower it in one quick motion of a few seconds and don’t follow it by running your fingers through your hair, shaking it out, or suddenly being accompanied by a dramatic wind, you should be fine. (When you let your hair fall, it’s tempting to then rearrange it however it falls. Resist that – then you’ll get more distracting and not entirely professional – during a meeting.) But you have hair, you you have to move it so you don’t feel uncomfortable, it’s ok!

3. Co-worker listens to a service in a common room

I recently started a new job and work for a government agency. I started remotely and now we’re going back to the office. Our office is set up as a mix of offices, cubes, and common spaces, including a coffee shop that has a microwave, refrigerator, sink, and seating areas for lunch. There seems to be a culture where some people eat in their offices and others in the common area.

I noticed that one of our employees uses the lunch break to listen to a church service on the phone in the common room without headphones. The sound is quite loud and it’s easy to hear the sound of the service even when people are chatting. This feels awkward to me, mostly because I notice that some people seem to be ignoring it and some people (who are new to the office) feel like they have to whisper, especially during the prayer part. I think they are trying to be respectful, which is nice but shouldn’t be necessary as they should be comfortable speaking at conversational volume in the canteen.

I am in a managerial role, but I do not oversee the person who listens to the services. Nobody complained to me about it, but I think it’s inappropriate in the common room. The person hearing the service does not have a private office and hearing them at their workplace would be more disruptive as they are facing the public.

Should I bring this to HR? Would it be appropriate to require / require them to use headphones? I’m still trying to figure out our office culture and the person listening is a long-time employee so chances are this has happened before.

Your agency could get into trouble trying to come up with one set of rules for religious matters and another for non-religious matters (e.g. allowing someone to watch a music video or sports game without headphones, but it is required for a church service) – but this is easily resolvable because no one should be listening in a common area something on her cellphone without headphones. I would approach HR from that angle – it’s disruptive, and yes, in this case it’s religious, which raises a number of problems of getting people to listen to religious content at work, but it really is that what is needed is a headphone mandate across the board to be respectful of everyone and to keep this space more peaceful.

4. The company is eliminating business email addresses and we need to create personal email accounts instead

I work for a contract agency and provide services to both schools and health authorities. My company has long had a 24-hour turnaround time for email and I’ve never had a problem with it. However, as our management changes, it has been decided that employees with company email addresses are a security obligation for the company and we will lose all of our business emails. We have been told to use Gmail or some other free service to create our own personal “work” email addresses.

I resist the thought that I will be expected to use email for communication and check it regularly as a prerequisite for my work, but I did not provide this resource. I also work * a lot * with and handle proprietary health information. Much of my business email communications, both internally and under our contracts, are subject to either FERPA or HIPAA. I have concerns about the legality and liability of using Gmail for these communications.

I’ve been pushing myself back with my supervisors who seem sympathetic and sharing these concerns, but I’m not receiving any updates and the email shutdown is imminent. There have been some group pushbacks, but most of my coworkers don’t use email the way I do (they work almost entirely at headquarters and I work mostly in the field) and don’t seem to be concerned about it.

what else can I do? I am considering refusing a private email address for work, but that would have a negative impact on my work, both from a practical point of view and from the perspective of a positive relationship with new management.

In what universe are personal email accounts more secure for the company than business accounts it controls? That’s … the exact opposite of how it should work. And you will lose access to these accounts if you leave them! Why why why? It’s annoying how nonsensical it is.

If you haven’t documented how doing this would violate terms in your contracts, you should – and if your company has a legal department, you can try getting that documentation there. You could also try building a case for why? you have to keep a work account instead of trying to change their entire plan, but … I feel like they don’t care. You will likely argue that you can comply with FERPA and HIPAA from a personal email account as long as it has the same restrictions; I don’t know enough about FERPA to know if that’s true, but either way you’re missing out on the bigger point they need to own their business emails. (And how do they make sure you follow these restrictions on the contents of the account when you are no longer working for them? Agggh, that’s ridiculous.) If they don’t move after that, there may be nothing more you can do but take this as a serious sign of your new management’s intuition. (But yeah, I wouldn’t flatly refuse.)

5. Ongoing interviews vs. waiting for an application deadline

I was curious about how you’d conduct interviews on a rolling basis while the job application is open, rather than waiting for all of the resumes to be submitted and narrowing them down from the overall pool of candidates. Do you think employers should be open about what method they use when posting a job?

I firmly believe that you should at least look through the incoming résumés and not give up the review until a few weeks later – otherwise you risk missing out on strong candidates who may have taken on another job while waiting. There may be outstanding people in your applicant pool that you would totally miss out on if you didn’t speak to them sooner. [That said, to do this well, you need a very clear idea of what the bar is and what “exceptional” looks like, so that (a) you’re not spending time on early interviews with candidates who won’t look as exceptional once the whole pool is assembled (although there can be still be value to that, including helping to define your bar) and (b) you’re assessing “exceptional” based on objective metrics and not “this person reminds me of me” or “they know my neighbor.”]

Not you need Disclose to applicants whether or not you speak to people on a regular basis, but it’s wise as otherwise some applicants assume they have time by the end of the application deadline to apply – and you could miss them if you end up get a job early. I like to add something like, “We are interviewing all the time. So if you are interested, we recommend that you apply as soon as possible. “



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