Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Since March, my employer has allowed people to work remotely. This was partly to help people with young kids at home. It’s also so people who aren’t comfortable in the office can have the remote work option.
Personally, I’m very grateful for this, and I’ve been very successful working at home. I’ve been able to better focus on projects, and I’m interrupted only a fraction of the time. I also feel like I’m doing my part to help get through this pandemic. I live alone, so distractions are not an issue. Working at home has also allowed me to live my healthiest life in years. I cook my own meals more, I work out regularly, and I take a walk almost every day.
My best friend constantly makes snarky comments about me working from home. She says I’m “taking advantage” of COVID, and there’s no reason a healthy person without kids needs to work remotely. She says things like, how many hours a day do you actually work? Multiple times has tried to get me to “admit” that my life is like a vacation. She makes comments about me getting to “sleep in” and get off work early. She points to my weight loss and social media posts about cooking as signs that I have more free time during the day.
I’m not sure where this is all coming from, but I know she hasn’t had the option to work at home. Maybe she’s jealous? I love her dearly and we’ve been friends since high school, but her remarks, criticisms and general speculation about my days are really getting to me. She knows I’m a hard worker and I’ve never been a slacker. I don’t want to make things worse or turn this into a fight. How can I get her to ease up?
It’s very likely that your friend’s micro aggressions have less to do with you and your productivity and lifestyle and more to do with her own. Maybe you’re on to something, and she too wishes she could work from home instead of venturing out every day. Maybe she’s had negative professional experiences with remote work. Maybe she resents your weight loss and healthiness as evidence that you’ve got spare time, when everyone else is jokingly — or actually — fending off the “COVID-19″ weight gain. The only way you’ll learn the source of her resentful sentiments is to ask.
One way to approach this is to begin the conversation by acknowledging your own bias: “As a person who’s shifted to working at home and has found it to be incredibly productive, I want to better understand how you feel about it.” Don’t accuse her of anything, don’t dig in and defend your way as the right way. Instead, launch a conversation that can give her space to share and allow you a chance to better understand.
We’re all burned out these days, and while everyone is dealing with the pandemic in different ways, belittling our besties shouldn’t be on the list of allowable coping mechanisms. If you’re not successful in curbing her pervasive verbal barbs and jabs, you should put some space in this friendship so you have room to breathe and can continue to flourish as best you can.
While I appreciate Wanda’s keeping-the-peace approach, I’d feel a little defensive right now if I was you. You’re working really dang hard at your job and on your health, making the best of an all-around lame situation. And your friend is working hard on hating you. Don’t hate the player, lady, hate the game.
I am with Wanda in agreeing that the root of her problem likely isn’t with you and your situation, but with her and her situation. She’s just taking that frustration out on you, with her own form of special humor, of course — “Oh, I’m just kidding!” I know you don’t want a fight, and this doesn’t have to escalate to big one, but you should let her know that her comments aren’t appropriate or even accurate, and that you’re just trying to get through this all, like her and everyone else.
Should you then try to be forgiving and understanding? Sure. She probably is really stressed in a workplace where COVID could be around every corner. And she’s probably more than a little jealous that you’re doing well and she isn’t. So after you show her exactly where the line is that she should no longer cross with you, tell her that you are happy to rearrange your walk schedule on occasion so you two can go together after work. You’re also willing to share some great recipes you’ve been cooking up. Heck, if you two are bubble buddies, get together on a weekend to cook and prepack some meals together; if not, do it over Zoom. It will make you both feel better, healthier and happier about the relationship and the crazy times we’re all trying to negotiate.