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Work-at-home woes: Dealing with an oversharing boss, unexpected cutbacks

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | Alaska Workplace
  • Updated: March 30
  • Published March 30

Q: My supervisor, who’s also working from home, calls me several times a day. The calls always start out being work-related but then she starts talking about her kids or other personal matters I’m not interested in.

This isn’t how she behaved at work. There, she was all business, and so at first it was kind of cool that she got into this relationship stuff. Now, her calls creep me out. I don’t want to know so much about her. I’m scared we’re wasting time and our department won’t be profitable and our jobs will be on the chopping block. I’ve tried to politely get her to stop, but she takes my attempts as if I feel she’s “hogging” our time on her stuff and so she asks me invasive questions.

At some point, we’ll all go back into the office and I can’t afford to tick her off. Why’s she doing this? How can I get her to stop?

A: Your supervisor, like many, may feel anxious and overwhelmed. She may be talking to make herself feel better. She may be trying to bridge the loneliness she feels now that she’s working from home instead of around others. She may be trying to reassure you that she values you and not realize she annoys you.

Your best bet? Be honest without being insulting. Say, “I worry when we spend on non-work matters, because I know our department needs to keep our productivity up.” If she’s chatted for a few minutes, say, “Well, I need to get back into that report so I can send it to you before noon.” If she asks you a question you don’t want to answer, you can say, “That’s pretty personal.” In other words, remind her to flip her work switch back on.

Q: I never thought I’d miss going in to the office, but when one of my coworkers got sick 10 days ago, the rest of us got sent home and told to work remotely. We all carted home our laptops or work stations. At first, it was kind of like a holiday, but I didn’t get anything done and found myself obsessively reading all the news websites.

Last Monday, I was told I’d be paid full-time until the end of the pay period, but that after that my hours would be cut in half. My wife is exempt and will be bringing home her full paycheck, so we’re going to be fine, at least as long as her employer keeps her on board.

But I’m freaked out and not getting anything done. I’m getting on my wife’s nerves and she expects me to shoulder more home duties because I won’t be pulling in a 40-hour-a-week paycheck while her work load has actually increased. How do I make this work?

A: You’ve had your week of freak out; now you need to make a plan. You can actually get a lot done from the solitude of your home and in your other 20 hours you can do some of the personal things you’ve longed to do.

Start your plan with a schedule. If you normally got to work at 8 a.m. after leaving your house at 7:30 a.m., you can take advantage of the fact that you’re eliminating your commute time and start work at 7:30, knowing that you’ll be finished by 11:30. Or, you can indulge yourself and sleep a bit later, and start at eight.

Decide how you’ll use your afternoon. Thrill your wife and spend an hour a day on one or more of those home tasks that you and your wife formerly shared or that neither of you had time for. Can you be the one to cook? What if you tackled getting the mess in your garage organized?

Now, you have three hours a day to spend on something you’ve wanted to do but never had time for. Is there a new field you want to get into? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to be a paralegal; now’s the time to take an extension course. Could you learn a new software program and make yourself more productive, so that when your company returns to normal you can negotiate a raise? Is now the time to start writing that book you also said was in you?

Coronavirus handed you a problem; you get to pick the solution.