Help! I sneak to my office. Is that so wrong?

Dear OOO,

I sneak into my office – which is not illegal; I follow the company protocol and do it safely. But most of my colleagues have not been approved to go in, and I know some of them would like to. The secret is that I’m pretty happy to be away from it all. I tell my family members that I am going to use the ‘better’ equipment. I can try to get my colleagues to plead in the office too, but I like being here alone, and I’m afraid that if I draw attention to the fact that I’m going here, the company will break my access as well. Should I feel bad about this?

-Anonymous

As much as I enjoy judging people’s life choices, I’m pretty poorly equipped to tell you what to feel bad about, Anonymous. I toss and turn at night and regret all sorts of things I did or did not do, or just considered doing; the vast majority of things are things my friends have already told me are too trivial to deserve further consideration. Humans as a species are very bad at applying rationality to their own emotions. Not to undermine my own authority, but I’m skeptical about how much effect I can have on your debt.

And you clearly owe it here. You do not mention specific colleagues, but I suspect you have one or two in mind that you know could really use a break from their own families. You may even feel that some of these people deserve the escape more than you do – because their homes are smaller or their children harder.

The feeling, I can definitely tell you, is a lie. I do not care how much you love your job – work should never be your escape, and any suggestion to the contrary is a ploy of capitalism from the pandemic era. People do not have to earn a break from work or home or anything they weigh. Suffering in the Covid era is not a competition, and literally everyone needs time, not even from the family members they love very much (not to mention the rest of them).

So let me suggest that your sense of shame about storing office privileges for you is less about the office itself and more about not having a real escape, one with no responsibilities or bosses or corporate rulebooks. Can you take a week off and rent a cabin in the woods yourself? Can you take an afternoon vacation and go for a walk, then you can enjoy an afternoon nap and a delicious meal? Taking time for yourself these days is more than ever before, but I would think that it is also more important.

But back to the real content of your question: you do not have to feel bad about wanting time alone, but slamming the office door behind you is not very sporty. However, as with so many aspects of life under a pandemic, this problem is actually about the system, not about individual choices. To be ashamed of being a little (understandably!) Selfish is pointless; the real problem is that your employer does not have good procedures in place. Tell someone involved in your company’s Covid Task Force (or whatever they have) that you’re not sure the rules apply the same way, and that you suspect that people on your team sometimes want to leave the office work. It is their problem to solve or at least explain. You can even suggest a system where people can save time getting alone. Then serve for a week.

Dear OOO,

I must definitely decide if it is acceptable to eat on Zoom calls. I feel weird doing this, but it doesn ‘t seem like one of my colleagues, and I really hate pushing my lunch back when I meet for lunch. Should I bravely chew on video?

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