Q: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m stuck at an office manager job I was already planning to quit. I had forced myself to stay a full year at my friends’ urging, only to have all hell break loose in 2020.
Teleworking has been helpful during this time, because the long daily commute was killing me. But working remotely has exposed the things I dislike most about my job: lack of leadership, unclear lines of responsibility and general disorganization and dysfunction.
Since we’ve been teleworking, I’ve been the only one answering our office’s main phone line for four solid months, because it has to be forwarded to someone’s cellphone. I turn 50 soon; I don’t want to be head receptionist anywhere.
Also, pandemic or not, this full-time job has always had a part-time workload, which was another reason I wanted to leave. At least now, instead of sitting around my office doing nothing for large portions of the day, I’m hanging around my apartment where I can do laundry, read, watch endless COVID-19 news coverage, etc.
My original plan was to resign in good standing and return to the service industry for a bit, but then the service industry collapsed. With the high unemployment rate and a desperate need to keep my health insurance, my revised goal is to leave by the end of this year. But I’m battling the urge to just run out the door.
A: Keep battling that urge. Even if this job is not your preferred situation, it’s a better option now than joblessness, especially for workers in your age bracket.
I get it: Cultivating patience and gratitude is hard enough when you’ve chosen to stay in a job you don’t care for. When the choice has been taken out of your hands, it’s nearly impossible.
And yet, your letter has a whiff of helpless inertia about it. You stayed at the lackluster job because your friends urged you to. The pandemic slammed the exit door in your face and nailed shut the service-industry window for good measure. You’re trapped; you have no other options.
Except you do. Even if you’re not the one calling the shots, you may be able to suggest or quietly implement some changes that will make your workday a bit more efficient and tolerable. Maybe you could let reception calls go to voicemail, where you check and respond to them twice a day, instead of spending the entire day on alert in case a call comes in. I can’t be the only one who’s encountered “Due to COVID-19 …” voicemail greetings. As long as I get a response to my message within 24 hours, I’m fine with it. Assuming you’re not a 911 dispatcher, I’m assuming most of your clients would be, too.
More options: You have bonus morning and evening time when your commute is no longer sucking the life out of you. Your unfilled work hours no longer have to be spent performing busyness in front of your office mates; you can spend that time doing things that actively benefit you. In sweatpants, even. And to buy yourself even more time, I strongly suggest taking a break from COVID-Watch 2020.
How to spend that time? You don’t mention what you’re doing to prepare to leave by the end of the year, but you’ll never have a better opportunity than now to squeeze in a little job research, buff up your résumé or upgrade your skills out of your employer’s line of sight. If you’re lucky, “by the end of this year” could come sooner than you expect.
Of course, your inertia may be due to internal drag rather than external forces. You certainly wouldn’t be the only reader I’ve heard from who suffers from depression presenting as apathy — or anxiety disguised as frustration. You have options for dealing with those, too. If none of the self-care strategies discussed last week in this column can help nudge you a few steps forward, some online sessions with a professional could come in handy.