Where Logic Meets Love

Why I Dread Going to a Job I Love

Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Why I Dread Going to a Job I Love | Faith Permeating Life


It was 43 degrees when I left for work this morning. (That's 6 degrees Celsius for my non-US readers.)

It's September 15, and the cold season is starting. The season that lasts until, oh... April. Sometimes May.

Thus begins my annual hatred of going to work.

If you've been around since last winter, you know that the floor I work on is ridiculously cold in winter -- well, pretty much all year, because they blast the A/C in summer, but that's not as bad. Not the whole building, just our floor. (Something about "old buildings are hard to heat evenly.") To the point that I feel anxious all day long because my muscles never unclench.

What I have tried thus far:
  • Buying convertible mittens/fingerless gloves.
  • Wearing my coat all day.
  • Buying thermal underlayers, like the kind mountain climbers wear.
  • Drinking hot tea constantly. (Too much makes me sick, though.)
  • Filing multiple Building Services requests. (This has been tried for years by my co-workers, before I even started work there. Sometimes things are better for a day.)
  • Looking up the OSHA regulations. (They don't make any rules about office temperature, calling it a "matter of personal preference.")
  • Asking to work from home one day a week. (Not directly in conjunction with this, but in any case I only succeeded in securing one day a month because "otherwise everyone will want to do it.")
  • Buying an electric blanket. (Notice how much money I've spent on this??)

The last has been the most effective, but I still use it only as a last resort because of the comments I get. I honestly don't care if people think it's stupid and want to judge me as long as they don't say anything to me, but I hate having my work interrupted constantly so people can make jokes about my blanket. Also I'm technically not supposed to have it because of the electricity drain and the fire hazard. But I'm desperate here, people. Unfortunately it only keeps my legs warm, as I still need my hands for typing, so I have to make do with the gloves.

Here's the thing: I love my job. I love the work I do. I love the people I work with. I love the college I work for. Hell, I love my salary and benefits. I love almost everything about my job. And yet for six months out of the year, I dread coming to work.

It would seem silly to do it now, in September, but when we're farther into winter I think I'm going to have to lay it all out for my boss and see what he thinks we can do, because I'm out of ideas.

I hate that plan, though, because I know that everyone else is in the same position and has been toughing it out for longer than I have. But I'm also more sensitive to cold than most. The only other person on our floor who's as sensitive is our associate VP, but she can shut the door to her office and turn on her space heater if she needs to. She actually offered to lend me her space heater last winter when my fingers were turning purple.

Sure, I could probably get my doctor to say that I'm especially sensitive to cold, but again, I hate the idea that I would have to draw attention to myself as being special and needing special accommodations -- whatever those would even be. I have no idea.

I could ask to move onto a different floor in our building, but that would mean leaving the floor that the rest of our department is on. It would also be rather silly as my boss is just about to move back onto our floor after being on a different floor for the past year, and our division consists of just the two of us.

Eventually we will move to Seattle and escape the Chicago cold, but that's not in our plans for a few more years. And, as I said, I love my job and I'm not in a rush to give it up.


This is not meant to be a whiny, poor-me post. I am literally stumped. Is there a way I can keep my job that I love without being freezing every single day?

Anyone have a suggestion?


  1. have you tried one of those puffy north face coats? i hear those keep you warm no matter what.(then again, that's more money spent and north face is a fancy brand. plus, i don't know if a puffy coat is any more subtle than an electric blanket). it's an idea, anyway!

  2. @Hannah J. Holmes
    Thanks for the idea! Yeah, I'm hoping not to spend a lot more money on this if I can help it, especially if I'm not sure how much it's going to help. Also, the problem with really warm stuff that I actually wear (like the underlayers) is that I have a 20-minute walk from the train station to my work every day, so I end up sweating like crazy by the time I get there! But I will keep that in mind for next time I'm looking to replace my coat :) Thanks!

  3. I feel your pain...in my JV house we kept the heat at 60-64 which meant it was 57 in my basement room.

    Try bringing a thermometer to work so you can make your boss take you seriously.

    You could try wearing a hat...maybe a cute knit one that would just look like part of your outfit not so much that you are dying of cold?

    Also scarves are life savers for me. It's so important to keep your torso warm.

    Drink tea out of a thermos instead of a mug...it'll stay hot longer so you won't need to drink it all before it cools down. Also chamomile tea is good because maybe it's the caffeine making you feel sick?

    I have a microwaveable bean bag that when you toss under a blanket heats magically. Though maybe that would be weird for work (also its great for cramps).

    I've read somewhere...who knows probably in some chick magazine...that if you are getting cold easily you might not be eating enough iron.

    Try getting up and walking at least once an hour.

    Hot soups in a thermos for lunch.

    Cuddle duds are great long underwear...a little thinner than the stuff you mentioned probably, but definitely help.

    I'm sure you've thought of all this before, but as someone who lives in Montana, I literally feel your pain.

  4. I'm also an easily chilled person. Summer is worse than winter in my office, which is really irritating because of the wasted energy on top of the discomfort.

    I think it's vital to meet with your boss ASAP and explain what a serious issue this is for you. At the very least, you should not have to tolerate harassment about your electric blanket.

    Does your coat have a hood? Keeping your head covered is the surest way to stay warm. Wear a hat or tie a scarf around your head and neck.

    Silk underlayers are better than Cuddle Duds in my experience, especially because they don't get as smelly if you sweat in them! If you're finding that a garment is too warm for the walk to work, carry it in your bag and put it on when you get there.

    I use an electric heating pad on my feet. Because it's under the desk, people usually don't notice it. It works best with slip-on shoes so that, if someone asks me for something that involves my getting up, I can get my shoes on quickly and they don't notice.

  5. @Jackie @ Blueberries
    You are fabulous! Thanks for all your great ideas. I'm glad I'm not the only one with this experience!

    We do have a thermometer on our floor and have used it as evidence when filing Building Services requests.

    I will have to try the tea-in-a-thermos idea. Often my impetus for making tea is actually to keep my hands warm, but you're right that I tend to drink it quickly before it gets cold. It's funny, for someone who loves tea so much, I really only like one kind, which is the basic Lipton (black orange pekoe). My mother-in-law keeps buying me lots of kinds of tea for Christmas and I haven't had the heart to tell her that I don't like any of it! I also can't handle caffeine, so I drink pretty much only plain Lipton decaf.

    I used to be on iron pills regularly, but now I take a multivitamin with iron and my iron levels have tested well above normal on the blood tests I've had in the past year, so I don't want to overdo it.

    I was thinking last night that I should get up and move more. Once I've made my little nest with my electric blanket I'm loathe to move, but I have to go to the bathroom every hour or two (because of all the tea I drink!) so I could use those opportunities to run up and down the stairs a few times.

    Soup for lunch is a good idea. Believe it or not, I took soup in my lunch every single day from first grade through eighth grade. My poor mother actually got up every morning for years and made me soup on the stove to put in my thermos. I'll have to think about whether I want to get up even earlier to do that, or find an easy way to heat it up at work.

    Thanks again for sharing all of your ideas! You've given me hope that there's a way to make this manageable :)

  6. @'Becca
    Agreed about the wasted energy. I know that it's possible for them to heat our floor more, because it's happened on occasion, so if they're trying to conserve energy I wish they'd just turn down the A/C in the summer!!

    I wouldn't call the comments I get harassment. It's more like people will walk by and chuckle and say things like, "Wow, you must be really cold!" or "Haha, a blanket! Wow!" or "That's inventive!" It's just irritating to have to deal with the constant interruptions. I have a much worse problem with a particular coworker who interrupts me for all sorts of things, all year round, and my boss didn't really know what to do about that when I mentioned it.

    I do occasionally put on my hat and scarf. This draws more comments, like, "Oh, look at you, you must be freezing!" etc. etc. But it helps sometimes.

    Sometimes I change into my underlayers when I get to work so I don't get all sweaty. Unfortunately I lost the top underlayer last winter. If I decide to spend more to replace it, I'll look into silk underlayers.

    I love the idea of a heating pad for your feet. I often slip my shoes off to bury my feet in my blanket, when I'm wearing it. Maybe when I don't want to use the whole blanket I could just keep it on the floor for my feet. Good idea!

    Thanks for all the tips!!

  7. Our office goes through these "seasonal" changes as well. Today is the second day of wearing my Stevie Nicks shawl in the office. I also have two blankets and a fleece jacket on stand-by. My coworker often runs to the bathroom to run her hands under warm water, just to thaw them out a bit.

    Since you're the only one in the office who seems to be this sensitive...have you ever had your thyroid checked? That might have been done when you were having blood work before you got your hypoglycemic DX.

    What is it with people who just cannot SHUT UP and keep comments to themselves?? Really, people usually don't wear blankets/gloves/hats if they aren't cold. Just like when I broke my hand last year and constantly got asked if it hurt. No, it tickled, but thanks for reminding me. Jerks.

  8. @Rabbit
    I wish our bathrooms had warm water! That's a frequent topic of conversation on our floor during the winter, as it's miserable to wash your hands in cold water. Fortunately we have a semi-warm hand dryer.

    I have had my thyroid checked, and nothing seems to be wrong. I used to have the symptoms of Raynaud's--one or two fingers would turn completely white and numb, and my hands would hurt a lot whenever I came in a warm building after being outside. For whatever reason, that stopped happening by the end of college.

    It's hard to tell if I'm really more sensitive or just more of a wimp about it. My coworkers have been putting in facilities requests for more heat since before I got here, and occasionally they'll don coats and scarfs as well. I just seem to put on my coat sooner, and when they've got coats on, that's when I'm using my electric blanket. There was one guy who worked in our department for a short time who seemed even worse off than me--he pretty much never took his coat, hat, or scarf off.

    I don't know why people feel the need to make comments. I guess they feel the need to acknowledge everything they see that's out of the ordinary :P

  9. Brrrr! I'm so sorry to hear how cold it gets. I always keep a scarf in my office to wrap around my neck, and agree that I make tea at work more to warm my hands than to drink (what's up with academic admin areas being freezing, anyway?). I also will go and run my hands under warm water and stand for a full cycle under the hand dryers if I'm really cold. I hope this winter is better? If anything, I don't think it's supposed to be as cold for those of us in the midwest, so hopefully that'll help!

  10. @Laura
    Thanks for your comment and sympathy! Part of me is glad I'm not the only one in this position, and part of me is thinking, How is it that so many employers can put their employees through this?? Isn't it understood that your employees have to be relatively happy to want to keep working for you?

    I hope you are right about this winter not being that bad, although I think temperature changes become moot at a certain point. If the winter temp is usually around 10 degrees, then even 20 degrees warmer won't make a huge difference! Ah, well. Such is my punishment for still living in Chicago :)

  11. Sadly, employers don't care. Everyone here complains about the chill and nothing gets done. I subscribe to the philosophy of "happy employees will stick around longer" but apparently, not many others do. A friend of mine worked at a place where she was always cold, but her coworkers were all 50/60 year old women, going through menopause. :P

  12. @Rabbit
    I subscribe to the philosophy of "happy employees will stick around longer" but apparently, not many others do.
    Strange, isn't it? I wonder if that's because it's a seemingly newer concept; my impression is that it really took hold with tech companies like Google.

    her coworkers were all 50/60 year old women, going through menopause. :P
    Yeah, thankfully I'm not in that position, or I'd really feel like I was the lone cold voice!

  13. How miserable! The only specific advice I can give is to focus on your head - fingers can feel cold quickly, but since you lose so much heat through your head, it makes a big difference if you can wear a hat regularly. (And if it's frequent enough, maybe you'll pass through to the other side of the 'must comment on the unusual' gauntlet! You'll still be The Lady With The Hat(s), but hopefully the title will supplant the need for daily comments.)

    As for the conversation with your boss, I don't have personal advice to offer, as I've always worked for small organizations/ departments, and the person with the authority to change things was always a small # of layers away. If you have a good relationship with your boss, documenting everything that you've already done, then going to him sounds like a good plan. I'd recommend having your 'proposal' ready of specific ideas you want to try (having the dept buy you a nice space heater, meeting with the facilities dept to see if there are infrastructural changes that can be made, working from home more often, etc.). Not an easy conversation to initiate, and I wish you luck!

  14. @alice
    You make a really good point! Maybe if I just bundle up every day, people will get used to it and not feel the need to say something all the time. Great thinking! :)

    I like your idea of having a proposal ready for my boss. He's never managed anyone before, as far as I can tell, so his instinct is always to go to his supervisor to ask about things. The more concrete requests I have, the less likely they are to get jumbled up when they go through him.

  15. Some ideas: make sure other floors are closing their heating vents (though some people will say this is a bad idea...?), and keep yours open. If you have windows, make sure they're well-insulted (double pane windows, or add some plastic to make sure you're not losing heat).

    I used to be colder at work, and had a space heater for my feet. What I found though, is that I got a little dependent on it, and when I didn't use it, I was so much colder. I actually weaned myself off it, and have tried to acclimate my body. Though your case sounds more extreme than this, maybe try to wait as long as possible to add the extra layers.

    But when your fingers and nose are cold, then you've got to warm up the body. For me, if my feet and head are cold, then my whole body is cold. The heating pad under the feet is good. You might also try one of those neck-heating pads that is just rice. You can microwave it and wrap it around your neck. You can work with them, and they're very soothing. You can make one cheap too. A quick google search found this one: http://www.chronicbabe.com/articles/12/ (no affiliation to me, what-so-ever, but it gives you a good idea).

  16. @Anonymous
    Thanks for all your suggestions! The windows are definitely a problem--we've got huge windows all the way around our floor, and we know they're not sealed properly because last summer they did some construction and a bunch of dust got in the building. But so far Facilities hasn't done anything about it--I think they'd probably have to replace all the windows, and that would be a huge job because there's so many of them and they're so big.

    I know what you mean about not wanting to be dependent; I think that's part of the reason I'm reluctant to use my electric blanket when I need it. One thing that I try to keep in mind is this comment 'Becca left a long time ago, about how her partner reminds her that she's not doing any good by suffering needlessly. I have spent many, many years being cold--in school, at home, at work--and I've never gotten used to it, so I think I'm better off just making myself as comfortable as possible. It's still something I struggle with, though.

    I have one of those heating pads because I used to have neck problems--I didn't think about using it to stay warm! Excellent idea.


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