How to tell your boss you’re working from home because of coronavirus

Reporting for duty.
Reporting for duty.
Image: Reuters/Marco Bello
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As the coronavirus spreads around the world, public-health experts are encouraging people to engage in social distancing: The limiting of non-essential gatherings. And thanks to technology, many professionals can now work from anywhere with a laptop and a high-speed internet connection.

Yet some employees are finding themselves flummoxed by bosses who insist on working together in a shared office space. If you’re in this position and trying to figure out how to broach the topic with your manager, consider these templates from a few employees who have told their bosses gently and effectively that gathering in the office is, well, non-essential.

The highly reasonable request

From the regional director of external relations at a university, who shares an office with eight people:

I am increasingly concerned about the coronavirus given my asthma and [my 6-month-old son’s] medical issues. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I feel like I’m taking a risk with increased potential exposure to the virus in Cambridge. I would like to start working remotely.
I realize the University has not yet made a decision on this but I hope this is something you would consider accommodating given the circumstance.

Happy to talk this through with you.

Thank you,

The news-based nudge

From a brand director, to the cofounders of a 10-person startup with an office in a co-working space:

Hi, guys,

On behalf of our small LA team, I wanted to express my ongoing concerns around coming into highly-trafficked co-working space everyday.

Like many of us, I’ve been tracking the news daily and quite obsessively. I’m personally struggling with a lot of nervousness around the spread of COVID-19 and wondering if this is the right time to implement an optional work from home policy, as it’s a CDC recommendation at this point. All the news suggests we are just weeks behind Italy at this point; there are likely many cases we don’t know of.

I believe our dedicated team is fully capable and accountable enough to do our jobs remotely through Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and with the ease of our laptops.

Would you guys be willing to consider this, at least for the next two weeks, until we get more guidance from the CDC and WHO? Really appreciate your consideration, as I believe every effort we can make to practice social distancing, and help flatten the curve, particularly with a small team, is valuable.


The no-nonsense notification

From an engineer at a large global company to his manager, and his manager’s manager:

I would feel more comfortable working remotely for the next few days and reevaluating the public health situation at that time. I’ll be available by email, cell, and Messenger during regular working hours.

Take care,