Given the recent statistics and information regarding CoVID-19, I find myself worried I might be exposed due to working in a big place with over 500 workers in the office with many of them traveling for business (not the top exposed places, but exposing themselves all the same). For my job there is no actual need to be present in the office as the company provides everything (hardware/software related), senior+ are allowed home office and I can absolutely do what's expected from me at home, since I'm coding for another country.

Should I, and if so, how can I approach HR or a manager and express my desire to work from home to avoid further exposing myself without coming off like paranoid / being laughed at?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Mar 9, 2020 at 21:00
  • I think a geographical indication might be useful here. Where I work (Belgium) home-office is still mandatory by law. Not sure if other countries have similar laws in place, or less formal "strong recommendations", but that could help you plead your case maybe.
    – Laurent S.
    May 4, 2021 at 20:46
  • Luckily we were given home-office shortly after this post! Thanks for your comment May 4, 2021 at 20:54

5 Answers 5


You mentioned

  • In your organization it's allowed to work from home (what you mention as home office),
  • You already have the setup (HW + SW) required to work from home
  • and, you have a very valid reason for asking to utilize that option.

You need not worry about what others may or may not be doing (ex: taking the required precautions, following the safety protocols etc).

Should I, and if so, how can I approach HR or a manager and express my desire to work from home to avoid further exposing myself without coming off like paranoid / being laughed at, because nobody seems to really care about this issue (which seems insensitive to me)?

Reach out to your manager / superior and seek permission to continue to work from home and keep HR looped. As simple as that. Maybe they're not proactive to inform (or mandate) everyone to work from home, but I do not see any reason for someone to laugh at a sincere request - more so in the recent scenario.

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    You might spin it as you want to get the project done and working from home will be of less risk to the project. Mar 10, 2020 at 0:04
  • @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil OK, that makes sense. Updated. Mar 10, 2020 at 6:13

As someone who recently asked to switch to remote working full time - I know asking can seem daunting.

Your manager is probably the one to ask so set up a face to face if they are available soon but if they are away or busy all afternoon an email will probably do (case by case basis).

No need to worry about everyone thinking you're being paranoid or over cautious and no need to explain yourself. What you've said in this question is absolutely vaild so I would say:

Given the recent statistics and information regarding CoVID-19, I find myself worried I might be exposed due to working in a big place with over 500 workers in the office with many of them travelling for business. Since there is no need to be present in the office to complete all my current tasks, please could you grant me permission to work from home until the risk of infection has passed?

If you do do a face to face, just ensure you follow up with an email (paper trail) saying something along the lines of:

As per our recent meeting, [insert similar paragraph here]. As agreed, effective immediately I will be working from home.

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    Thanks, the written part is essential to keep track of the decision. Mar 9, 2020 at 16:52
  • @celius yep, can never be too careful!
    – Gamora
    Mar 9, 2020 at 16:54

Should I, and if so, how can I approach HR or a manager and express my desire to work from home

Yes, that's perfectly okay to ask.

However, I would make this less about "you" but ask specifically for guidelines and rules that cover the entire company. Many companies already have specific policies in place (travel restrictions, encourage work from home, etc.). If you can find a few publicly available examples or some recommendations from an official source, you can make a much stronger case. You want to come across as "constructive" and as looking out for "the best of the company"


This is a business continuity issue. Some of the other answers are focusing on how to approach the idea of working from home for yourself, but that isn't the real problem here.

You say your company is a relatively large organisation, and it has in-house IT (you, and your department). Therefore it will have someone in charge of disaster recovery and business continuity already working on this. They have probably done or are currently doing a risk assessment. So far they haven't determined the risk to the business very high, but that might change.

The overall risk is not only to you, or your coworkers, but to the business (and in the wider sense the overall economy). Let's play this through, from the view of the company.

Assume half the staff gets ill. They don't have to be seriously ill, just unable to work. If 250 of 500 people can't go to work, chances are the company will not produce any products or services in that time. SLAs with customers will not be fulfilled, leading to penalty payments. Customers will leave. If there is production, machines need to be stopped, which is costly (think car factory). All the running costs, in particular salaries and buildings and things like this will still have to be paid, but there is no revenue. That means the company will lose money fast. And with its liquidity it will lose the ability to pay your salary. You will lose your job, and the company will fold.

A recent example of this already happening is Flybe, where CoVID-19 has been named as something like the last drop (credibility of this source unclear).

Now what does that mean for you? It's hard to say. The risk assessment isn't your job, but you can take precautions.

No-one will blame you for voicing your concerns in this situation, even if that is not part of your job. If you have already got infrastructure in place to work from home, use it. They are likely not going to question you. In particular if your commute involves busy public transport, there are lots of good arguments to not go to work. The main argumentation is not to keep yourself from getting sick, but from spreading the virus (or other illnesses that someone else might contract in addition to the virus because their immune system is weakened) into the office.

My suggestion is to ask your manager about business continuity plans. Looks at what companies around you are doing. If you have a spouse you live with, has their company sent everyone home? These are good arguments to give them.

Your company's business continuity team might be well prepared and currently executing risk mitigation, or it might not. In either case, they will appreciate that some people are aware and conscious of the situation.

  • Thanks for your answer. really well and clearly explained throughout. Mar 10, 2020 at 12:01
  • As you very well explained, luckily for me and my wife we're not in the highest risk factor, however we do regularly meet with our parents who actually are in an elevated risk factor. It's about civic duty too. Mar 10, 2020 at 12:10
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    @CeliusStingher that's not what I meant with risk here. I was talking about risk from the company's perspective, in terms of risk to the company taking damage and being unable to operate. But I fully agree. I was just at a conference and refused to shake people's hands. Not everyone liked that, but it's the least we can do to keep everyone else and ourselves safe in my opinion.
    – simbabque
    Mar 10, 2020 at 13:25

In addition to you taking care for yourself right now, I’d try to convince the company to make sure that as many people as possible can work from home if the situation gets worse, just to be prepared. Which it very likely will.

Edit, May 2021: Our company in the UK has been working from home almost exclusively since end of March 2020. There was a flurry of phones, backup drives, monitors etc. being sent out, but that was over two weeks only. We are doing just fine, the work is getting done. There was a short phase last year where every group would meet at the office for one day every two weeks, and we may be going back to that soon. No plans to return permanently to the office. We don't have space anymore for everyone, company had planned to rent more office space but that has been put on hold permanently.

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