I am a software developer at a small company located in NY (about an hour outside of NYC). I do not need to be in the office for my job, most of my communications with people is over Teams (messaging app) and the actual job duties are easily done from home.

My boss lets us work from home on occasion, if we are sick or for other reasons, but is not a fan of it. Friends of mine that work at other companies are required to work from home now due to the covid outbreak. I would like to work from home because I am concerned about people spreading the virus. My boss sent out an office-wide email about covid a few days ago saying if you are sick don't come in to work... (But by the time you feel sick from covid weeks may have passed where you are transmitting it to everyone in the office.)

Would it be reasonable to ask my boss if I can work from home until things calm down? Last time I asked my boss if I could work from home for a week to visit family they said I was 'asking a lot of them'. I don't want to get on their bad side but I feel like this is putting me and others at risk unnecessarily.


4 Answers 4


Its a reasonable ask, especially given the current situation. My current workplace is scrambling to setup remote access which was previous denied for "Security reasons".

Some Argument points you can bring up

  • If you do get sick you won't be able to work. You need time to recover
  • The more travelling and people you are around, the higher the chance of you being infected
  • Symptoms don't appear instantly so you could infect colleagues while not knowing your sick
  • No one is immune to the disease. If Tom Hanks can catch it, so can you
  • This is a special situation and is not expected to continue after the crisis is over
  • It could be worth it to frame it like an "opportunity" instead of a request though. Inform managers that you indeed have the opportunity to work from home, and proceed to explain shortly how you would do that and then arrive at the benefits (listed above).
    – Stian
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 7:36

I think it is reasonable to do so.

You can refer to this list of many tech companies relaxing their policies.


There's an extremely sobering article making the rounds today on Medium:


The author writes:

The coronavirus is coming to you. It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly. It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two. When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways. Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die. They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies. The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today. That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.

  • thanks, I will definitely refer to that list if I go through with it.
    – rhowell
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 23:33
  • 5
    Spreading an article designed to make people panic is not cool. I am sorry, an unnamed person making a claim that this virus will spread exponential, is not a expert on a virus like this
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 14:07
  • I do not agree with you. The article is not designed to make people panic. It increases awareness. Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 21:05
  • Some people need to know the harsh reality before acting. It's hard to create a article that will be suitable for all types of people. Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 8:50

It is a business risk to have all employees on site at the same time. This is not about you, it is about protecting the business. People are infectious 48 hours before symptoms and this can rip through an office and make all the critical employees so sick they are unable to work even from home, all at the same time.

There are legitimate productivity challenges to working from home. Be ready with plans to mitigate them, and consider accepting a compromise like being divided into 2 or 3 teams that rotate between on-site and off-site. This reduces density at the office, which in itself lowers transmission, and also (if done properly with no physical contact and strong cleaning routines) completely separates the teams so they won't all become unable to work at the same time.

Good luck, these are scary new normals and the transition is rough.


I'd prefer to ask forgiveness rather than permission, especially in this case.

Starting Monday, work from home. Send the boss an email with either of these strategies: - a quick one-liner that you're working from home for safety - that one-liner, and statistics for your area about why you should work from home to keep people from getting sick and dying. Tell him you have to bring groceries to Grandma every week if you want.

As long as your production does not suffer, he likely won't fight the issue. As a side note, many people are more productive when working from home. This can be a chance to prove that you are more valuable as a remote resource.

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