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I work in the United States, and despite the importance of social distancing in the workplace brought on by Covid-19, my direct supervisor last week explicitly forbade me to work from home. He feels the coverage of the pandemic is overblown and that things will return to normal in a couple of weeks.

I am concerned for my health and my loved ones, as I have a few high-risk family members that I see from time to time. I am hopeful to move to a "work from home" solution later this week.

A few additional context points:

  • My line of work can be done remotely, as a few other employees in our office work remote and have done so for a number of years.
  • The owner of the company has already sent out an email saying that if any of us feel uncomfortable working from the office, we can work from home
  • In my supervisor's defense (trying to give him the benefit of the doubt), we do have a small office of only 3-5 employees on a given day, and each of us has our own "quarantined" office space (i.e., our work space is not cubicles or an open office layout)
  • He told me that as long as he's coming into the office, I need to be there too.

I feel there are ideological differences going on here, as my supervisor and I have differing opinions on the role of government, and he's quite skeptical of the media portrayal of the pandemic. How to tactfully push back on his stance, appeal to the owner's previous email, or is there really nothing that can be done in this case?

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    Have any cases been reported in your region? The US is half a continent to itself. – user1666620 Mar 23 at 13:20
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    Yes: 9 reported cases in my county as of this morning. – Will Mar 23 at 13:23
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    @user1666620 As of last week every US state has reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. – Peter M Mar 23 at 13:56
  • @JoeStrazzere - yes, I can. I can opt to keep my private office shut, but we all share a restroom, break room, and printer/computer equipment. So I have to wipe stuff down constantly – Will Mar 23 at 14:17
  • Thanks, @JoeStrazzere - I should have made it more explicit in my original post. I am concerned for my health and my loved ones, as I have a few high-risk family members that I see from time to time. I am hopeful to move to a "work from home" solution later this week. I appreciate your feedback. – Will Mar 23 at 15:34
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In light of the current situation, I'd say, your (or any individual's) health is of paramount importance, and if anything can be done to ensure safety - it should be done.

Your direct supervisor may not be having the same mindset as the government / company owner / common people - but they need to follow the directives from the company owner (higher management).

I'd say- forward that email from the company owner to your superior, mentioning that you are uncomfortable working from office and would like to avail work from home. Let them respond in writing that they want you to come to office - where they are expected to mention a really good reason for defying the owner's guideline.

  • Unless there is a really compelling reason for you to go to office and
  • as you mentioned your work can be done nicely while working remote

I believe you should be granted to work from home.

He told me that as long as he's coming into the office, I need to be there too.

That's a very poor analogy and won't be accepted as a reason for asking you to come to office.

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  • I wouldn't say "I'm uncomfortable", I would say "It is dangerous to the health of myself and others in the company". – DJClayworth Mar 24 at 15:20

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