One co-worker consistently shows up noticeably sick. Consistently throughout the day, I hear coughing, hacking, nose-blowing, and throat clearing. This happens pretty much all day, in very short intervals.

It's gotten rather bad -- after a week I felt so irritated that I bought noise-cancelling high quality bose headphones just to cancel out. After that didn't work, I actually tried leaving the office completely and going to a local coffee shop with wifi just for a bit of peace and quiet.

Here's the thing: the employee in question does not necessarily need to be in the office. His job could be done from home, as he works largely on the computer.

I want to ask him to please just work from home instead of coming into work while sick. Is this an appropriate thing to do? Is there an appropriate way to do it?

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    FYI not everyone who works in a computer can work from home, you need to take into account if said coworker works with local files/intranet, and if your company allows vpns or remote connections – Just Do It Apr 28 '16 at 15:10
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    Which begs the question: Why don't you work from home, especially when you have sick co-workers? – GreenMatt Apr 28 '16 at 15:13
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    Reason for which I typed not everyone; it leaves room for those who can work from home. But you can't just assume or know he doesn't need to be in the office – Just Do It Apr 28 '16 at 15:13
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    Are you sure he's sick and it's not allergies? – Thomas Owens Apr 28 '16 at 15:14
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    If he's a coworker, it's not your place to tell him to go home. If it's causing you distraction and aggravation, bring it to your manager. That's what they're for, after all. – Wesley Long Apr 28 '16 at 15:17

I want to ask him to please just work from home instead of coming into work while sick. Is this an appropriate thing to do? Is there an appropriate way to do it?

If the two of you are friends, there are ways you can tactfully bring the subject up directly with them. Show concern for their well-being. Mention how you have been allowed to work from home in the past and suggest to your friend that they look into it too. Your friend will likely either explain why they can't or be grateful that you told them about this because they didn't know it was a possibility.

On the other hand, if they are a person you hardly ever interact with/talk to, the appropriate thing to do would be to discuss it with your manager and leave it up to them.


I have been a Human Resources professional for over 12 years. As a co-worker rather than a manager, there is nothing that you personally can do to change this situation. However, I think it is appropriate that you say something to them like "I understand that you are not feeling well and I'm sorry, but the coughing is very distracting. It is affecting my work. Could you perhaps excuse yourself to the washroom if it gets particularly bad, or is there something that your doctor could recommend? I hope you are feeling better soon, I know it is hard to be sick but still feel like you have to be at work."

That way, you are showing empathy not just complaining. I recommend having a witness nearby in case the situation goes south and the person decides to complain about how you handled it. If you don't want to go that route or if it doesn't work, then I recommend approaching your manager and explaining the situation. Say that you want to be considerate, but it is affecting your ability to concentrate on work. Then ask for their recommendation. If it continues for more than a few days, or is causing you to possibly miss a deadline, then approach your manager again. Make sure to document the situation, including what you did to try and resolve it Just in case...

  • @JoeStrazzere ...that you are not creating a hostile environment? – mkennedy Apr 28 '16 at 19:17

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