what to do if your company isn’t handling coronavirus well

I am getting a lot of mail about coronavirus, and one common theme is employers who aren’t acting with any urgency at all — not having people work from home where they can, not canceling travel or events, etc. Here’s some advice if you’re in that situation.

One of the most effective things you can do is to band together with other coworkers and push back as a group. It is much harder to ignore a group of employees than one person.

Try peer pressure: cite the many large companies — Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and more — that have instructed employees to work from home. Point out that it’s not only socially responsible but also smart for business, and companies are making it work. Share the CDC guide for employers.

Talk about your company’s obligations to its workers, many of whom will be in higher-risk groups or live with people who are, but also, appeal to their own self-interest — if they let the virus spread in their workforce, far more employees are going to be sick and unable to work than if they take precautions now. Point out that it’s better to figure out arrangements now than to be in a mad scramble when things change in your area overnight.

If your company has said it encourages people to work from home but your own manager isn’t backing that up, talk to HR. While approving remote work might normally be up to individual managers, there’s a good chance that in this situation your company doesn’t want individual managers undermining its virus prevention efforts.

If your company hasn’t approved remote work for people whose jobs can be done from home and you are in a higher-risk group, say you need an exception. Talk to your manager or HR and say, “I am in a higher-risk group for coronavirus and will need to work from home until the government is no longer advising that higher-risk people distance themselves from groups.” Note that language — “will need.” You’re telling them, not asking. (In reality, they can still say no — but framing it as of course they’ll agree to let you follow public health recommendations will help.)

Use the same approach if you live with someone in a higher risk group.

If you can work from home and you’re choosing not to, please reconsider. There are many people who can’t work from home, and you’re putting them at higher risk by adding to the number of people they’re forced to come in contact with.

“Stay home if you feel sick” is not a good enough policy. The symptoms of coronavirus take four to five days to show up. Someone who comes to work looking and feeling well can transmit the virus. By the time someone feels sick, it’s too late; they will have already been infecting people.

If you’re job searching and are invited to interview in-person, it’s completely reasonable right now to ask to do it by phone or video chat. If a company isn’t open to that in these circumstances, that’s a serious red flag about them in general.

Be an ally to others. Insist your company take action even if you personally don’t feel at risk. If a coworker’s not getting something they need, add your voice to theirs. Advocate for paid sick time for anyone in your company who doesn’t get it. Push your employer to lift limits on sick leave, provide extra PTO, and generally make it as easy as possible for people to stay home. Ask about what your vendors are doing for their people. Tell your members of Congress you want more aid to affected workers, including people who can’t work from home, and people who won’t be able to pay their rent and mortgages because of income loss. And don’t make people feel they’re overreacting when they take precautions.

Also, for at least the next few weeks, I’ll be running an open thread each Thursday morning specifically for questions and information-sharing related to coronavirus and work.

{ 745 comments… read them below }

  1. Maria*

    My company is taking it semi seriously but my manager isn’t…. we’ve been hit hard by flu season already this year and even today there are STILL people, including her, who are showing up to work sick. “Oh, it’s just a cold, I don’t have *it* haha.”

      1. AnonyMs.*

        My boss is the CEO and our company is small. He took a business trip last week and said he would stay home today and tomorrow– and ONLY those days. Now he’s saying he’s going to stay home BUT he will come into the office to give virtual presentations. Everyone else can do “what they think is best.” I am appalled and frustrated and feel completely powerless. (I already WFH full-time so this doesn’t directly affect me, but I am just… no words.)

          1. AnonyMs.*

            I will try. I guess calling him and screaming that he should “STAY THE F*** HOME” wouldn’t be appropriate…

            1. NewbieMD*

              Actually, I think it is more than appropriate in this situation. Might not be the best way to continue your employment there, though! I’m sorry he’s behaving this way; sounds like a self-centered jerk.

            2. Duvie*

              Appropriate be damned! My daughter ended up having to do this. Her small company’s three manager-owners went to a conference in Las Vegas, then came back into the office because they “felt fine” and people were “over-reacting”. Apparently you could hear her shouting from the back of the plant, but the managers are now working from home and they brought a cleaning crew in to disinfect both plant and offices.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Well, what about ‘do what they think is best’ – does he really mean it? Even if not for himself, for everyone else? My job said that it’s the state, so we were able to take them up on it without consequence.

        2. Wing Leader*

          Yep. Personally, I am okay, but my husband’s cousin has pneumonia (he went to hospital and the doctor said he did not have *it*, but he’s still very sick). His manager told him he had to come to work anyway. With pneumonia.

          1. Observer*

            Well, someone THAT stupid and horrible is not going to handle a pandemic well. I mean, who tells someone with pneumonia to come in anyway, even without this going on?

          2. Hills to Die on*

            This totally pisses me off. What did your husband’s cousin do? Surely he can get a doctor’s note and not come in, right? He will end up in the hospital and probably worse if he went to work like that.

            1. Wing Leader*

              I think he told them he wasn’t coming in and they could deal with it, not only because of his illness, but his workplace literally had a Covid-19 outbreak just down the street from them.

              He works for terrible people and has been fed up with them for a long time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last straw and he ends up quitting soon. He won’t even get fired because as crappy as his bosses are, they know he is literally the only person in his department that does his job well and he’s a big reason why it keeps running relatively smoothly, so they know they need him. Which is why they insisted he come in, sickness or not.

              1. kt*

                Instead of quitting, then, may just telling them to shove it and not coming in for as long as that works out & he can have a cushion to find a new position is the answer. Sounds like he has room to maneuver in simply making things happen his way, and I wish him luck and health.

              2. Mama Bear*

                Pneumonia was the sickest my husband says he’s ever been. Your husband’s cousin is unlikely fit for work.

          3. Coffee Bean*

            What in the hell??? That is crazy stupid. This manager is putting your husband’s cousin ‘s health at risk as well as other employees. He/She is also at risk.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            That manager is nuts. He is literally endangering your cousin’s life. If you don’t slow down and rest with pneumonia, it can kill you. Having to come to work with it can be fatal.

            I lost three weeks of pay on a contract job because I had a “mild” case of pneumonia and my doctor told me to stay home. I did not even dream of trying to go in. My boss didn’t ask it of me, either. I slept most of that three weeks, when I wasn’t coughing.

            1. Alexandra Lynch*

              Yes, it can be fatal. I’ve lost two friends so far that way.
              Because they were in jobs where if you don’t work that day you don’t get paid, and in the one case she had a severely disabled child in a long-term care facility she was paying for, and so she kept going to keep the money coming in. I miss her.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I nearly lost a friend to it, he spent over a month in the ICU. He’s been left with weak lungs and at the moment is staying indoors.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                I started to WFH last week because of the problem, and I’m nervous every time I have to go out, because it left my lungs weaker.

        3. KK*

          In my world of former ToxicJob, when mgmt said “do what you think is best” always meant I still expect you in the office & you’re a chicken shet for staying home.

          1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

            Yes. My work keeps using the phrase “make smart personal choices” when referring to the county health department telling high risk people to stay home, but wasn’t willing to commit to any sort of plan to make that possible. They said we had to go in while closing to the public so that, “even if we can’t open the doors, we’ll be there for them.” Presumably to look at us through the glass?

            1. old curmudgeon*

              Or for the sake of “the optics,” a phrase that makes me want to hurl.

              We are getting very mixed messages at my workplace. Last week, we were getting urgent emails all week long to “check your secure fob!!! Print off these directions for accessing the network!!! Make sure you can connect remotely!!! Blargle-wargle-panic!!!!” I kept checking email all weekend expecting to find a directive not to bother coming to the office today, just to work from home.

              But no, what came out today was “well, if you REALLY feel that you need to telecommute, we can consider it on a case by case basis, and only if your supervisor, their supervisor, their supervisor plus the CIO all sign off on a five-page form that you must complete explaining in detail exactly why you need to telecommute, exactly when it will start, exactly the work hours you will follow, and exactly the date it will end. Oh, and be sure to describe how you will provide documentation to your supervisor to show that you are actually working and not streaming you-tube videos.”

              I took the hint, threw away my “work from home” folder that I had been preparing, and buckled back down to work. Screw it, there’s no getting out of this world alive anyway.

              1. Probably has corona*

                This was the EXACT experience had today with my own manager. Somehow I was approved after jumping through several hoops, but yesterday my coworker asked to work from home because she has severe asthma and he told her no. Yesterday we also got a sitewide email encouraging us to WFH. I’m appalled. Strength in numbers, my friends.

            2. Rationally Neurotic*

              Obviously, it’s so you can wave at them and then hold up a sign that says, “sorry, we’re closed!”

        4. Elenna*

          Ew. I would be so tempted to take “do what you think is best” seriously (whether or not he means it seriously) and be like “okay, I think it’s best to stay the heck away from you, so I won’t be coming in those days”. Probably not the best idea, but tempting…

          1. Sparrow*

            As soon as my supervisor started using that kind of language, I was like, “ok, bye!” I was planning to still come in for meetings but before that became an issue, TPTB decided everyone needed to work from home, period (thank goodness).

        5. Marthooh*

          “…do what they think is best”?

          Get a garage-door opener (with remote control!), a boss-sized dog harness, and some stout steel cable; Macguyver a keep-the-boss-at-home machine, like in 9 to 5. That would be best.

        6. kt*

          I’ve got the “do what you think is best” so I’m at home. That simple. This is the time to really lean in to the side of me that doesn’t process those nuances and take them at their word.

      2. Concerned Lady*

        What if the problem is HR? HR is not allowing telecommuting for those that can work from home. They don’t seem concerned at all with office prevention and containment, like its not a big deal.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Oh no! Totally agree with Alison – this needs to be shut down immediately. She has no way of knowing whether she has the virus or not since they’re not testing everyone. Ugh – your manager is disgusting, negligent, and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  2. Lygeia*

    My fiance’s company thankfully finally did announce this morning that they’d move to remote work for those who can starting tomorrow. But we discussed this weekend that if they hadn’t done that today, then he’d talk to his manager and use basically what Alison said because I am in a higher risk category due to a chronic condition.

    Luckily I am already working from home so at least my company was on the ball.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      That’s what we did too. I am workinng for the state – related to healthcare no less – so they have been awesome. I have been really concerned about my coworkers – especially my cubicle neighbor who has severe cardiopulmonary health issues. I have a child in school and a second job waiting tables, so I have been afraid to be around her. I personally have had pneumonia about 10 times and have sccar tissue om my lungs. I certainly don’t look sick but this could hit me pretty hard.

      But now I am working from home for a while and it’s a huge relief. Especially when you consider what will probably happen with my 2nd job soon. Driving an hour to work each way (or up to 5 hours a day depending on weather) is not in my budget right now – I don’t have the income to spend all that money on gas.

      1. allathian*

        Not to mention that if enough people either self-quarantine or are officially in quarantine, restaurants will be empty and waitstaff can expect to be laid off.

    2. I'm that person*

      I am so glad that I work for a company that takes this seriously. We have been WFH since the 9th and they just announced that everyone is getting an additional stipend to pay for corona virus expenses. There are a few people who have to come in for things that can’t been done from home and can’t be left for later and they are getting additional stipends.

      We have been told that we are not going back to the office until the end of March at the earliest and probably not until the end of April.

      1. KHB*

        My employer is similar, except our WFH just started today. We all get a couple hundred dollars extra as reimbursement for any extra expenses incurred. (I spent mine on a cheap IKEA desk and office chair.) The building is still officially “open,” and a few people are going in every day to handle things that can’t be done remotely, but nobody else is allowed access unless we have a “really good reason.”

        Our C-suite gets a lot of eye-rolls from me, but they were totally on top of this, and all credit to them for that.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Our governor shut down restaurants and bars to in-person business today, so I’m hoping it’s a wakeup call for my husband’s workplace, which has so far done the “wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, keep your workspaces clean” song and dance.

      1. Quarantini*

        Are you in Maryland, too? The governor here also issued an executive order banning groups of 50+ people from congregating anywhere. Seems like a lot of mid-sized and larger businesses in MD no longer have a choice, and have to allow employees to work from home if they can.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Kentucky. We haven’t had a 50+ exec order yet, but it’s coming, 100% guaranteed.

          1. old curmudgeon*

            Heh. Our governor issued that order, too. But state workers are still expected to show up in person unless we can prove that we really NEED to work remotely. There are a whole lot more than 50 people in my agency. Hell, there are more than 50 people in my quadrant of the building.

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              What constitutes a need? I live with someone older than 70. Would that be enough?

        2. Silly Goose*

          My company is doing the same. No guidance to telework even though many of us can, and active mocking of those taking this seriously has everyone afraid to ask questions or rock the boat. This is a company that claimed to truly care about its workforce but now they are showing their true colors.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My husband is currently working from home due to him telling his boss that while HES perfectly healthy; his wife (me) has multiple health issues and disabilities that put a high risk person at home.

      Husband unit is going a bit nuts at home all day though..I’m trying to teach the cat to do tricks to cheer him up.

  3. Veronica Mars*

    Alison, do you have any advice for companies who do not want to allow WFH for those who can because its “unfair” to those who’s work cannot be done remotely?

    Right now our company’s servers cannot handle 100% WFH, and there are many who’s jobs cannot be done remotely, so the answer has been to force everyone but people with children and risk groups to come in.

    1. Kramerica Industries*

      Do you work with me? Because my company did the EXACT same thing with forcing everyone without kids to come in. Thanks, I guess my own health doesn’t matter.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        They said its because of schools being closed / needing childcare. But that’s kind of worse? How are you supposed to work and take care of kids at the same time?

        1. Mama Bear*

          I think everyone needs to be really understanding right now. As a former WFH parent, I know it’s not always easy to field the kid and the work at the same time. We kept our kid in aftercare when she was little so I could work effectively. This is really hard and no one is going to be 100% productive. How are you realistically going to work your FT job, take care of kids, AND basically homeschool them? You won’t. Everyone needs to understand that reality.

          My company is going to update this afternoon, but one option being floated is an additional amount of PTO added to everyone’s bank for paid time off, especially if you have a job that’s not portable.

          1. Veronica Mars*

            I definitely get that these are extenuating circumstances. What I don’t get is the expectation that people WFH productively while caring for kids.
            Most people in my company have 4+ weeks paid sick leave but the company has been really quiet about leveraging that as an option, and is still requiring approvals for sick leave over a week.

          2. Artemesia*

            My daughter has her 10 year old baby sitting her 2 year old for a few hours during the day so she can do conference calls and meetings with clients on line which is pretty tough to do with a toddler needing supervision — she can then do some of her work at night when her husband who is WFH but has to be ‘on’ 9-5 can then manage the kids. But she needs 2 or 3 hours where she can do on line meetings etc. They are paying the kid to babysit and it is only part of the day. Kids do well when they are important and really needed, so people with kids old enough to be real help with younger siblings might consider this.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          Everyone should be home right now, kids or not. These are different times. For the short term it really doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter if you have to deal with your kids while working.. Everyone is going through the same thing and it’s NOT business as usual.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s ludicrous. Point out that’s making it more likely that more of their workforce will be sick, and that they’re better off lowing the risk wherever they can, even if it’s not across the board. Would they want everyone out with the flu versus only some people? You should also point out that even the federal government has switched to “if you can telework, you should.”

        1. Amykins*

          Another thing to point out – your company would actually be making it SAFER for those who are forced to come in by insisting that everyone who can telework stays home. Flattening the curve will save lives across the board, and if there are less bodies in the office, those are less potential vectors of infection for the people who don’t have the ability to telework.

          1. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

            This, sure some might have to come in, but if that leads to the people who do have to work not seeing another coworker all day long, and also not inhabiting space where others were earlier that day/later that day, they are “at work” but at not much (still some) increased risk for being there, since basically they are there alone.

          2. Veronica Mars*

            Whats a little tougher with this argument for us is that its by department. So while one work area may be completely empty, another would still be at capacity.
            But obviously it would still help with the hallways we walk in through, the cafeteria, etc.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              It would certainly be more ideal if the people who had to come in were more spaced out, but anything that reduces the total number of people bringing germs in and out of the building is a good thing for everyone including those who are still at the office.

            2. Tau*

              Depending on what the department does, would it be possible to spread into the now-unused space? So that some people work from the empty desks of department A, some from department B, and some in their original space?

              My own work is capable of going 100% remote and has, but I’m staying with my parents and for them it’s trickier. I’ve heard a lot of talk about max one person per room and dividing essential teams into separate groups that have no contact so that one testing positive won’t end up with all of them in quarantine.

        2. DyneinWalking*

          My boyfriend’s company (not in the US, but US-based) has ordered everyone who can to work from home. Like yours, there are some who CAN’T work from home, and they are still coming in. But, as the others have pointed out, they are safer if everyone who can stays home. In addition, there are now rules for lunch – you can’t have lunch everywhere anytime in the cafeteria, there’s now areas and lunch times assigned by groups. Basically the point is to minimize human contact as far as possible without shutting everything down. Part of this is keeping groups of people separate, like with the new lunch groups. Having everyone who can stay home would be so, so helpful at this time.

      1. J*

        “If you can telework you should.” Sorta. OPM has issued guidance that agencies in some localities ought to get their telework-eligible employees telework-ready and then allow them to work remotely. But agencies are under no obligation to do so, and indeed many have not. My agency t has at least one confirmed case, yet we all continue to report to work. My husband’s has a confirmed case, and their telework-ready employees are being encouraged but not required to telework. It’s really a disaster.

        The federal government’s completely lackadaisical attitude towards its own workers’ well-being is both scary for those of us who work for it as well as making the recommendations that private employers support remote work feel rather hollow.

      2. Roseclef*

        This isn’t true across the board of all federal government. I have a VERY front-facing job (I interacted with 1600 people, plus all their families and friends, up to at least 3K, just last Monday) and in our office we are Business As Usual – all the workforce is coming in as usual, and all the appointments are as usual but with no-fault rescheduling for people who don’t come. In fact, we just had to cancel a big public event, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because both the original and the backup venues canceled. It’s like everybody around us is doing the right thing, but we can’t…. quiiiiite…. see our way to doing the same.

      3. Maeve*

        My job is saying the same thing–no one can work from home because not everyone can work from home (a lot of our employees are in customer-facing positions). So I have to get on a bus tomorrow even though I could easily do my whole job from home.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      What Alison said. My manager has been pointing out that the fewer people who come in, the fewer to bring germs to those who are physically on-site.

      1. Kate R*

        My thoughts exactly. Allowing anyone to WFH does lower the risk across the board even if some people still have to come in. Less people in the office equals less chance of exposure.

    4. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Talk about minimizing risk for those who must come in. The fewer people coming in to the work building, the less potential exposure.

      It’s about spreading everyone apart as much as possible. (If I could get rid of half my coworkers and still had to come in, I’d definitely lobby to stagger our workstations so we’re not all clustered in one cube row 4 feet apart.)

      1. Eleaner*

        Along these lines, I really liked the “The one who stayed away saved all the rest” photo. It really simplifies this message, and hopefully gets it through!

      2. Miso*

        We usually have 2 person offices and actually got told today that we have to do whatever possible so there aren’t two people in one office anymore.

    5. Just J.*

      Our office is implementing a rotating WFH schedule. We have the same issues of not everyone has a laptop, not everyone is doing work that can be done from home, etc. But we do want to do social distancing.

      Can you push back with something like this?

      We are also being smart enough to realize that our productivity will take a hit. We have decided that the health of our employees is way more important.

            1. Mimi Me*

              Our janitorial vendor usually comes in at the end of the day, three times a week. My company just upped it to every day, twice a day. They will be coming in daily for two hours in the middle of the day just to disinfect. We’re a very small branch (10-12 people) of a giant healthcare company so we’re all really doing our part on keeping things sanitized on our own, so this is an extra layer of protection. :) It makes me feel really good.

            2. Beyond Anon*

              Let me tell you about my workplace, a large university. The cleaning, which was never stellar to begin with, got cut way back in the 2008 recession. They contract it out to hourly workers. At best they empty trash every other day and maybe wipe down tables or vacuum twice a week. If we are lucky.

              This thing hit and our university still refuses to pay for increased cleaning efforts.

              It’s been extra fun.

              1. old curmudgeon*

                My state agency figured out the solution to that. The head of procurement scrounged up about 50 spray bottles of Clorox cleanser and a bunch of paper towels. He stuck one spray bottle and one roll of paper towels in each conference room next to a sign saying “Cleanse all surfaces before leaving the room.” Problem solved – make those dirty, lazy workers clean up after themselves!

              2. I'm just here for the cats*

                Wow I work at a university and it’s the opposite. They don’t become like I wish they did but starting g last week the cleaning people were going around to office and wiping door handles, lightswitches, etc. I hope your school changes their tune!

              3. Curmudgeon in California*

                At my university they gave me a little tiny trash bin for my open plan desk and told me it was my job to empty it nightly, and anything like food scraps I had to immediately take to the kitchen. It would add up to 15 to 30 minutes of janitor work per day (hint: I make a crappy janitor.) Needless to say, I empty it once a week, and let shit stack up. Why would I be more fastidious at work than home?

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Do you have any ideas for “equitable” distribution of WFH? That’s the other big barrier at our company – the servers can’t handle us all being on VPN at once.

          We’ve talked about suggesting staggered WFH hours.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            We just got an email from my employer about the VPN (all people with the ability to WFH were directed to do so as of Friday and even before that they were encouraging WFH for those who are in the high risk group and pushing all larger group meetings to virtual) since with so many people working they are having license issues. We have been asked to log in, grab any files we need and save them offline to work on them. Its not ideal but going OK – luckily my area has dedicated licenses since we are essential and work with a lot of confidential information so I don’t actually have to change anything since no one else could use my license anyway.

              1. Ashley*

                I am emailing files to a co-worker who would normally come in sporadically due to vpn issues. Sometimes it is who needs it more. (And setting up some people at home is a tech nightmare for small outfits.)

            1. Ranon*

              Also they should buy more licenses! If the infrastructure is already there adding more licenses to the existing setup should be honestly pretty darn trivial.

              1. Ralph Wiggum*

                Also, push the vendor to provide additional licenses temporarily. It’s good PR for them.

          2. 404UsernameNotFound*

            That’s what we’re doing at my company – half of the office are WFH for the next 2 weeks, then the other half are WFH, on a rotational basis until this blows over. The groups were decided based on a) an even split of employees, and b) who already had WFH capabilities (group 1) versus those who still need setting up (group 2). Perhaps something like that will reduce the strain on the VPN?

          3. Mrs_helm*

            As an IT person I can tell you that staggering hours SHOULD work. :) I was about to suggest it!

          4. Keymaster of Gozer*

            What we did with a situation years back when we had a massive surge in people working from home (due to terror attacks) was to have a big (virtual) meeting of the IT department and any suggestions were heard. The managers literally let the technical staff have free rein.

            We: repurposed several low use servers as VPN boxes, set up new file servers for document storage (IT literally built some from spare parts!) and did some quick and dirty developments on some applications so they’d work offline and only need to occasionally connect to download/upload changes.

            I personally consolidated our inventory of licenses so that we had enough (they were per server but people had been installing them willy nilly), that was my contribution.

            Priorities for remote connection were given to those who needed an always on line. Everyone else was asked to dial in only when needed. We removed any and all software patch downloads from the schedule so we didn’t have to deal with thousands of connections trying to download windows updates etc. (All software pushes were handled by a central server).

            A lot of this was done in a ‘quick and dirty’ fashion that I suspect we’d never have been allowed to do under normal operations. Despite the stress it remains the one time in my career I honestly felt I could use all my skills to the most.

            TL:DR – management need to give the techies room and support. They’ll sort it. Might be dirty but we get it done.

        2. Hills to Die on*

          Yes, that’s actually worse than just havnig people working in the office with their own computers. ugh.

        3. Salt Crystals*

          My company would love to buy more laptops and have more people work remotely (I am on the list to get a laptop for remote work, even). Laptops in the numbers needed aren’t available. And the supply chains to make more run right through China.

          1. Dwight*

            I suggested to set up my desktop computer with remote software, and I lug my desktop home. It’s not a situation that will work for everyone for a few reasons, and certainly would not be worth doing in any other situation, but where I should be working from home for an extended time, this is an alternative to buying and setting up a laptop. Between that and not working, I’ll lug the desktop equipment home.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            Yeah, we don’t have laptops or VPNs, nor can we forward the call center calls to anyone’s home number. So we’re stuck here.

            1. Mrs_helm*

              Once your company realizes how long this will drag out and loses half it’s employees, I bet they’ll suddenly find money for better IT infrastructure (or people). They may not give you laptops, but BYOD is a thing and only requires a good VPN + security solution. If your call center operates off a big phone system (most do) it has had VOIP solutions for 10 yrs now. That means headsets on those BYOD computers and your calls come to you at home .

              1. Dancing Otter*

                BYOD has its own issues. The company should expect pushback from employees that don’t want to give their employer the capability to see everything on their own personal devices and to WIPE the device if they decide to do so.
                Also, not everyone has the latest and greatest at home. I know my personal laptop wouldn’t be able to handle the size spreadsheets I’ve used on some projects. (Not that that should matter for a call center, I suppose.)

                1. Observer*

                  Properly set up, this doesn’t need to be an issue. I know that our set up is such that people can use fairly low end equipment, because they actually are doing all the processing on our servers.

                  We do it that way for a number of reasons, but one reason that bean counter types like is because is reduces the risk of someone walking off with your files – no one gets to download files to their computer.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                I’m BYOD on a Linux desktop. I have a separate account for work stuff, and it handles remoting in to my office just fine.

        4. Cassie*

          Huh, I didn’t think of this. I think our school-wide policy is that 2 staff from each unit or dept should be in the office on any particular day. The rest of the staff would work remotely. To be fair to everyone, the people who come in to the office will rotate – so in the accounting unit, Amy will come in Mon/Thu, Ben will be in Tue/Fri, and Chris will be in Wed and next Mon, etc. So this is not a good idea?

          Most of the work can be done remotely – the only work that I can think of that needs in-person is filling out hiring paperwork and receiving mail/packages. The univ has moved classes to online, there are few in-person seminars left (most have moved online), and depending on campus leadership in the coming weeks, it’s possible almost everyone will be told to stay away from campus.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Husband’s very large international company is doing something like this too.

        Unfortunately he cant do his job from home, he needs to be there as fo the other give people he works with directly.

        However he himself is in a remote part of the office, completely private and separate.

        Our biggest concern is that he takes the train to/from work daily. He wears a mask (the good one) and I hit him with hand sanitizer before he’s allowed ti get into the car.

        He strips at the door…that way if anything is on his clothes they go into the washer right away and of course he washes his hands immediately but that’s something we’ve always done.

        I don’t know how much it’s helping, but so far so good.

        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. J.B.*

          Could he approach his work about a temporary parking arrangement and some $ for gas? It might be worthwhile in this instance.

    6. Observer*

      It’s MORE unfair to the people who have to come in to expose them to people who they don’t need to be exposed to.

      The whole “fairness” argument is stupid, but in this case I really think you can turn it around on them.

    7. Kyrielle*

      But having the people who can work from home do so *improves* the safety for those who can’t, by reducing their potential exposures via coworkers…!

    8. New Job So Much Better*

      Veronica did you try arguing that the employees who must come in will stay safer without a full office of people?

    9. HB*

      Isn’t it actually safer for those who can’t work from home to send home anyone who can? Because then the people in the office have less risk of being infected…

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Point out what the states who are closing restaurants and bars are doing.

      They’re limited exposure because restaurants are still allowed to do take-out and delivery options. It’s the whole “minimize the contact” thing.

    11. Anon for this one*

      Many bosses will take the short-term view over the long-term one in most situations, sadly.

      I suppose it’s because we can document and quantify things that are apparent in the short term and have known consequences. While there’s a lack of ‘imagination’ over how things will pan out longer term.

      Most situations and decisions in business are driven by 2 factors: 1) how will this look to my boss? 2) what’s the possible impact on my family?

      Most people choose self-interest over the bigger picture.

      1. pancakes*

        It isn’t in anyone’s self-interest to bungle this by living entirely in the moment, unable or unwilling to think about the consequences of their own choices. I’m not following as to why “imagination” would be required here – there’s no shortage of information about what has happened in places like Italy, South Korea, etc.

    12. J.B.*

      At this point, if everyone who can works from home and there is a skeleton group of people still in the office, each has much less likelihood of being exposed (bar public transportation).

    13. Miss Chevious*

      My office originally took this tack and I had some success with the argument about disease vectors — every person who comes in and doesn’t have to increases the risk for those who do have to be on premises. Fortunately, leadership is open to reason, and that argument (made not only be me but several other VPs) moved the needle. Everyone who can be home has been instructed to be home since Monday.

  4. Red*

    As a person with an autoimmune condition that my doctor says puts me in a “gray area” with respect to this virus, thank you.

    1. Lexin*

      My doctor seems to think the same of me, I’ve an autoimmune condition, diabetes and hypertension. If I get it, I’m at serious risk of complications, but my employer has yet to say that I can work from home.

      I’m going to approach my line manager about it tomorrow using the lines Alison suggests.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        This journal article might help the layperson understand that people with compromised lungs aren’t the only risk group. “In univariable analysis, odds of in-hospital death was higher in patients with diabetes or coronary heart disease.” The odds ratio for diabetes was 2·85 and for hypertension 3·05.
        https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext

        Here’s what an odds ratio is: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938757/

      2. Red*

        I don’t know if you have something similar to me. In my case, doctor is worried not so much about death, but about me getting very, very sick and even potential organ damage.

        So, I’m not “high risk” enough to be tested, but enough of a risk he has told me to stay at home.

  5. AlexandriaVictoria*

    I am immunocompromised and just had to threaten legal action to get my company to let me work from home. Once this is over, I will be looking for a job with a company who gives a shit about their employees.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Spend that commute time you don’t need updating your resume and job hunting! I am sorry it had to come to that, but good for you for drawing the line.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah my university is kind of being sh** about who can work from home and who can’t. All the faculty can but they’re leaving the staff in limbo. When I asked to work from home, I was told no because “someone might stop by my office or call in and won’t be able to get anyone.” I had been looking for a job before this, but now I really plan on ramping up applying after this is all over.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Schools in our area are functioning under the same right now. Faculty is off to supposedly teach from home, but all other staff members are working regular hours this week…it’s not prompting good staff morale at this point.

      2. Janey-Jane*

        Have you seen the article on the Chronicle “What about the staff?”. We all saw it this weekend, are including it to our next level supervisor to push back.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I will look for this, thanks! Part of the problem is our leaders are saying people who can work from home should, but on a department level all of a sudden our jobs are impossible to do from home in case someone calls or stops into the office. Which is idiotic.

          1. une autre Cassandra*

            …?! I am so sorry. That’s ridiculous. How about a nice sign for anyone who “stops by” that directs them to call or email the appropriate admin? Ugh. I hope TPTB get their shot together for your sake and the health of the community.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Have they never heard of forwarding the phones? You could answer office calls from literally anywhere!

            And, in case someone stops into the office? In a global pandemic? They are really not thinking this through. If a sign on the door is good enough for literally every restaurant and reception area in the country, I think your bosses are being completely ridiculous.

      3. nora*

        Me too. Our offices were commanded to be open and operational, though no students are supposed to be here. The last email we got today is a nebulous “leadership” is evaluating each staff member’s candidacy for WFH. If we don’t agree with the outcome of whatever evaluation occurs for WFH we are “welcomed” to use our PTO balance to protect ourselves. We are in day 7 of sending students, faculty, and certain staff to work from home, and that’s seven days we are all still here, exposing each other for no reason. Our phones are already forwardable to personal devices, and I would argue DIRECTLY AGAINST having buildings and offices open to the random public at this moment, but if they simply must be open would not a sign on the door with a number to reach someone suffice? It’s maddening, and to add insult to injury the fact that this is being done at an institution of higher education not listening to public health advice is just bonkers.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Yes our main office “has to stay open” apparently and there MUST be coverage in the office. I am on a different floor and provide some coverage for the office when needed, and apparently that and the minuscule chance that someone will come to my office is the reason I’m not allowed to work from home. Even though we could easily just put a sign on the door with our email/phone number and change our voicemail.

      4. actually, my name's Marina*

        This is my mother’s problem. She’s staff — she could theoretically work from home, but there are forms she ends up having to walk people through, and *why the H are they doing finaid for students who may not even be able to attend until the middle of June*.

        She’s 67. We live with my dad who is nearly 69 and diabetic/has a AAA with the potential to blow if something goes just wrong :(((

    3. Mimi Me*

      My husband works at a job that requires him to visit other places for pick up / drop off for their services (think of something like a laundry vendor where there’s a lot of interaction with questionable materials / people / and general touching of things). There are 6 people who do this job and the company was like “oh, yeah, you guys are all gonna get sick, but what can you do?” My husband is FREAKING OUT over this. Luckily the location he works for doesn’t have the same blase attitude as the overall company and has gone out of their way to hunt down some basic supplies to help them stay as uninfected as they can: wipes, sanitizer, etc. Once this over he’s determined to get the hell out of there!

    4. Wing Leader*

      This is really interesting because I have a feeling several companies are going to be losing A LOT of good employees over this nonsense. Maybe this will make some of them wake up and realize they need to treat people right if they expect them to stick around.

      1. N*

        Thank you for saying this and validating my feelings! I’m feeling like my trust in my employer will never be restored when all is over with this.

      2. Wintermute*

        Obviously it’s a way over-dramatic comparison, but the birth of such a thing as “the middle class” and basically the invention of the idea of civil rights was due to the plague– once labor wasn’t cheap-as-free and plentiful the workers had the capability to demand better treatment and actual rights.

        I don’t think we’ll see close to enough demographic shift to cause a labor shortage in the US, but I DO think we’ll see a lot of very angry people who refuse to put up with health care insecurity or a total lack of labor rights ever again, and things will change very rapidly.

    5. Coronanonymous*

      My roommate gets chronic respiratory infections and we’re not entirely clear on how at risk she is-. However, her company just started to test work from home and are still treating this like it is some big favor and not really needed. For some reason they are requiring a wired ethernet connection instead of wifi for remoting in and require them to take home a workplace monitor (no idea why?). My roommate doesn’t drive and today is walking the 2.5 miles to and from her work. She can’t really carry a monitor all that way. Her work is like “Well no one is FORCING you to work from home –you can just come into the office when no one else is around!” and being completely unhelpful.

      She gets off work earlier than I do so I’m going to drive her back over to pick up her monitor once I get off. But these people are SLOW to act in any meaningful or helpful way!

      My work had a test WFH for everyone on Friday (I normally work from home once a week anyway so didn’t need anything additional and the VPN seemed fine with the extra load) but then found out someone who was exposed to the virus on March 7 and has sense tested positive was in the office two days last week. At least one other person in my office is symptomatic as well. Those were all in a different wing and on a different floor (so far) so I am unlikely to have been exposed, but no guarantees.

    6. IT bad guy*

      Why does the company have to let you work from home ? Can’t you use sick leave and or pto and quarantine yourself?

      My company is set up very well for remote at home work – but we do know and realize there are limits to it. Not all positions can work from home even if the employee threatened legal action. We have spent a lot on infrastructure, licensing, vpn, remote connect, phone forwarding and phone apps, ipads and on and on – but guess what – there are some positions that cannot work from home – even with all of that.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        A third of private sector workers in the US, including me, have no PTO at all. None. Zero. I am very lucky that my company is letting me work offsite at an alternate location with very few people for now.

        I am so goddamn sick of the unacknowledged privilege all over this site whenever PTO issues are brought up.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          My brother works as a landscape manager at a huge apartment complex. The entire leasing office is sick. One guy has pneumonia and comes into work. The parents who work in the office are bringing their kids in around actively sick people. They don’t have childcare.

          The whole leasing office is one big petri dish of fun. The mega corp out of property owner is not giving off any time except the usual scraps of PTO and vacation. You have to actually test positive not to fry all your personal time off.

          Lucky for my brother, 98 percent of the time he’s outside, and doesn’t go into the office. Many of his coworkers think COVID-19 is over blown. They are under 30, and are mad they can’t hit the gym or go to the bar after work.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          +10000

          Even those of us who earn PTO/Sick leave have to save it for if/when we actually get sick.

    7. Leslie Yep*

      I am extremely angry with my company about the way they’ve handled work from home for my department among other decisions they’ve made regarding COVID19 that have been way behind the curve. I love my job, but I’m so angry with my company that I don’t know how we’ll ever go back to a normal relationship after this.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I was very happy with the way my company was handling everything – sending us updates about what was happening globally every week since mid-January, starting a task force to address questions and concerns, allowing everyone who’s able to work from home through the end of the month with the possibility of an extension – until tonight. Our CFO sent an email out saying they’re postponing salary reviews due to this escalating situation, and I’m back to panicking about the company’s financial health and my job security. Ugh.

      2. Probably has corona*

        I thought I loved my job too. But after seeing how they’re responding to COVID-19, by only putting out more hand sanitizer/clorox wipes in office areas, but not implementing staggered schedules since we are large production facility, by giving us mixed signals about office folks who can work from home, and by making us jump through hoops to get approval to WFH, I feel like there are going to be a lot of burnt bridges after this all dies down.

  6. HoHumDrum*

    Hey Allison, do you think you could also do a post about what to do if you’re fired/laid off due to COVID-19? My job is very dependent on public schools, which just closed indefinitely and I’m more than a little worried that I’m going to get let go in the next few weeks. Are there things I should be doing besides updating my resume? Do I have any rights if I’m let go during something like this? I’m feeling anxious but at a loss as to what I can do to turn my anxiety into something productive.

    1. CatCat*

      Look at what you need to do to file a claim for unemployment benefits and have that ready to go. My state is waiving the waiting period for benefits so keep an eye on what your state is doing in this arena.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Seconding that. From what I can remember, unemployment is NOT retroactive, so file same day. Be ready to drop the email the second you get word. Hang in there.

      2. TooTiredToThink*

        Oh thank goodness. That was one of my concerns for people. I’m fortunate in that I work in a job where I can telework, but I was worried about waiting periods (for others) and was hoping they were being waived.

    2. bassclefchick*

      My husband is a 1099 contractor. If he loses his job (and he may, since he works with students in South Korea), we’re screwed. He won’t qualify for unemployment.

      1. Beachlover*

        perhaps he can look into an online tutoring job. Lots of parents with kids that have to stay home, may be looking to use that option

      2. somanyquestions*

        Self-employed people can qualify for unemployment, at least in my state, under the right circumstances. You should look into it.

  7. alas for yorick*

    My boss has gone overboard sadly. They already have micromanagement issues but moving the entire company to Slack has only made this worse. SO. MANY. NONSENSE. CHECKINS.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I read that as “nonsense chickens” and started thinking of all the jobs I’ve had in the past where nonsense chickens ran around all day long, making a mess of things.

      sensible chuckle at myself.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Well, I already changed my user name to this one a few years ago, but dammit I should have held off so I can be No-nonsense Chicken.

      2. Data Nerd*

        What a great term for all of the micromanagers, germaphobes, and all-around mess-makers. I will know refer to all of them as nonsense chickens and have a little more fun with my day.

      3. Veronica Mars*

        Nonsense chickens is my new favorite terminology for people who think their entire job is to cluck at the other people who are doing the actual work.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            tic-tac-toe (in an arcade, of course)

            Except right now nobody is showing up to put coins in the slot.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      It’s only our first day of WFH and my boss had me throwing my laptop across the room by the second hour.

      1. ariadne*

        Preach. I literally spent the entire day yesterday taking care of logistics, and my boss acts as if I’ve gone to Aruba.

    1. Construction Safety*

      Oh, and no other considerations being given. Not even “We’re thinking about . . .”.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Maybe you can call that guy with 17,000 containers of hand sanitizer.
      I’m rolling my eyes so hard at your boss.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Maybe you can call that guy with 17,000 containers of hand sanitizer.

        LOL! The Tennessee AG’s office seized all of his stuff this weekend.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup. And now he and his brother are under criminal investigation – he should have kept his mouth shut, the idiot.

            1. Mimi Me*

              I read the article. It was hard to sympathize with him when his overall tone was: “but this is my job and I can’t make any money because of all the mean complainers. Waaaa!” I hope that he and his brother have to do more than just donate the stuff.

      2. Construction Safety*

        LOL, we talked about that.

        Latest “suggestion” was that we make our own and ship it to the sites.

        1. gmg22*

          Are there any mom-and-pop distilleries in your area? They’ve become a bit of a cottage industry in my state (VT) and several announced over the weekend that they would be distilling batches of high-proof booze and then using it to make sanitizer for distribution to the community.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              And how much will they charge for it? Because if they’re charging LV prices, it would be like not having sanitizer at all.

                1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  I’m told they are – small distillers turning over production to high-proof or pure alcohol to assist the supply chain!

    3. SweetestCin*

      Some of the construction sites I’ve been on, I swear to all things holy and not, there had to be residual immunity due to what germs had to be there.

      I kid, I kid!

      Yes. Getting folks in construction to take it seriously can be seriously trying. All levels, from owners through field and back again.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      Ours jumped on the sanitizer bandwagon as well.

      In morbid comedy, we have joked about just using our main product to disinfect. We make 200 proof ethanol.

      We also have had Corporate decree that we need to immediately order cots & stores of food to keep onsite. For what, I have no idea. It would make far more sense to just shut down than attempt to keep staff here at that level. If we’re isolated, we shouldn’t be bringing in corn, so at best we have 4 more days running based on storage.

      1. cacwgrl*

        So they can quarantine you at your office instead of at home? I don’t mean to laugh but I snorted a bit…

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I guess so? It’s really just an addition to the long list of crap from them I don’t quite understand.

      2. Alli525*

        I saw a story the other day that a distillery, which in its state (NC?) has to have a special license to create the high-ABV liquor they’re known for, is now repurposing its product to make FREE hand sanitizer. Which I think is lovely and part of being a good neighbor – especially since I assume they had to fight hard to get that special license.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          It would be awesome if we could! We produce fuel-grade, which I don’t think qualifies. I’ve been trying to find resources about it and what we’d need to do in order to produce (what I’m assuming needs to be) FDA grade EtOH. I’m not sure we can reconfigure our system well enough to pull out safe alcohol.

    5. AA Fairy*

      People keep asking me to buy it for them. Um hello, have you been living under a rock for the last 3 weeks? I don’t have a magical admin asst wand to wave to get you a stash of it. I am magical, but not that magical! ;)

      1. Holy Moley*

        Someone tried to take the hand sanitizer off of my desk on friday claiming I didn’t need it. Um, it wasnt for me but for the back office where I work with 25 employees. Oh and by the way I do need it, I have a chronic illness.

        People are lacking common sense.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Yeah, there’s a woman out there trying to start a social media challenge licking airplane toilet seats. Cannot make this stuff up. People truly have no sense.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            WHHHHYYYYYYY????????? Jeez people. That’s a bad idea even if there is no pandemic

          2. Wing Leader*

            Stupid people (sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true sometimes), will pay for their stupidity one way or another.

            A few weeks ago, someone was interviewing a Utah Jazz basketball player, and they asked him if he feared the virus. He said no, and just to prove how fearless he was, he rubbed his hands all along the press microphones that people had been talking in. Guess who was diagnosed with Covid-19 a few days later.

            1. DefCon 10*

              The problem is, other people will pay for their stupidity too. There are a lot of Darwin Award candidates running around right now, and they’re going to get other people killed.

          3. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, I think she’s one of those conspiracy theorists who thinks the eeevil liberals are making it all up to sway the election.

  8. RussianInTexas*

    My company so far is really reluctant to working from home, but they allow people to bring their kids in, sick or not. And let them run around.
    At what point is it socially acceptable to start spraying stray kids with Lysol, a la cats and water bottles?
    As or other points:
    Group: nope, at will state, the company is known to fire you quickly.
    Peer pressure: same.
    Obligations to workers: lol. We had 4 sick days, 5 vacation days for the first 5 years. They didn’t even close the office down in an aftermath of a major hurricane when people literally could not get to the office.
    HR: don’t have one.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s illegal for a company to fire people for talking about wages and working conditions as a group. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but that’s one law the federal government is actually pretty good about enforcing. At-will state doesn’t enter into it. And you might start off your group meeting by reminding your company that you’re exercising your rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Sure, but there is zero chance anyone of my coworkers will join. Zero. Everyone is too freaked out about job security right now.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        One of out problem is, we are a part of the supply chain. Especially for schools. We provide supplies needed to feed the kids, and my customers are telling me they are still going to feed the kids even if the schools are closed.

    2. Jdc*

      I highly recommend spraying children with Lysol even without this going around. My step son brought home a “cold” two months ago and I’ve been sick since. Just starting to get better but of course the “cough” that’s lingering is making me a pariah.

          1. Alli525*

            You SAY “of course I was kidding,” except there was LITERALLY a letter last week where a coworker was spraying OP with Lysol.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I think you are kidding, but seriously – don’t do that. Spray the stuff they touched, not the person.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Yeah it’s a funny joke in hypothetical, but as AAM proves, some people will actually do the thing and not understand that You Should Not Spray Poison On Other People.

          1. Penny Parker*

            Back in the 1970s I knew a woman who sprayed Raid on her privates because she had crabs. People do really dumb stuff sometimes if they are freaking out!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, I know companies like this exist, I’ve even dealt with some for a minute or two myself, it doesn’t stop me from the hatred that forms in my belly regardless.

      I know that lots of us are like “That’s illegal though” but reality I’ve learned over the years is sure it’s illegal but good job getting them in trouble for it. You usually need to know someone or have financial resources to get a lawyer involved to do anything. And in the end, maybe you get a settlement and hopefully you just get a job somewhere that’s not ran by monsters :(

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, in my experience “it’s illegal” doesn’t hold much water unless the employee in question is fairly wealthy.

  9. Small Business Anon*

    My employees weren’t taking it seriously. Implemented some hard-line policies and practices today.

    We’re service industry, so they have to go in the field to get hours – but I can assign work via text and they never have to come into contact with actual people/customers/public. I’m waiting for that bill to pass, so I can close up shop completely and the employees still get support.

    1. Sally*

      What are the details about the bill? Is it only for contractors? A good friend is a self-employed dog walker, and she’s going to have a really tough time paying her bills this month because a few of her clients have paused their walks since they’re working from home. She already contacted all of the others outlining her safety practices (using her own lashes, etc.) and asking them – if their finances permit – to please consider not canceling, even if they’re home. I’m not sure what else she can do.

  10. I'm A Little Teapot*

    My company is one that isn’t doing very well. I just asked what the deal was. Apparently, the optics aren’t good to have the corporate offices WFH when the 5-6k employees in the teapot production facilities don’t have the capability.

    Yep. Optics. Never mind that this is a failure in massive proportions to have a business continuity plan. Never mind that the governor is closing all bars and restaurants. They cancelled the massive St. Patricks Day events. The main governmental center where people need to go for stuff was closed last week. This is going to come back to bite them, big time.

    I am WFH starting tomorrow (could go home now, but I’m already here, so what the heck). I have asthma so can leverage that as a reason. But yeah, I was already planning on job searching for other reasons. This just reinforces it.

    1. londonedit*

      Thankfully my company is being sensible (we’re all WFH as of tomorrow; anyone who falls ill will be on full pay for as long as they need; anyone who needs time off to look after unwell family members will be on full pay for two weeks) but I have a friend who works for a company where the CEO is absolutely determined that allowing people to work from home will ‘give the wrong impression to clients’ and that it must be ‘business as usual’. Which I think is utterly ridiculous! Surprisingly enough they’ve been told that if they do get ill, any paid sick time will be based on the number of sick days they’ve already taken in the last 12 months, and anyone who has to stay off work to self-isolate or to care for someone will have to use annual leave, and unpaid leave if their annual leave runs out. Charming.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        If this got out it would certainly give an impression to the public, including clients, but probably not the one the CEO wants to send

      2. violet04*

        As a client, I would not want to support a company that doesn’t allow employees to WFH at a time like this. There is no concept of business as usual for the time being.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Yep. Every single email I got from companies that said “We care a lot about the health and safety of our customers and employees” but did not conclude it’s list of countermeasures with “by giving them paid sick leave” got the company mentally chucked in the “garbage company” pile.

          1. violet04*

            The Instagram account @esteelaundry is calling out beauty companies and their policies, or lack thereof, for dealing with this pandemic.

          2. Can't Sit Still*

            I have made a note of which companies are providing leave and which ones are just sending their sick employees home. If your employees aren’t getting paid, they are going to come in sick, which doesn’t do your customers any good at all.

      3. Media Monkey*

        LOL – does your friend work here? they are all about business as usual and only started to plan for the WFH eventuality today (sigh)

    2. Quill*

      Jesus, I’m just spending my morning playing email tag with our notary because hey, physical legal signatures.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I take a train with a bunch of legal secretaries. In my opinion, the entire legal field needs to rework pretty much everything. You don’t actually need paper, you can digitize. Yes, that’s not going to get done in a week. But maybe this will start forcing change.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I’m hoping this drives some of my local regulators to reconsider their “need” for wet ink signatures. The County throws a fit if I scan anything, but the EPA/FDA/DOT/etc accept online digitized signatures. It’s incredibly annoying.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Government agencies that use a CAC accept/use digital signatures. You can’t sign a doc unless your CAC is in the reader to verify your identity. More businesses could do something like that. We have pin and chip credit cards. We can do pin and chip ID, and the readers are not that expensive.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              It’s really just this dept too within the agency that’s causing a ruckus. Most of the other depts allow for digital signature, but nope, not the one I send multiple reports to a month. It’s like they’ve never heard of signatories (which they have ridiculous requirements for) being in the Parent Company, which is totally out of state. I have literally 2 options – the one, singular person onsite who can sign, and then the one, singular person across the country who can sign. 95% of the time, onsite person can sign. The 5% otherwise? Nope, wet ink only, the State “requires it”. Fun fact: I was State. No, they don’t.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I work in a specialised legal field (IP) where almost every jurisdiction has gone over to digital credentials. When we get a request for an actual wet signature (or, worse, layers of notarising and legalising) there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

          We’re dealing with absolute cutting edge technology by definition, so even licensing agreements and transfers are authenticated digitally. When some backwater insists on actual ink, it feels like we’ve gone back to the dark ages.

          My firm is 100% remote and 99.9% paperless (see above). We’re business as usual, but adding the step of checking local quarantine policies when writing to anyone so we can manage expectations. Meanwhile my old firm has permitted all fee earners to WFH but is insisting on support staff turning up – even those with laptops. It’s causing bad feeling.

          Spouse’s company all *can* WFH but clients like “bums on seats” so employees without underlying health conditions or affected family members were being asked to continue attending. That was knocked on the head over the weekend and from tomorrow they will all be remote.

          The UK has tightened its isolation recommendations this afternoon, so it’s likely things will change again in the next few days. I’m just hoping the old classist assumptions will melt away and more people will be trusted to WFH as much as possible.

        3. pancakes*

          I work in the legal field and have not handled a piece of paper related to the case I’m working on since last summer, when I joined the team and received a hard copy of the complaint. Our team is in three states and we all work remotely. There’s a lot of variety in the way firms in different practice areas operate.

          1. Quill*

            So jealous, but I deal in dishing out manufacturing certifications and we only *just* got the last state on our list to go with electronic payment, nevermind digital signatures… and they’d apparently have to be physically taken to embassies and signed anyway if we wanted to send them off to other countries.

        4. WDCZombie*

          Yep. I work in the legal industry and so much of what I do has to be paper based because of procedures in-office. We also work with courts and big government agencies which sometimes will need things hand-carried to them in order to meet deadlines. Big Government Agency has already stated that there will be no deadline extensions. While others in my office can work from home, it is necessary for at least a couple of people to be in each office in case something goes terribly wrong (and things already have, but a few of us were here to fix the issues).

      2. Disgruntled Paralegal*

        Ugh. I have a few cases with federal judges who require notarized affidavits for perfectly routine procedural court submissions. Why on earth do I, the legal admin filing the damn thing, need to sign an affidavit stating that I filed and served something *that is served electronically through the court*.

    3. Veronica Mars*

      Yep, we are basically in the same boat. “It would look bad if we let half our company die, so instead we’re going to let you all die.” Great, thanks.

    4. 2 Cents*

      I work for a major health system. Guess what? All nonessential employees (like marketing, fundraising, etc.) are WFH. And this is a company that is very much about facetime. Of course the doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, etc., can’t work from home, but TPTB sent us home because it makes sense.

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      If it weren’t for your line about the governor closing all bars and restaurants, I sincerely would have thought we work for the same company. Our CEO hasn’t made any kind of announcement other than repeating what the CDC said early last week: Wash your hands, cough/sneeze into a tissue and then throw the tissue away, don’t travel to COVID-19 hotspots. That’s it. We’re all expected to keep coming in.

      My 74-year old mom, who has COPD lives with me. I am terrified that I’m going to bring the coronavirus home and kill her. I can easily do my job from home. There is literally no need for me to be in the office, other than optics. Yet, here I am.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I’m waiting until the end of the day. I sent an email to my HR person with a link to this page. I want to see if that gets any traction first.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Replying to my reply. . . my grandboss has told me and a pregnant co-worker that we can work from home. We’re just waiting on a form from HR that we have to fill out.

            But HR also told me that our CEO will be sending an email to everyone this afternoon or in the morning. I suspect that WFH will be offered more widely.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Hmm – a push back here might also be that it’s bad optics to not be a good corporate citizen and that the company as a whole may look quite bad after the crisis, to the decision makers in client companies who may very well have lost loved ones as a result of the crisis.

    7. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Well, update. There was a 45 minute call for company leadership – all mgmt down to at least VP level. I’m in corporate office, and all the VPs came out of that call confused. My dept then had another 45 minute meeting with mgmt to figure out what to do. They then came out of that with a trial wfh – everyone works from home starting tomorrow for a couple days, then they’ll re-evaluate. Make sure you stuff is setup to wfh, have access, etc.

      Ok. So, here’s my take on this: they fundamentally don’t trust us to do our jobs when they can’t watch us. Except, all of us are experienced professionals. All but 2 have worked from home here before. A few people are wfh today.

      End result: a LOT of people are well aware of how they are regarded by management, and at least until whatever recession comes, are highly marketable. No one is going to stay long term.

      1. Kthxbye*

        “End result: a LOT of people are well aware of how they are regarded by management, and at least until whatever recession comes, are highly marketable. No one is going to stay long term.”

        THIS. Same here. Marketable employees know their worth. I’m judging my current employer by how badly they are handling this, and potential future employers by how they are treating their current employees. People are looking at how this unfolds very closely.

    8. Anon for this one*

      > teapot production facilities don’t have the capability

      Then I think unless I had health factors I’d stick with the plan and work out of the offices… because it fails the “what if everyone could/couldn’t” test.

      I don’t think people need to take part in St Ps day celebrations as part of their role.

  11. RussianInTexas*

    Last Friday I asked the office manager (she was closest to the management we had here last week, due to various circumstances): can we at least set up the work from home now in case we need it later?
    Her: we’ll do it when the push comes to shove.
    Also her, the same day: I was at the Rodeo on the same day a sick person was there, I am going home, bye!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I’ve seen SO MANY posts on my social media from people being enraged that the Rodeo closed early. ENRAGED.
        Yes, 219,000 people during the cool-offs, and another 632,000 people exposed while it was open, and yes, lets keep it open for another two weeks, to make sure EVERYONE is exposed.

        1. Sharkie*

          I don’t live down there but I have a few friends who do. They were upset because it’s their huge social event for the year but they are all in the medical field so they were shocked it was even open. People need to chill

    1. Arya Parya*

      They waited here and are now scrambling for a solution. Our PM told the whole country to work from home as much as possible. No one at my company knows how to work from home, except a few people who have experience from a previous job, like me. I’m trying to get people on Slack right now.

      So I would strongly advise not to wait until push comes to shovel.

    2. Cassie*

      I have a friend who works for local gov’t – her managers started surveying the staff a couple of weeks ago to see if you had a computer at home, if you could WFH if needed, if you took public transportation. No specifics though. Yesterday (Sunday evening) – the local gov’t decides to shut down their buildings to the public, so residents/businesses who need something will have to call, email, or mail requests. This morning – the first friend’s office was a-buzz w/ ramping up for WFH (specific instructions about setting up VPN, test this, test that). I think it would have been better those couple of weeks ago to set everything up, ready to go. Instead, they’re sort of in panic mode right now because some people aren’t sure if their home laptops are fast enough, etc.

  12. somanyquestions*

    My large government employer was still being relentlessly awful until Friday afternoon. My director sent out a terrible email saying we were welcome to use FLMA time if we could document that a doctor felt we “NEEDED” to work from home, but otherwise everyone would have to keep coming in and no one, even with a doctor’s letter, could work from home more than they are already approved to do.

    This is in a workforce that is basically all set up with laptops and allowed to work from home a couple days per week. They’re just so micro-manager-y that they were willing to put people at risk just to keep their imagined better control of people in the office.

    Like 5 minutes later my director’s boss sent an email saying everyone was now required to telecommute if able to do so, so now we’re home. I will not forget what jerks my administration were, though!

    1. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

      Yep, our immediate managers were great, set up a good WFH plan, it got killed a couple of levels above (not sure exactly who and no one will say) last Friday. Over the weekend the chancellor sent out a stern WFH wherever possible message, immediately followed by a message from our PTB that of course WFH but of course make sure it’s approved at the PTB level.

      I am certain we will lose good staff over this. Not immediately, but eventually.

    2. Jaid*

      Ah, my work is paper, so I can’t telework anyway. I just wish they’d declare my unit non-essential and send us home.

    3. YetAnotherFed*

      Yes, the whole US Department of Commerce was given orders to go to telework if possible as of Sunday night. And my agency reiterated that as of 11 pm on Sunday night.

      1. J*

        USDA, the executive branch’s other big anti-telework holdout, continues to hold the line. My agency is “stress-testing” today. By all accounts it’s going horribly. I don’t think we’re going to be allowed to work remotely any time soon.

        1. Cog in the Machine*

          This! We’re also getting randomly bad information. We got an email this morning telling us to clear our schedules this afternoon for a teleconference, and then didn’t give any details!

          1. J*

            Ugh, are you USDA too? We got an email from Censky this morning promising that we’d get more info by this evening about teleworking. Which is suuuper helpful since we can’t frigging check email when we’re at home in the evening. The mealy-mouthed, weasel-worded cr@p that passes for “guidance” has been such a joke. It’s really starting to make me feel kind of desperate, just because I see so clearly how little we’re valued and I feel wildly out of control because, well, I am.

  13. Smarched*

    I work for a small central office (less than 50 people) supporting a system of colleges. Not only are our campuses not yet closing, but our leadership seems hostile to anyone asking questions about what is happening or what we’re expected to do here now that there have been local and state closures of businesses and schools. Though we all already have the ability to work from home, it is frowned upon generally. I have heard conspiracy theories from leadership about the source of the virus and they openly mock those of us who seem anxious. The workforce is not unified in our feelings, so it feels like 3 or 4 of us wanting to work remote versus the feelings of the rest. Its just disheartening and I feel like a sitting duck with many in the office still choosing to go to their gyms or St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

    1. kt*

      This is very upsetting to hear. I really feel for you. It’s this kind of thing that just makes things worse, as we’re now forced (whatever our political leanings) to acknowledge that folks like your leaders will not take care of your health or do what’s best for society as a whole.

    2. somanyquestions*

      I’m becoming really angry with the people who are mocking this. People are dying, and yet these jerks are so reluctant to ever believe anything might actually happen to them they are putting everyone else in danger.

      It won’t be real until people they know start to die, and at that point it will be too late and they will have to live with (or die with) what they’ve done for the rest of their lives. My short-sighted division director has hundreds of people she prevented from telecommuting, many of whom are 60+ years old (they frequently repeat the fact that more than 40% of our workforce could retire now or in the next 2 years). If they die it’s on her head.

  14. Pink Glitter*

    Thanks for this, Alison.

    I work for a large healthcare provider in my area that has been in the news for developing a covid-19 test, our department was set up for remote access last week, and we still haven’t been given the instruction to work from home. This helps with language to talk to my supervisors about what’s going on.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      My mom works for a health and life insurer in a city that just shut down basically everything this weekend, and her employer still hasn’t told them when to start WFH either, though they did give her a laptop on Friday and told her to test it out to make sure the VPN works. It’s insane that they haven’t just sent everyone who can work remotely home yet though (they did, however, give them an additional five days of vacation, so I’m not hopeful that they’ll allow WFH for long – they may just tell everyone to use vacation time in lieu of).

      1. Pink Glitter*

        My function is critical, but can be done remotely. We actually have a meeting in five minutes about it.

  15. Former Usher*

    As recently as last night, my mega-corp announced that they have teams that are still working hard to understand our “developing needs.” They did, however, have time to issue a new, relaxed dress code.

    While the corporate leaders are still trying to figure out what to do, our amazing director appears to have taken matters into his own hands and encouraged all of us to work from home. I continue to be impressed by his decisiveness.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m amazed by companies that are scrambling over what to do here – my company has been preparing since January and was sending weekly updates on what was happening as they developed procedures. Maybe we took it more seriously because our company’s global and we have employees in the largely affected areas in China, Italy, Singapore, U.K., but I still don’t understand why business leaders weren’t expecting this virus to come here with all of the international travel that takes place these days.

      1. Elenna*

        Same! My (large, global) company has been sending out update messages and talking about future plans for weeks.

      2. Not A Manager*

        “I still don’t understand why business leaders weren’t expecting this virus to come here with all of the international travel that takes place these days.”

        American exceptionalism.

  16. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I was getting angry at co-workers and staff who wouldn’t wash their hands with soap and water unless specifically told to. Now I’m just depressed, if they can’t see the seriousness of the current situation then nothing I say will make a difference. Today our managers are having their first meeting about the crisis. Up until now it’s been wait and see.

    1. Mama Bear*

      HR today admitted that so many people never wash their hands. Today the Admin office said that we were low/short on paper products like paper towels and napkins so I guess people are washing?

      I have friends who are determined to have a “pox party” and try to get sick. All the more reason to steer well clear of them. One of them was also recently on a long international flight so if they were smart they’d be self-quarantining anyway.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Yup. They calculate that they are reasonably healthy and it won’t be too bad and if they do get it bad they want to be sick now when the ICUs aren’t full. I can’t even deal with that line of thinking right now.

          One of my coworkers is overseas right now – landed the day the restrictions went into effect. They will probably need to self-quarantine on their return.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          A doctor on the news said you can only get each strain once, but there are currently 2 strains.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          Also, like, its probably way riskier to have it now when healthcare providers are totally overwhelmed, than at any point in the next few years?

          The whole point of chicken pox is that its so prevalent everyone will have it at some point so you might as well get it over with. That… does not apply here?

    2. Mimi Me*

      I don’t understand the reluctance people have about washing their hands. My daughter (a 9th grader) said that before they were all put on this mandatory break her biology teacher gave all the students a lesson in how to properly wash their hands. It was the same way I washed my hands but my husband was missing some key places (nails and cuticles), though he was washing longer than she or I were. She said that during the week or so before schools cancelled the biology lab and bathrooms had lines of kids waiting to wash their hands between classes.
      What I’ve noticed is just how many things I touch in short periods of time. Ex: I went from my home to work this morning – a twenty minute commute – and in that time I touched most of the interior of my car, the door handle, the entire inside of my purse, my wallet, my bank card (which was also handled by another person), my lunch bag, reusable drink cup, my clothing, the bag from my morning breakfast spot. And that was all while seated in the drivers seat of my car. That doesn’t include hand railings on stairways, door knobs, etc. I washed my hands the second I got to work. My coworker thought I was crazy.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        Yeah, if anything this virus made me acutely aware of how gross and germ-ridden every single public space is. Its a miracle we aren’t all constantly sick.

        Personally I hate how dry my hands get with frequent washing. But, I just carry lotion to fix that?

      2. Sparrow*

        I’m already in the habit of washing my hands as soon as I get to work or get home, but that’s largely because I take public transportation. But overall, yeah, I really never thought about how much stuff I touch on a daily basis and also, critically, how often I touch my face. All the time, apparently! Breaking that habit is proving difficult.

      3. lemon*

        I think it’s because so many public restrooms are poorly designed to support proper hand washing, so it makes hand washing a negative experience.

        My workplace is probably 80% women. Our floor has one women’s restroom for the entire floor, with three sinks. One sink has handles that are impossible to turn on, one sink only gives out a tiny trickle of water, and the last sink shoots out water so hot you immediately burn your hands. Most people default to using the hot sink, so that means there’s usually a line to wash your hands, so you feel pressure to go as quickly as possible so you don’t inconvenience others. Then, the only trash can is underneath that sink, so you have to interrupt whoever is washing their hands to throw your paper towels away. It just makes things a hassle so I see people opting not to wash.

        Elsewhere, what I mostly experience is that public sinks use water that’s SO COLD it hurts my hands, lack of soap, lack of paper towels, or they use hand dryers that are so weak you have to stand there for a really long time for your hands to dry (and who likes having wet hands?), and using cheap soap that majorly dries out your hands.

        I mean, I always wash my hands anyway, but I sure as heck don’t enjoy the experience. It makes sense why people prefer hand sanitizer, because it’s a much better experience. You squirt it in your hands, rub them together for 20-30 secs, and you’re off. No waiting in line for the sink, no ice water, no wiping your hands on your shirt because there’s no paper towels, no standing for five minutes under a hand dryer. (But still, people should wash their damn hands, especially now.)

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Blow hand dryers are the bane of my existence. I despise them so much. Especially because there’s like, legitimate reasons for a human to need a paper towel other than drying hands?

          At my work a lot of people bring in their own soap and just label it with a sharpie. We legit have 7-10 bottles of individual soaps lined up. But I get it, who wants doctors office scented drying soap?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      The fact that SO MANY people don’t wash their freakin hands normally is just so gross! Ew!

  17. Mel_05*

    Fortunately, my boss is taking it extremely seriously and encouraging management to do the same. We’ve already got anyone who is high-risk or in contact with high risk people (even if it’s a degree removed) working from home.

    We’re expecting the announcement for everyone else to work remotely any minute.

    One or two people will have to come in a couple times a week, but they’ll be in different parts of the office, so they should be ok.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Our big boss just said that the company will take case by case consideration but I suspect if someone said, “Hey, I’m on chemo” they’d be sent home. Big boss approved going negative for PTO if the situation warranted.

  18. I'm anon today*

    My company just posted the guidelines today. It’s “stay home if you feel sick”. No work from home will be approved. My job (and my whole department’s jobs) are capable of being done remotely but not everyone in the company can work remotely because of specialized tools, so no one gets to work from home.

    This announcement was accompanied with a notice reminding us that our work is contingent on the company having work, and so we can/will be laid off if productivity drops.

    People are coughing all over the place.

    I’m brand new as of last week so I can’t say anything, but I am very, very worried. No one here is taking this seriously.

    1. Pink Glitter*

      Yeah, that’s such utter bullshit. Letting people who *can* work remotely do so minimizes the risk for the people who can’t.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Oh no! You should pick up your search again, I’m afraid. If they’re threatening layoffs there’s a good chance you’re on that list. Also they’re terrible and you deserve better.

      1. I'm anon today*

        It’s such a terrible time to be job searching. I fortunately have side income that I can fall back on, but it’s not enough for the long term so I’m keeping an eye out.

        I don’t think I’m in the high risk group for layoffs, because of my position/the way the company is structured, but I’m definitely not taking that for granted.

    3. London Calling*

      In the UK here, our department has been told that the venue will probably be closed from next week but we can’t easily WFH so we’ll be in. Except the person who threw a tantrum about being so scared of the virus she HAS to work from home. Can be managed for her, apparently. Yes, I am bitter.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Raise it to management: X (person you spoke of) has suggested she can work from home — can the same technology be extended to all of us so we don’t have to just sign off and go dark?

  19. [insert witty user name here]*

    I’m curious what those of you who are in retail banking are seeing (I am not, but my husband is; I’m able to telework 100% no problem). My husband works in a branch and is actually a “floater” so he is often moved between branches in 3 cities. We live (and he was working last week) in a county that had the highest (now second highest) cases of COVID-19 in our state. They have not made any plans to close or alter services at the branches; they’ve not been given any additional sanitizing supplies or direction to wipe down shared surfaces/door handles/etc. Another local bank has gone to drive-thru only and less tellers, giving their staff every other week off (paid!) for the next several weeks.

    1. Mel_05*

      Ugh. I worked at a bank last year and I’m SO glad I’m not going through this with them. I know they’re not doing anything.

    2. Elenna*

      I work for a (large, Canadian) bank, but as part of insurance, not the front-desk retail jobs. So I don’t know the details, but they officially announced last night that they’re invoking “alternative work arrangements”. People (like me) who can work from home are encouraged to do so. Solutions will vary according to region, job descriptions, etc, but there was mention of alternative/split work sites for more social distancing, and they’re increasing sanitization everywhere. So there are some banks taking it seriously, at least.

    3. KarenK*

      My bank has set a policy that banking is through the drive-thru, ATM, or virtual teller only. If you need to come into the bank for a particular reason, you must contact them and set up an appointment.

      1. FiNancy*

        I work for a bank in the US. We have sent everyone home to work who is not directly customer-facing. I am currently in my office as I am the only here so I am about as isolated as I can be. We are encouraging our customers to use remote options such as telephone, online, and ATM banking. We do have people stationed in our drive-thru and transitioned a number of our bankers to our call center for support. The number of people who are still trying to come into the lobby of the branch is incredible. Like, why? You desperately need to physically deposit that check to a teller???

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This is really interesting to me because (1) a lot of the excellent suggestions being made locally to assist self-isolation require access to cash* and (2) I’ve never seen a drive-thru ATM or bank in my life, as they don’t exist in the UK afaik. My nearest several ATMs charge around $1 for withdrawals; the only “free” option within generous walking distance is at the post office counter; the nearest ATM that doesn’t charge is a 20-mile round trip.

        I’m not sure how this will play out. We may end up lending our portable Bluetooth/PayPal card reader out.

        * eg the village butcher has offered to make deliveries including produce from the green grocer next door, but they’re cash only

      3. Mama Bear*

        Our vet is doing distance care. You make an appointment and tell them the details over the phone. Once you pull up, they will take your pet from the passenger side to stay as far from you as possible. They take your pet inside, talk to you via video chat or phone call, treat your pet, and you pay by card over the phone.

  20. Fleaaaaah*

    Does anyone have recommendations for negotiating WFH policies when essential services are provided? I work for a small food bank and our clients still need our services. I’d love to hear from others who are in or have handled similar situations.

    1. Kat*

      I am not sure if this would help or not, but our local food bank is closed to the public and is doing a drive up food distribution.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I volunteer with a pantry. They’ve gone to prepackaged boxes and a skeleton distribution crew in a parking lot to maintain social distance. Similarly, the local soup kitchen is doing take and go food outside instead of using their dining room.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I’ll don’t know if you’ll see this but on our local NextDoor people are volunteering to help others by picking up things they personally need and–addressing your particular question–picking up bags and boxes from the food bank and delivering them for the Food Bank in their own cars. So food is getting out to those who need it quickly and efficiently.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      Our local food ba k has a mobile opti OP n. I think they are trying to get it so that the ban can go to people.

  21. anxious in vt*

    I’m annoyed that I’m not allowed WFH yet. Hoping that changes soon (our Steering committee is meeting right now). I was shocked last week when I asked what stress testing they’d done on our network for the possibility of office staff working from home and they hadn’t even started thinking about that yet, and that was on Thursday or Friday.

  22. Mazzy*

    I’m in a similar boat, everyone I know overreacted (or reacted appropriately, time will tell), and I’m being driven to madness and isolation because of it. I guess it’s better from one angle, I’m not being forced to go to the office, even though I am still going, but I’m also anxious and distracted not from the disease, but the 24/7 news cycle and some of the ignorant comments I’m hearing from people about the illness. I’m hearing people conflate the number of news articles or schools closing with an increase in the severity of the illness, even though that isn’t a logical connection. The only thing that should matter are the severity of the symptoms and if it’s spreading. A city declaring a curfew does not mean the disease got worse. I’m annoyed that the media has chosen a “it will definitely get much worse” angle, which they always do. Meanwhile, I’m also wondering why no one cares about so many other diseases or thinks their emergencies. I’m seeing the low numbers of corona and wondering why no one gets so much in arms about cancer or heart disease or even the regular flu. I guess we’re just used to those.

    And I just hope management doesn’t expect the same productivity working remotely, because it’s hard to get work done with some systems being inaccessible, or even just because most of us don’t have multiple screens at home.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, no, please read some information by epidemiologists. The issue is that based on the spread in other areas, our hospitals are very likely to get overwhelmed and people (with a variety of conditions, not just COVID-19) will end up dying because of lack of resources to care for them. Do not minimize this here.

  23. Mill Miker*

    My company has been really reluctant to start sending people home, even though every employee is set up to be able to work from home if they need to. They finally sent out an email last night saying that starting today anyone who doesn’t want to come in doesn’t have too, but the preference is clearly still for people to be at work in person. I’m not sure what they’re waiting for, but I’m worried it’s “someone in the office is tested positive” which from what I’m reading will be too late for it to matter.

    I feel like we’re playing a game of blind-man’s bluff, with no prize for the winner.

    1. Wing Leader*

      This makes no sense to me. If the employees at your place can easily work from home, they should. Why wait? That’s like saying, “I’ll take my hand off this stove if/when it starts to burn.” Or just take your hand off now and avoid the pain altogether.

        1. J*

          Unlike a highly communicable disease tearing through your workforce, which totally doesn’t hit productivity.

          1. Luke*

            And thats the wrinkle. “% of Staff Unhealthy” isn’t a metric . Productivity is. So managers have no financial incentive to encourage a healthy office. If VPs and above don’t share facilities with their staffs it’s even worse, as they’re comfortably isolated from the consequences.

  24. Nep*

    I work in a small office, am immunocompromised, and came to my boss saying that I will either be taking a leave of absence or I will be working from home. Starting tomorrow, I will be working from home.

    1. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

      I’m in a leadership position and did the same, emailing our department head at midnight saying I refused to continue going to client homes and would take leave or use sick time. My 9am, my team was all work from home.

  25. CatCat*

    Do you need to be within 6 feet of someone to catch it/transmit it? Or does it also live on surfaces?

    I am still at the office, which is sparsely populated at this point. We all have the option to WFH right now. There are so few people actually here that we can entirely avoid being near each other. I still have to open doors and touch faucets though and I am not clear if that’s how its transmitted. Thanks for any advice. I want to do the right thing.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yes, the virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. Nobody knows for sure how many people are infected that way, of course, but that’s why sanitizing surfaces and washing your hands regularly is so important.

    2. londonedit*

      They think it can live on hard surfaces for something like 72 hours. Basically the advice is to wash your hands whenever you come in from having been out somewhere (so, wash your hands when you get to work, wash your hands when you come back from your lunch break, wash your hands when you get home) as well as the usual handwashing before preparing food and after using the bathroom. The best way is to wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, but if you’re out and about and you can’t access soap and a sink, then that’s where hand sanitiser can be useful – but it needs to contain at least 60% alcohol and you need to do a really good job of rubbing it all over your hands.

      You should also make sure that you clean your working area regularly – just with normal cleaning products, but make sure you pay attention to things you touch regularly, like your mouse/keyboard/phone/etc etc.

    3. CatCat*

      Okay, thank you both for the info. I have been vigilant with the hand washing and sanitizing after going through doors. I wipe down faucets and surfaces in the office kitchen before I use them. But it sounds like the safest course is to WFH.

      1. fposte*

        The gist of what I’m hearing is that if you *can* self-quarantine/WFH, you should, because it helps mitigate the spread to everybody, including those without that option.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes – the problem is that there seem to be a lot of people who are carriers of the virus but who don’t show any symptoms (or their symptoms are so mild that they brush it off and don’t think it could possibly be coronavirus). So for the majority of otherwise healthy people, all the handwashing and cleaning is less about protecting yourself and more about trying to make sure that if you are carrying the virus around unwittingly, you’re not passing it on via surfaces and handrails and so on.

    4. TBagpuss*

      Yes, it can live on surfaces – I think it’s about 24 hours on cardboard, up to 72 on hard surfaces like door handles, although it depends on other factors such as heat, moisture, exposure to sunlight etc.
      Washing hands more frequently and avoiding touching your face helps cut down the risk of you getting it from touching a contaminated surface, as having it on your skin probably won’t result in getting infected, but having it in your mouth or eyes may.

      Wiping down surfaces that get touched frequently will help by removing or reducing the concentration of the virus on surfaces. Soap (and detergents such as washing up liquid) are the most effective way of doing this, although alcohol based cleaning products also work.

    5. hbc*

      Prop open any doors that you don’t need closed for privacy or security. Fewer door handles to touch.

    6. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Sneezing/coughing seems to be the most important way it spreads. It can stay on surfaces too but it hasn’t been proven that you could get it that way. So avoiding people is much more important and efficient than sanitizing absolutely everything you touch.

  26. ThatGirl*

    My husband is a mental health counselor at a smallish university – and they haven’t announced any closures or shifts to online learning yet, which astonishes me. Their class sizes are small, but it’s maybe half commuters, who are out in the world and/or living at home still. It seems very short-sighted. Their spring break was last week and the president doubled down on “we don’t have any [known] cases here so we’re fine, please come back to campus” which … sure Jan. It’s Chicago metro, there are almost certainly cases you don’t know about.

    At least my company is finally handling this well and basically everyone who can work from home is being strongly encouraged to.

    1. Jo*

      Let your husband know that there is a group on Facebook started by the Chronicle of Higher Ed to discuss how institutions are handling responses to COVID-19. It’s also been a great place for sharing resources and discussing strategies to help students. I’ve seen a few mental health counselors post on there as well about what services they are using that are HIPAA compliant. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/higheredandcoronavirus/

  27. Quickbeam*

    Right now my company is only allowing parents to work from home. Gee thanks, says the rest of the work force.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Same. And it’s only for 2.5 days a week.

      I’m not sure which is worse…only offering WFH for some people OR only offering a paltry amount for some people.

    2. Agnes*

      Obviously everyone who can work from home should, but I don’t think this is the moment for “no special privileges for parents! I have a life too!” People’s personal circumstances , including immune status, caregiving status, maybe even age, probably should come into play if they have to make choices.

          1. Elenna*

            I’d argue age should maybe be considered before parental status, since from what I understand, children are the least likely to catch/have severe symptoms of coronavirus. That being said, I’m very glad not to be one of the people making those decisions. (Well, most of the time. Occasionally I’m like “I wish I was on the team that made that decision so I could smack them all upside the head.”)

            1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

              If I had to guess, the parental-status exception is because by and large across the nation schools and daycares have been closed and people need to be home with their kids. Not due to protecting the children’s health, per se.

            2. J.B.*

              My kids school closed. If my husband and I had to go in, we would probably have to leave the kids at home together. That has disastrous potential. Not that I can get anything done with them at home :)

          2. Wing Leader*

            I agree–age and immune status is something that should definitely be considered before parenthood. Those are the people who are the most susceptible to getting sick and dying.

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          Yes, you’re in the high risk age group and should demand to be allowed to work from home on that basis.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        It shouldn’t matter what your status is, if you have the ability to work from home, you should be able to do so.

    3. kt*

      Yeah, I think people doing elder care should be sent home for sure. The kids are (statistically speaking) alright.

      1. Lalanope*

        The problem is that many schools are shut down so parents don’t have much of a choice.

    4. Mr. Shark*

      That’s ridiculous. If you can WFH, you should WFH, regardless of children or otherwise.

  28. Tiffany Aching*

    My company’s official stance is that all employees who can work from home, should. Except, apparently, my office — HR, and my boss is the head of HR. We are “essential services,” I guess, so they want as many of us as possible to stay in the office. Except one coworker is immunocompromised, and several have kids whose schools have been shut down; they are all allowed to work from home. So really, it’s me and two others who don’t have kids and aren’t in a high-risk category, and we’re expected to keep the ship running even though 98% of the work can be done remotely with no problems. Suffice to say, I’m pretty grumpy this morning.

  29. Works in IT*

    My company is taking it seriously, but until the extra server equipment we rush ordered gets delivered there is a finite limit to how many people CAN work from home. We’re trying, but there’s only so much we can do at the moment : /

  30. RussianInTexas*

    One of the confirmed cases here, a police officer, was working as a volunteer at the Houston Rodeo on the cook-off weekend (that 200,000 people visited) is refusing to cooperate with the heath authorities – won’t tell which booth he worked at, where did he go in the few days afterwords, who he met, etc.
    So that’s nice.

    1. gmg22*

      A POLICE OFFICER. I mean, I’m sorry. If someone refused to provide evidence in a criminal investigation he was working on, wouldn’t he have some thoughts about that?

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Possibly (and that’s just speculations) he was somewhere, or met someone either his spouse or his work won’t approve of.

    2. Brett*

      It’s not that he is not cooperating.
      He can’t say because he has been unconscious and in critical condition for over a week.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        That’s new. At least it makes sense now, prior to recent updates, it was just “he is at home in quarantine”.

  31. Another name*

    Our large organization has been preparing to increase network capacity and adding loaner laptops, but so far leaves it up to individuals to come up with a justification and ask their managers for permission to work from home. This, despite our governor and national experts saying that everyone who can work from home should. Oh except for people returning from a cruise or international travel – they are automatically banned from the office for 14 days.

    I got permission from my manager to WFH but she asked me to keep it quiet so other people who can’t work from home don’t get upset. This is no way to run things!

    1. Works in IT*

      Might be similar to what’s happening at my place. IT HAS ordered the resources needed to put hundreds of people on working remotely. They just haven’t arrived yet, and in the meantime, our network which was designed to handle the usual increase of ten more remote workers every month or two can’t handle a massive increased load. People who were on vacation and have come back are being prioritized simply because they CAN’T come in, because they have to self quarantine, but without the resources we ordered, we can’t give nearly as many people remote access as we want to.

      1. Another name*

        We are fortunate that our inventory has already arrived and was actively being distributed when I was there last week, and VPN licensing was increased.

        It’s the lack of communications I find troubling. I think people wouldn’t be upset at other people being allowed to work from home when they are not, and the decisions being made by individual managers at this time, if there was some overarching plan in place and being communicated to them other than “ask your manager for permission”.

        1. Another name*

          Hit reply too soon. I mean a plan in place to reassure staff that everyone will soon have the option to work from home.

          There’s no guarantee for us that this will happen, even if I know (since I work in IT) that technically we could. Since we don’t even have that reassurance, it looks like only some of us are getting a special privilege and others aren’t.

  32. rageismycaffeine*

    I’m at a university. Students have been told not to return to campus from spring break. Faculty are being encouraged to work from home and run their classes online.

    But staff? We still gotta show up. Even though the governor said K-12 schools are closed down. We’re being told that the official line is that the university is still open for business, and no offices are going dark. High-risk folks are being allowed to stay home but the rest of us are showing up.

    Needless to say, morale sucks. :) I expect this to change within a matter of days.

    1. TechServLib*

      I’m at a university as well and in the same boat as a staff member and we’re all PISSED. My supervisor has been hounding the higher-ups to let us all work from home, but I work in the library and they’re saying we still need to be open to students who live in the area and may need access to books and computers for their school work. All this does is make the library the area where the virus spreads. We’ve had a student test positive for the virus and they still said we needed to remain open to students and faculty. The only concession they’ve made is to let us shorten hours and limit access to university patrons only. My boss wants us to close, we want to close, but the people in charge are demanding we remain open to facilitate the remote classes they put in place. Naturally, all the higher-ups are social distancing in their private offices. I say if they want us open, then they better get over here and start working the front desk.

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        OMG, you had a student test positive and they’re STILL forcing you to stay open????? This is INSANE!

        I have heard a theory – and it’s a pretty good one – that the reason our university is being stubborn is that if we close down, students will start to demand refunds for fees, and we can’t afford it. Which I guess makes a sliver of sense, but it’s still terrible. We need governments – federal, state, and local – to step up.

      2. Frinkfrink*

        University library here also, but they’ve at least shut our library building to everyone but library staff (and housekeepers), and allowing those who have reason to be concerned about being in a high-risk group and who can work from home do so. They’re switching to online-only teaching and we have to be working in order to support that.

        I’ve got respiratory issues and I got leave to WFH. If I hadn’t, I’d have been barricading myself in my office and job-searching in my down time.

        1. TechServLib*

          This is the compromise we’re trying to negotiate right now. If you insist on us coming into the office (none of us have private offices), at least let us close to patrons. A few people have gotten permission to work from home, but admin says that is reserved for those in “extreme circumstances.”
          The thing about supporting remote classes is that we can do it, you know, remotely. A concept that nobody in positions of authority seems to understand.

          1. MayLou*

            I would genuinely like to know who is not in extreme circumstances right now. Maybe people in really remote areas with no transport routes in from elsewhere?

        2. Oxford Comma*

          We are finally, thank you god, being told we can work from home if we want. I don’t know how much longer our doors will be open to patrons.

          For those of you with bosses who are hesitating, there have been a couple of library op/eds about the importance of protecting staff. Maybe try shoving one of those in your director’s face.

      3. DefCon 10*

        Same here. Business as usual, we’re told, and university offices must stay open. Library must stay open normal hours and provide all usual services (even though it’s spring break, and after that classes will be moved online). Meanwhile the governor ordered all K-12 schools closed, so one of the staff brought their kid to work today. No policy from campus or library leadership about how to handle this other than, “be flexible.” Most of us are pretty angry and don’t feel like the university cares about our health and safety.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      Same boat. We (staff) are being told from the big guys that we can work from home if our jobs allow it, but all the departments I know are finding nitpicky reasons for you not being allowed to work from home. Like when I asked, it was hummed over and “Well what if someone stops by your office and needs something?” I’m finding a new job after this.

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        What’s really irritating here is that different departments are making their own decisions about letting people go work from home while the official university line is that this is available, but frowned upon unless you’re immunocompromised or in a high-risk group.

        My department is the smallest one under a vice chancellor, so our VC feels their hands are tied and they must respect the official university line. They have of course been flexible for those folks who really do need to stay home, but they’re not yet bucking the official line and telling everyone to go.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Yep. I love feeling like a second class citizen! I’m graduating at the end of next year and I will be damned if I ever work in higher education again. It’s been one thing after another but this really cements it.

    3. Mama Bear*

      That stinks. My alma mater said the campus was closed. I am hoping that means to staff as well as alums and students.

      1. Elenna*

        Yeah, my alma mater (which my sister is still studying at) has gone to online courses for the rest of the term, and I’m thinking now that that had better apply to staff to.

      2. rageismycaffeine*

        Yeah, “closed” usually means closed. Sounds like that school at least is doing the right thing.

      3. J.B.*

        My university does mean it. The grad school sent an email saying if you had an assistanceship you must be on campus, and the next day they sent a rather embarrassed correction.

  33. SkrappyDu*

    My firm’s current stance is that we should work from home, but our offices remain open. I work in communications. Our work in no way requires our offices to be physically open. All of our work can be done with a phone and a laptop, which the firm provides to all employees. My firm and its parent company send daily updates from multiple members of leadership reiterating that the offices remain open for absolutely no given reason.

    While I appreciate that we can work from home for the foreseeable future, I am continually baffled by this need to keep the offices open and let employees congregate in offices while we should be practicing social distancing. The majority of our clients have closed their offices. From what I can tell most employees are teleworking, but I don’t understand why the option to come is even available, which clearly some people are still taking.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Maybe some of those people going in don’t have reliable internet at home or don’t own a laptop.

      1. SkrappyDu*

        Possibly on the internet point. But the company provides every single employee a laptop when they begin and we actually have a solid IT department who regularly updates technology.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Maybe some employees can’t work at home? They might lack internet access or space (desk, chair, light, quiet enough to focus).

      1. KHB*

        Then the company should be assisting them in getting those things, sooner rather than later. At least for the time being, it’s easy enough to purchase desks, chair, lamps, etc., but if retail stores have to close up shop in the coming weeks, it could get a lot harder.

  34. TheExchequer*

    My own personal work is already work from home (which got approved right before everything started going down, for which I am grateful).

    My actual work place, however, is all business as usual. For a call center. Despite the fact just about all of the work *could* be done remotely. :/

    My mom is a teacher and is having to scramble to figure out how to make lessons virtual, take attendance, and cope with families who weren’t expecting to have to have enough technology to implement these changes. Since she’s older and not in the best of health, I’m hoping for the best until school officially shuts down on Thursday.

    1. TheExchequer*

      My entire company just pulled the plug for two weeks. No word on if we’re getting paid.

      I’m in total shock.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Oh man – I hope you guys get paid. That’s awful that they didn’t communicate this to you when they shut you guys down.

  35. Quill*

    I’m currently trying to play email tag with our notaries because I have notarized documents to ship… but the rest of the time I get to WFH

  36. Odelle*

    I don’t know if mine is handling it well or not. We’re a library and we’re closed to the public, but staff still has to come in and handle materials, etc. Other library people I know say their libraries have closed entirely.

    1. Anon-mama*

      When we finally close to the public, all incoming materials from the drop box will be quarantined in a non-work area for 3 days.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      I think our local library is still open, however they’ve cancelled all “events”, limiting the number of computers available to prevent people being too close, and there are no toys available in the kids department. I’m sure there’s more…that’s all I remember from the facebook post.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Edit: they closed officially last night….just when the book I had on hold was supposed to be available today *doh!*

    3. Retail not Retail*

      Both public libraries I use are closed to the public. It does seem weird to have all branches open, but then again the central one can be a bit of a trek.

      Thank goodness for overdrive and my unwieldy collection of my own unread books.

  37. Observer*

    I’m going to add something. It’s easy to brush off companies like Google, Facebook, etc. These guys have DEEP pockets.

    So, it’s worth pointing out that businesses of ALL sizes are doing this. Even ones with really tight budgets. Because ultimately it’s going to cost most to NOT do it, than to do it.

    1. Ranon*

      My six person architecture firm had everything in place for full work from home by last Friday, and we’re in a state that’s trailing many other states in number of reported cases (i.e. we’re not nearly as far down the curve). I’m home already, at least two more folks will be home by tomorrow. And we already sit like 10 feet away from each other!

  38. Elizabeth Proctor*

    I am amazed. I guess I shouldn’t be though. Have these companies not seen the WaPo simulation? Will add a link in reply.

  39. EPLawyer*

    Thank you.

    Sadly, I can’t do a lot. The Chief Judge of the State closed the courts except for emergencies (protective order, child neglect things like that). However, she left a loophole that Administrative Judges can hold any hearings “deemed necessary.” The Admin Judge of the County I mostly practice in is going full steam ahead. Literally anything scheduled is still going forward but you can ask for a continuance (what if the client wants to go forward) and the wonderful “if you are feeling sick, stay home.” Which as Alison noticed is too late to be any good.

    He also closed the kids area in the courthouse since that is “non essential.” Except the schools are out, so what are parents with kids who still have to come to court supposed to do?

    We can’t pushback as a group because we still have to practice there. So it’s all a mess. Even the clerks can’t give clear guidance because they don’t know what is happening from hour to hour.

  40. joriley*

    I work at a university so we’ve sent all the students home and have mandatory telework, but my partner is a manager at a small retail business. I’d love to hear from others in a similar boat–his boss (the owner) is trying to balance safety with the reality that they still need to make money and most of their inventory isn’t online. And of course, all the employees are hourly and he can’t afford to give everyone paid time off indefinitely.

    1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

      I just posted two down thread … I run a restaurant. We can’t afford to given anyone paid time off at all. We’ve already cut hours drastically, but we’re likely to be shut down in the next few days, and it’s not like we have much business right now anyway. We are cleaning fanatically in the meantime. It’s a day by day choice to stay open. I worry about our employees either way – they can’t afford a health care crisis, and they can’t afford not to work. I’m in a different boat because I came from another industry and have a cushion for myself, but there’s a tremendous amount of personal uncertainty as well. I don’t think most restaurants will survive a shut down – or even the current reality – without government intervention.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Do you deliver? Where I live all restaurants are shut down, but they can still do delivery, so while obviously they are making much less than normal, they at least have some form of cash coming in/can cover at least some employee salaries. So if you can set up to deliver in some way, even if you wouldn’t normally, it might be worth preparing for that.

        As I understand it, they are making much less than the normally would, but more from deliveries than they normally would because of course nobody is going out, so if you don’t feel like cooking it’s your only option.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I’m hoping our University puts out mandatory remote work soon. Ours did approve emergency leave for 2 weeks if you need to be quarantined, but very few departments are allowing for remote work, even though the university itself is encouraging it. The departments are all just finding stupid nitpicky reasons why people can’t work from home.

    3. Someone On-Line*

      Small businesses need a lot of help in situations like this and I don’t understand how cutting the fed interest rates is supposed to help. Maybe it will make Wall Street feel better (though right now that doesn’t seem to be happening) but it doesn’t put money in the wallets of people who need to sell things to stay open.

    4. zora*

      One thing your husband and boss and coworkers could do is start calling your state and federal representatives for additional support.

      The State of California is funding extra paid sick leave for small business owners. So reaching out to elected representatives at all levels could help businesses like theirs.

    5. TinyRaptor*

      I’m in a similar situation—I work in an office and will be going full wfh as soon as a portable phone arrives (today or tomorrow!), but my partner works in production and they probably won’t close unless the state or feds mandate it. We don’t have any room to separate from each other at home, so I’m basically stuck with hoping he doesn’t get sick once I’m remote. It’s anxiety inducing, but at least we’re not high risk, nor in regular contact with someone who is.

  41. Marshbilly, not Hillbilly*

    My sister and I both have autoimmune diseases, and I’m terrified she will get sick and her immune system will freak out.

    Most of my work can be done from home (and I have a decent home office setup), just not sure what my boss will say. But after listening to a co-worker down the hall hack up a bunch of phlegm, I’m going to ask her. :-(

  42. Ruh Roh Raggy*

    As a restaurant owner, I am freaking out. Our employees can’t afford not to work. Obviously nothing (except paperwork, marketing, etc) can be done remotely. We already have barely any traffic, and it looks like all restaurants will likely be shut down in our state in the next few days. All we can do is clean / sanitize everything fanatically, which we are doing. If restaurants are shut down, most won’t open again unless there are significant subsidies. I have extremely mixed feelings about staying open. We’re making decisions day by day.

    I came from a tech job recently, and a cushy life in general. Restaurants have been eye opening in many ways. Last year, I would have been making jokes about how nice it is to work from home in my pajamas … now I’m staying awake all night, and only a little of it is concern for myself and my family.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve seen small local restaurants in my area shift to carry-out or delivery only (with delivery shifting to be to-the-door, not a personal exchange). Is that a possibility?

      1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

        I’ve spoken to a state rep and he’s already requesting an exemption for take out and delivery (in anticipation of a coming announcement), but we don’t have enough of that business to stay open for that. The lease and other mandatory expenses will likely drag us under if this lasts very long. Today is for switching google ads to pushing delivery and takeout. We also don’t have gift cards because last time we looked into it, the processor wanted more than a dollar a piece and a minimum order of 500 cards, which would last us 10 years (except they would demagnetize in the first few years). Paper cards are a bookkeeping nightmare (if you actually do it correctly). We could get cards from another company, but the processor’s fees for doing that would exceed the normal card …

        1. fposte*

          I think restaurants around my area are expecting takeout and delivery to rise considerably as a result of the restaurant shutdown, but obviously it would have to be quite a considerable rise to be enough to cover leases. Are there any local bloggers/Twitter accounts/subreddits where information about restaurant availability is being broadcast? That might help get the word out.

    2. pcake*

      Do you offer delivery or offer food to go with heating instructions? That’s how I plan to support our local restaurants during this period – order via phone and pick up. And I always tip something when picking up.

      1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

        We do, although it’s never been much of our business. That also means that we’d only have one employee on staff at any time – a cook. Which could just be us. I don’t think we’d have enough business to have a server in that situation.

        Given the fixed costs, it probably doesn’t make sense to stay open. We’re doing so in hopes that the worst will pass through quickly, which of course is completely contrary to the “flatten the curve” plan. Maybe it will be a nice warm spring, and maybe that will reduce the impact of the illness.

        1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

          It’s also worth noting that we’re coming off the annual retail slump – we had *just* hit a relatively good weekend (above median, anyway, not banner), the first since early January, when this hit our area. (It’s problematic that people hold off on restaurants and shopping when they get their Christmas bills, then start again when they get their tax refunds, but there you are.) So retail and restaurants aren’t coming into this in the strongest possible situation. We had just been interviewing for more employees when this started.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It’s really, really hard, and you absolutely have my sympathies! Our city shut down in-house dining and even higher-end places are doing curbside pick-up or delivery. Which keeps some of the business going, but it’s not the same. The restaurants will absolutely take a hit and it’s heartbreaking.

      We had a reservation for a highly regarded James Beard-nominated spot last night. They cancelled on me, of course, and I went to their website to buy a gift certificate. They had a “deal” where if you purchase a gift card for a certain amount of money, you get a reservation for as soon as they open again. Is something like that do-able (i.e., you can offer a certain perk or service with the purchase of a gift card)? Like, a free drink with the purchase of a gift card over a certain amount? To be redeemed in calmer times, of course.

      1. Ruh Roh Raggy*

        Unfortunately, we don’t have gift cards. The processor would only sell in batches of 500, which would (typically) take us 10 years to run through, except the cards would demagnetize in the meantime. (Paper cards turn out to be a nightmare if you actually track them properly for tax purposes.) Maybe we should have, although to be honest we haven’t had anyone ask about it. I think people talk about it more than they actually will do it. We are not a highly acclaimed etc etc – we have delicious food in more of a diner type atmosphere. We do have a loyal customer base, but most of them are older (another reason to worry about our customers) and probably unlikely to look online in any case, though we’re building a younger crowd as well.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          And you probably don’t have your regulars’ contact info either– if you did, you could offer some kind of small-scale delivery, maybe?

          Enough with my suggestions. I’m just sympathetic. I’m also sympathetic to how your regulars are probably missing their time at your diner. Which doesn’t help business much at the moment.

        2. pancakes*

          It sounds like you’re talking about physical gift cards. If you have POS or a website through Square or a similar service they’re issued electronically. Might be worth looking into.

      1. une autre Cassandra*

        Same. After the actual life-and-death concerns that’s my no. 1. And of course if owners/employees lose their income, housing, etc then restaurants and other small businesses closing will be life-or-death too.

    4. All monkeys are French*

      I’m sorry. I work for a tiny wholesale food producer. We’re still operating for now, and told to stay home if we feel sick, but if more than one of us were out, I don’t think we could get the work done. Honestly, I would rather stay home right now, even without pay, but I know that’s a privileged position. I could handle losing the job, but my boss couldn’t handle losing her business.

  43. RussianInTexas*

    So, a story of a crappy company and a new employee.
    My new (about a month) new office mate is a 53 years old women. She’s been unemployed for a while, and still Ubering after work.
    She has no health insurance. Her husband gets his via his job, but it’s too expensive to have her and the kids on it, so kids won out. My company offers insurance 3 months after you finish your probationary period of 3 months.
    She haven’t received a paycheck yet. She was saying she is really waiting on it to get new shoes.
    She is not eligible for any paid time off. Sick time starts after your probational period (all 4 days of sick leave), and vacation starts after a full year of employment.
    Her husband is on dialysis, so a high risk group.
    She cannot afford not to work. She cannot afford to get sick. She cannot afford not to work while sick. She cannot afford to bring the virus home to her husband.

    1. littlelizard*

      This is all terrible but: how can you not have a paycheck after being somewhere “about a month”????

      1. RussianInTexas*

        It’s actually fairly normal. The paychecks are for the pay period of two weeks two weeks ago, if that makes sense.
        The paycheck this Friday will be for the pay period of 2/23-3/7, not the last two weeks. It’s two weeks delayed.
        So she will get her first paycheck this Friday for that period.

        1. littlelizard*

          Two weeks delay is awful, I’m sorry. 1 week makes sense bc otherwise the second week won’t be done by the time it’s time to pay, but 2 weeks is really excessive and puts new employees in a really bad situation.

          1. Pantalaimon*

            to be fair, that’s a policy that affects everyone pretty much equally and no one ever has any incentive to complain about it because it only affects them once, when they’re too new to be complaining

      1. RussianInTexas*

        And then 5 days of vacation for the first 5 years.
        Welcome to the small company in the state that requires literally nothing outside what federal laws require.
        Oh, and we only get 5 paid holidays. No Black Friday or Memorial Day. You can take it off, but you won’t get paid for it.

  44. Catherine de Medici*

    My office has told everyone who can telework to do so (fed). However, I’m still nervous because my roommate still has to go into the office for the time being, despite being set up to telework last week. He’s planning on talking to his boss about it today because it defeats the purpose if only one of us can actually practice social distancing. At least I got him to drive to work rather than taking the metro in.

    1. violet04*

      I’m in a similar situation. My husband works maintenance because he has to physically be on site to fix boilers, chillers and other HVAC systems. I’m easily able to WFH and will continue to do so.

    2. Observer*

      Well, no it doesn’t defeat the purpose. I’m not defending them – there IS no defense. But each person who is less social reduces the overall risk.

      So, good for your company and BOOO for the other guys.

  45. Grbtw*

    My company doesn’t care at all. It’s a small business, so when you work directly for an owner, they personalize the business as if it were part of their soul, lol. I’m not super worried, because it is tiny and the staff are not in a risk group and I’m taking personal precautions. But my father in law recently passed from cancer, I know what it’s like to caregive for an immunocompromised person, on principle, anyone who isn’t taking this seriously is a selfish jerk, because it’s not about you, it’s about the vulnerable population. If he were alive today, my husband would have moved in with him and I would have lived alone for the duration of this mess because my job won’t do work from home, or I would have quit my job, I don’t know. Making fun of anyone who’s worried is vile, you don’t know who in their life they’re worried about, or the conversations doctors have had with their patients. I’m not upset about going into an office, but I would be if circumstances were different.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Making fun of anyone who’s worried is vile, you don’t know who in their life they’re worried about, or the conversations doctors have had with their patients.

      THIS.

    2. MOAS*

      To your last point — I almost had a panic attack and basically spiraled this morning – I read instances of women’s obgyn/pregnancy appointments being cancelled/postponed. I have a high risk pregnancy due to prior losses so I have frequent appts. It was too early to call my Dr for reassurance. I wouldn’t make fun of anyone worried, but everyone has their reasons to worry and be anxious, what I’m side-eyeing is the “one-upping” — not that you’re doing it but I’ve seen it in other places, including in my friend group. That their worries are not a big deal as someone else’s.

      1. Grbtw*

        I want to start by saying, your concerns are very valid, a high risk pregnancy is in the risk group. I think anyone in the risk group should be protected, if people are one upping, they are pointlessly posturing. It reminds me of people who try to tell other people how to react to trauma by comparing it to their own, which is hurtful, pointless, and judgmental. I hope everyone in your life is protecting you. If I were your friend, I would FaceTime you and not visit due to my level of potential exposure. I really hope you and your baby remain safe and unexposed.

    3. KaciHall*

      The owner of the small business I work for sent out an email saying we can’t work from home because it would violate data privacy laws (except people do work from home, so he’s full of it) so we are having business as usual, but drink lots of water because that kills the virus. His next line was that God has a time for us all, so unless his is now, he’ll see us all in the office on Monday. (Oh, except he’s not in. And his wife only came in at noon because it was her birthday potluck, and half the employees have been sitting at a small table eating food everyone made. Social distancing is not a thing my employer does.)

    4. Observer*

      This is not about someone personalizing their business, it’s about them being idiots who simply do NOT understand the seriousness of the issue.

      As for invoking “god has a time” that’s nauseating (and I will add, offensive to a lot of religious people.)

  46. Plague Doctor*

    I have coworkers who were exposed, due to family members returning from an international cruise. No one was tested until they came home, no self quarantine, nothing. They just went about their daily live, Oh and when they finally decided to get tested, yep you guessed it, THEY ARE POSITIVE!

    So my office got exposed from second hand contact. My manager proscribes to “all natural, no vaccines, all doctor’s are evil, and big pharma is out to get us” mentally.

    My manager won’t approve remote work, or leave for self quarantine (because than big pharma wins), instead she’s pushing us to drink some herbal concoction/vegan diet BS instead.

    Grandboss is doing, saying nothing. But we all noticed he’s been absent from work the past few weeks and we only hear from him by email/slack/Skype.

    I’d quit, but I need this job and it’s one of two major employers in our small town. Short of calling the governor or the CDC, I’m not sure what to do?

    1. EPLawyer*

      Good heavens. Your manager is a loon. No seriously.

      Not normally an advocate of this, but you need to call the County Health Department. Not only that your company has been exposed but your manager is pushing quack remedies at a time like this.

        1. Plague Doctor*

          I’ll talk to my coworkers about contacting the County Health Department, but we’re worried that we’ll be labelled with “insubordination” and fired.

          1. Threeve*

            Can you call in sick? At some point even the most dedicated conspiracy theory and quack medicine adherents still have to admit that people who are vomiting should stay near a toilet.

          2. Observer*

            I don’t think they can legally fire you for this.

            Also, maybe don’t talk to your coworkers – it may be possible to call in / post an anonymous complaint.

          3. Diahann Carroll*

            It’s highly unlikely that if you all report together and anonymously that you will all be fired. You just all have to be united here. I’d even call the health department and ask if a complaint can be made anonymously first if you don’t feel comfortable just doing it.

    2. Laney Boggs*

      I have a friend who went to NEW YORK CITY for a week. He texted me a picture from our gym.
      I’m furious tbh.

    3. Wing Leader*

      I just can’t with the anti-vaxxers right now. I’m no longer in a state of saying, “Well, I understand why you may think that, even if you’re misguided.” No, now you’re actively hurting people and it needs to stop.

      1. Plague Doctor*

        This pandemic has brought out all the insanity and nonsense that I can take. I normally am “a live and let live” type, but all I hear is one conspiracy theory after another.

        This pandemic has weaponized my manager’s views and she seems to think that big pharma causes pandemics to compel people to get their drugs/vaccines. She was never this bad, but now it’s reaching critical mass.

        My manager just emailed us all a bunch of *junk data” from some anti-vaxxer site on how to *cure/treat* the Corona virus. I doubt vinegar drinks, raw veggies, and essential oils are going to halt the pandemic.

        I’m going to call the health department anonymously.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Good. And I have also heard that this virus is a “scam” in order to sell a new vaccine. Baloney.

        1. Bite Me*

          I’m more worried about all the unvaccinated kids running around. (USA)

          I’ve worked overseas with non-profit groups to help vaccinate people in third world countries. I’ve met women who walked Three or more miles to get their kids vaccinated! I’ve seen kids die of diseases (ex. measles) that vaccines could have prevented.

          I just can’t deal with anything anti-vaxxers spew out right now

          1. virago*

            Anti-vaxxers and people who dismiss the seriousness of COVID-19 are six of one, half a dozen of the other to me.

            Earlier this month, residents of my state voted to uphold a 2019 state law that eliminates the religious and philosophical exemptions to the school vaccination mandate. (Anti-vax birdbrains were trying to get it repealed; their campaign theme was “Reject Big Pharma.”)

            The first COVID-19 case was confirmed here 9 days after the vote to uphold the elimination of nonmedical exemptions — on the exact day that the WHO declared the virus a pandemic.

            One of my professional duties is moderating online comments on a news website. The same ninnies who railed against eliminating nonmedical exemptions as a violation of their religious freedoms now believe that being advised to wash their hands, forgo large gatherings and stay home is a violation of their right to freedom of association.

  47. InsufficentlySubordinate*

    My spouse works in an ER. So far, we haven’t been overwhelmed where I am, but he is washing his own clothes and no hugs when he gets home before he’s changed. I’m sorta thinking I shouldn’t be coming to work. Company is load-testing VPN but hasn’t declared a go work at home yet. Hopefully soon. I also have asthma so I’d rather not add to it with a virus that causes respiratory issues. Bleh.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Please ask to WFH! Between the asthma and your spouse’s job, you have standing to push for an ‘exception’ if you need to.

  48. Gallery Mouse*

    My company just made an announcement regarding WFH last Friday, too late in my opinion. We are now scrambling to put together policies in place and adequately answer employee questions and address concerns. We are also one of the last in our industry to make a public announcement leading to really terrible optics.

    I am sure once this is over (whenever that may be) there will be a huge loss of talent as people will be looking to jump ship now that it’s really apparent that our company values profit over people. I wish all luck and good health!

  49. Purple Jello*

    I just gave my notice and am supposed to be starting a new job in 2 weeks. I’m wondering if my new employer will actually let me come onboard at this point.
    Also, my retirement funds just dropped a bunch, so i really do need to work.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I’ve been concerned as well. My start date is early April and I’m waiting to see if they push it back or not and whether I need to ask Current Job if they want me to WFH for an extra period of time. We’ve moving across states too so it’s been fun trying to arrange a living situation.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      I have a friend whose brand new employer is mailing her a laptop so she can start her new job WFH.

  50. Cat Lady Anooonymous*

    Teleworking at home with the kitten, but my mom and her sister are visiting my cousin getting necessary surgery. My mom insisted on showing up to the hospital even though there’s a 1 person per patient rule. Then she texted me how she and her sister went shopping, restaurants, the whole nine yards and how the city looks deserted. They all have some chronic condition or another (my mom a heart valve issue). She’s in the medical field and wears a mask in public, but really? Oh, and my mom texted how one of said cousin’s friends came from a high-Covid-19 area to help cousin out with all her grocery shopping.

    Luckily my cousin’s sibling in that same city had the sense to self-seclude with her husband and kids, and refused point-blank to meet up with her mom and my mom.

    Hubs had a low grade fever that went away within 5 hours but some panic definitely ensued in between. I’m upset that we weren’t given the go-ahead to telework earlier.

  51. Seifer*

    I told my boss that I’m just gonna start WFH because my roommate works at a school and I don’t want to keep going out into the world (where we have people that were flying in and out of the office last week) and then get him sick and have him go back to the school and get everyone else sick. I don’t want to be that person! She agrees but said it’s ultimately up to the CEO. I was just like. No literally. I’m not coming in. Either I can work or take the sick time.

    We can do our work from home, let’s friggin’ work from home. Now we can find out which ones of these meetings are unnecessary, and which ones could’ve just been an email.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah my boss tried to give me a bit of a guilt trip when I told him I would be working from home, but he’s too conflict avoidant to tell me not to. Fortunately, the next day he realized what a big deal this thing is and is working remotely himself.

    2. Indy Dem*

      You think that might be the case, but pointless Zoom or Skype meetings are easier to set up than in-person meetings.

  52. MissM*

    Preach on re: the BS that is “Stay home if you feel sick”. In South Korea where they’re testing everyone, the rates of infection amongst 20-29 year olds was incredibly high, whereas Italy is only testing the symptomatic and shows significantly lower rates of infection in the same age range, meaning it’s very likely that many people are infected without realizing it. Be kind to the rest of the world who may not be as lucky!!!!

    1. MsSolo*

      There is a suspicion the infection probably follows the age distribution more closely than those graphs suggest, and South Korea’s is skewed by the whole cult situation, but it does strongly demonstrate some groups are just not likely to be symptomatic. I’d be curious to see the distributions in other high-testing countries, like India, to see how the demographics break down.

  53. pcake*

    Those are good suggestions.

    Btw, according to the CDC website, “symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure”, and during much of that time, you can give the virus to others before you have any symptoms at all.

    Stay safe and well, all!

  54. Cobol*

    This is really just a vent, and not changing anything because I’ve been trying to leave for a year, but my company’s reaction to this is cementing my resolve.
    1) I still need to come into work even though not only can my work be done remotely, but I’m not even in the same office as everyone I work with.
    2) We’re doing ALL of the BS Alison calls out.
    3) We actually have special services that could help people and we’re not activating them, and instead focusing on stuff our customers absolutely do not care about.

  55. Vector*

    I work as an inspector for state government, and I mostly go into grocery stores in my states largest and hardest hit city. So not only am I potentially exposed to the virus, but I and my coworkers could be spreading it all over the place. Our headquarters are based in another city which hasn’t seen cases yet. I’m going to bring up these issues to my boss, though with government, I don’t know how much traction he has. I’d hate to lose vacation time, but that’s my next thought if they don’t let us stay home.

  56. Spek*

    Our company (Fortune 100), just put out a guidance to Stay Home if You Feel Sick, and to use our sick time for how it was intended. If we don’t have and sick time accrued, we are permitted to take time off UNPAID. I feel so valued. Our CEO made $20.7 million last year, btw.

  57. Anona Llama*

    Alison, my company is offering paid leave, but ONLY for those who need to be home to care for children or other dependents while schools, day cares, etc. are closed. The rest of us are expected to report as usual. Is this legal?

    1. Andrea*

      I have this question too! I didn’t think they could make decisions based on an employee’s family situation?

      1. Anona Llama*

        Right? I’m not in the high-risk group and neither is anyone I’m in close contact with, but it seems discriminatory to give people PTO just for having kids. One of my colleagues is well into her 70s but she’s not getting PTO.

        1. Ominous Adversary*

          They’re not giving people PTO “just for having kids” if your first comment is accurate. They’re giving PTO to people who need to be home to care for dependents. So your co-worker who has little kids and a stay-at-home spouse would not get this PTO, but the childfree person who is caring for an ill parent will.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Unless they’re proving paid leave for EVERYONE in a high risk group too, then yes, they are giving it to people “just for having kids”.

            1. Ominous Adversary*

              The policy allows people to stay home to care for a sick spouse, too. Does that mean people are being given time off “just for being married”?

  58. AyBeeCee*

    My work asked to see medical documentation for the employee or their household member who might be immune compromised before fast-tracking that particular employee to work from home. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, it seems like there’s a lot of potential for it to be done wrong but it’s probably not illegal exactly. They did say to black out any details and only leave names, dates, and diagnosis.

    They do seem to be practically shoving people out the door as fast as can be technologically accommodated though, so that’s to their credit.

  59. Andrea*

    Auto industry (supplier) here. My company’s official stance is that you can work from home if you have the virus, and you can petition HR to work from home if you have kids. Otherwise you have to take sick leave or vacation to work from home. If you don’t have any symptoms you have to come in.

    The message emphasized “YOU MUST STILL KEEP YOUR REGULAR WORKING HOURS”, because obviously this is all blown out of proportion and we’re all just trying to get some free time off.

    Meanwhile the CDC has recommended against gatherings of 50 people, and we have almost 200 people in an open office. Not the execs, obviously; they’re all in their offices with the doors shut, refusing meetings.

    I am unlikely to find support from my coworkers (most of them think this whole thing is a political plot) and less likely to find support from HR (who are even more political and have been openly hostile when I’ve asked them for help in the past).

    So. Lots of hand washing.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Otherwise you have to take sick leave or vacation to work from home.

      This is bull – if you’re working, you’re not on vacation. They should not be forcing you guys to use that time.

      1. Andrea*

        The “it’s work if you’re at work and vacation if you’re not” mentality is maddening. It really shows the difference between managers who want to lead a team of people who all work together to make something amazing…and managers who view people as expensive disposable units that help them maintain their money and power.

    2. JJH*

      Hello fellow auto supplier employee!
      We are a smaller office, but newly renovated to be open, and it’s basically the same. You can work with HR if you need to WFH to take care of kids now that schools are closed, and a coworker with an immune-compromised and pregnant wife just got approved to WFH until this is over, but we’re all supposed to be here unless we ourselves are feeling symptoms.

      Nevermind that it’s transmissible even if you’re pre-or a-symptomatic!!!

      And lots of people clearly aren’t taking this seriously and are making jokes, so I’m doing headphones in and lots of handwashing and trying to find out who’s also taking it seriously so we can try pushing back.

      Also, we’re an international company and they want the whole NA region to have the same response and they have to report back to Europe every day, so no one seems to have much authority here…

  60. etcetera*

    Any advice for people who are about to START a new job? After months of freelancing and being unemployed, I recently got hired and am supposed to start my new job a week from today. As of my signing the offer letter last week, they were not yet working from home and were trying to avoid working from home (it’s a tiny company in a paperwork-based industry), but I’m getting increasingly nervous about my public-transit-based commute. Any advice on if/when I should reach about about pushing my start date or starting off working from home? Or should I just wait it out and hope they move remote before I have to ask about it? I’m in a not-at-risk age group, but I do have some underlying health things that put me at least slightly more at risk.

    1. Moose on skates*

      I started my new job today. A week ago, I emailed asking if there had been any changes to my start situation given the pandemic. I tried not to seem panicky myself, but expressed some concern. They originally said I would come into the office, but then on Friday decided I would do a remote start and overnighted me a laptop. So, I started my new job remotely.

  61. Lime Lehmer*

    It is appropriate, but not prudent, you might try education, but you can’t fix stupid.

    I work for a major private university, we are working remotely, classes are now online, the research labs are closing and those who can’t work remotely are being given paid leave, and do not have to take PTO.

    Stay home
    Stay Safe
    Flatten the curve

    Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives
    https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/13/815502262/flattening-a-pandemics-curve-why-staying-home-now-can-save-lives

    Why Outbreaks like Coronavirus spread exponetentially, and “how to flatten the curve.”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/

  62. MOAS*

    My company just gave the word that we are closing and WFH tentatively end of the month.

    Initially I was averse to WFH because it’s isolating and I know my mental health will suffer. But more importantly, I do feel thankful that I’m at least in this position where I CAN WFH. I know there are so many others who can’t and I’m feeling so bad for them. Someone on my Facebook started a comment thread asking if anyone wanted to help a little bit and I may do that because at least I’ll still be earning my salary — I know there are so many others who are going to suffer economically from this. (I wouldn’t say this to anyone who was worried about paying bills but there’s always a sense of “well my pain is worse than yours.”

  63. Jennifer*

    Business as usual and have to take the train to get here. Sigh. Maybe things will change soon. It’s not the virus itself but the way people are reacting to it that is making me anxious.

    1. Wing Leader*

      I agree. The virus does not worry me, but some people are acting like it’s the end of days and others are acting like it’s nothing more than a cold. I want to throttle both groups.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. I’m more stressed about not being able to buy food and essentials when I need them because so many are stocking up and hoarding like they’re staying in the house for 6 months.

  64. Oof*

    I’m one of only 3 people here today – and I love it. I can work from home, and I probably will WFH two days a week, but since nearly everyone is gone, it’s a safe situation. Being able to come in a few days each week means I can be really productive on my days at home. I have one of those positions where I can easily work remotely 60-70% of the time, but not 100% – that remainder screws everything else up. I think I have the optimum set-up, at least as long as the bus still runs.

  65. LeahS*

    I have a chronic condition and have a comprised immune system- requested to work from home (my work can be done entirely remotely) and was denied but told I can take a two week unpaid leave. Then today was told that if we shut down completely, I will need to work because I have work from home capability. I am glad to have something to do if everything shuts down but this is so so frustrating. I almost died last year from said condition and just want to keep myself as safe as possible!

    1. KR*

      Is there any chance your doctor could write you a note formally advising you to work from home and email it to you? Your company may pay attention to a doctor’s note. Or you could request it as a formal accomodation for your medical condition.

      1. LeahS*

        This is a great idea. Does anyone know if me taking unpaid leave would also count as accommodation? If it does, than I don’t think this will work- they will just say that’s the only accommodation they’ll make and we don’t get paid sick time. But if not, I think I may try.

  66. Sled dog mana*

    Any advice for those who can do most of their job from home? I can do 75% of my job from home on a company provided laptop. The other 25% has to be on site (Quality Assurance on machines and fixing issues like recalibrating a machine in the middle of the day when it decides to be ornery), most of those tasks must be done outside business hours anyway so I’m thinking of asking for coming in 1-2 evenings a week and otherwise WFH. But then a day like today happens when I’m running around fixing stuff all morning and I think “there’s no way I can work from home”.
    I also work I day a week at a remote site and I’m really thinking of asking to work from home any days I don’t need to be physically present there because it’s a 1:40 drive.
    All this is complicated by the fact that today is my 90 days with the company so it feels like it might be out of tune to ask for WFH (that’s a hard one to figure out because we’re a service provider so I work at the client’s office and rarely see the people actually employed by the same company.

    1. Sled dog mana*

      Oh also should say that my boss appears to be keeping his weekly stop to check in on everyone he manages which feels strange since that’s a pretty big circuit.

      1. Indy Dem*

        Can you find out what the policy of the sites your service are? If they are WFH when possible or fully WFH, can you leverage that with your own company?

  67. Anon-mama*

    I am in the last in the state (we think) library still open to the public. We have union representation. We can do *nothing* but wait for the city manager to finally approve a closure (hopefully tomorrow, maybe Wednesday). We’re supposed to start new contract negotiations this year, and everyone is terrified they’ll threaten our current good health insurance, so we never feel like we can ask for anything. They’re *loaning* us any needed emergency leave, and it’s in the air what happens if you need multiple leaves (my exposure, a live-in partner’s exposure, separate daycare/school closures). It’s unclear if they’ll say if you don’t get tested/approved by the city health nurse if a week’s absence for a common cold cough (for safety’s sake) counts as emergency leave or will count against your bank. It’s a mess.

  68. Argh!*

    I’m in a high risk group and I haven’t so far needed to yank any HR chains, but for this I do. Whenever I pick up a bug from work I get sick for at least a month.

    I left a voice mail for our ADA rep because I’m expected to be in contact with the public even if we reduce services and other people are allowed to work from home. There are plenty of other people who can do this (I don’t normally have a lot of call to be in the public). No response yet…

    So… I went to work and wound up having the choice of working with the public in the presence of another coworker or not. I would have decided not to anyway, but this person showed up with the sniffles and her boss let her join me. I left and have been hiding in my office since then.

    Seriously. What?

  69. Laura H.*

    While I don’t like being seasonally employed at one job (I enjoy the job and my time there just can’t seem to get permanency), or that I haven’t been needed at my other one since July but I’m darn grateful to be out of the thick of this.

    Jedi hugs to all.

  70. NewbieMD*

    I am beyond frustrated with my husband’s employer. He works for the Federal government and WFH 2 days a week (him negotiating for them to allow that was like pulling teeth). The powers that be in his area are dinosaurs who think that WFH = goof off and will not give the okay to work from home despite the fact that he is able to do his job 100% remotely. Add to the fact that he takes the train into work so he’s basically spending 2 hours a day in a moving petrie dish.

    I’m a physician and it frustrates me that this could potentially be harmful to my patients so I spend most of my time at home sanitizing everything and I have insisted that he wear a mask on the train.

    At this point, I don’t know what is going through the government’s pointy little heads.

  71. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So for people who are working from home in areas where schools have closed, how are your offices handling the situation with people needing to work but also needing to care for young kids?

    1. cacwgrl*

      Telework has been loosened to temporarily allow child care while on telework. Otherwise, we’d be in a world of hurt due to a shortage of care providers and kids who are in daycare will now be charged full time care, instead of before/after school rates. Many employees can’t afford that right now.

      1. cacwgrl*

        ETA – that should say dependent care, which the new guidance states. I believe that change was for our very small piece of Federal gov’t. Not sure if all Federal employees were given the same guidance.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      Right now they’re not handling it. There’s just been sort of a vague acknowledgement that it’s happening.

      Quoting from the email from HR that went out today:

      …in those instances where the university is open but an employee, who is a parent (or guardian), is required to stay home with a child because of the closure a public school or day care facility, the employee may be allowed to work at home or elect to:
      • use vacation leave,
      • use bonus leave,
      • use sick leave,
      • use compensatory leave,
      • take leave without pay, or
      • make up time in accordance with the parameters for making up time during adverse weather. In these situations, the university may extend the make-up time to 24 months if necessary. This also applies for eldercare.

      So yeah. Super great.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        That actually sounds clear and flexible to me. “Do it. You can choose how to handle it in about six different ways.” The only option they aren’t giving is stay at home, not work, and get paid anyway.

        1. rageismycaffeine*

          You’re right. I started writing that comment, then the email came in, then I pasted it in and didn’t re-read the comment to make it make sense. LOL My bad.

    3. Nat*

      Our HR just sent out a memo (we’re a 24 hour facility in manufacturing) stating, “In response to the recent school closures, we ask that you work with your manager/supervisor to adjust your schedule as necessary to meet the needs of your family and the business. Please remember, we are a 24/7 operation, so if you can work your regular shift, or pick up any additional hours, please let your manager know as soon as possible.”

      We’ll see how it pans out. Fortunately, not a ton of people have children here.

    4. ThatGirl*

      We have a lot of parents and our schools are closed. Our guidance this morning is like “look, we realize you may have kids at home, please try to keep up your productivity and stay in touch with your manager, let’s all be flexible”.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        This is the best attitude I think they can have.

        There are things we (as parents) can do to help things go smoothly, but both the employer and employee have to be flexible.

        I currently work for a small company that is encouraging everyone to work from home and/or work autonomously- so my current experience is not necessarily helpful. School is canceled here. I have my computer set up in the garage to prevent interruptions and physically separate myself from the chaos. My kids are 14, 14, 13, 11, 5. At these ages I can hand them each an electronic device, a list of chores or homework, a recipe, an art project, and tell them to stay in different parts of the house. Except for teenage bullcrapery, they’re pretty easy. The five year old asks for gum every 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter how many packs I give her or how many times I tell her she doesn’t have to ask, she still asks. There’s probably chewed gum everywhere.

        When they were little I worked inside the house for a different company. Them being understanding of the kids was a condition of my employment. Still, I had to plan ahead to make it work. Meals were made in advance. The bottom drawers of the fridge were filled with snacks and drinks they could get, without my permission. I had “stations” of things for them to do, like coloring books, painting or dollar store projects, buckets of cars or blocks, etc. I scheduled meetings for nap times, and used chat features all other times. My away message explained exactly what I was doing: “Diaper change, be back in 5 unless it’s a disaster.” or “Putting the baby down for a nap. Be back by 12:30.” Being clear with my availability made things run smoothly. The kids were well scheduled, and so was my day. My bosses always knew where I was, where my time was spent, and because productivity was still high, they didn’t care when there was an occasional tantrum I had to deal with.

        But that was my every day. This new situation is going to be messy for a while.

        Hopefully companies are ready to be flexible and understanding.

      2. SweetestCin*

        This here. That’s kind of what we’re doing, since my state just closed, well, basically everything as of 3 p.m. today. So even if you COULD afford an extra $500 a week in childcare costs…you’d have to find a private sitter…

      1. Ali G*

        Yeah, here too. We are just asking people to do what they can. Some staff are working “off” schedules so their co-parent can work and then watch the kids. Some are just making do however they can.
        Some people are still going to the office because their souses SAH, so by the rest of us being at home, it makes it safer for them to that.

    5. zora*

      Our company is telling everyone that we will be as flexible as possible. They’re saying people can flex their working hours as much as they need, and that they understand people will probably not be as productive as usual, and if you need help getting things done, reach out to your manager. We understand of course that we all need to get as much work done as possible, because that’s how we all get paid.

      I think they are (finally) being strong enough that people feel like this makes sense and they can make this work instead of feeling confused.

    6. Amtelope*

      We’re just acknowledging that people will be less productive if they’re working with young kids at home, and trying to work together to take up any slack. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s what we’re all dealing with right now.

    7. MOAS*

      Our head of HR has 2 school-age kids and is WFH with them. There’s not a lot of parents of schoolage kids here, majority of the parents are of the under-5 so they already have childcare in place (relatives, daycare, SAH-spouses etc).

      One of my best friends is a public school teacher and was upset that schools weren’t closing–mayor finally announced last night that school is out until 4/20 and is worried about her kids. AFAIK they are training on online lessons this week but kids are effectively home as of now.

    8. Ranon*

      I told my boss I was working half time (I’m paid hourly and we are financially secure so I can do this) and he didn’t say no.

      My husband’s company sent an email that basically says “we know lots of you are working with kids at home, this is tough, do what you can, let your manager know if your work load isn’t doable and mark the calendar if you’re going to be out for an extended period of time” They’re a fully remote, unlimited time off company anyways so pretty well set up to deal.

      We are extraordinarily privileged to basically be able to say “doing childcare now, only working half as much!”. But also, given that pretty much everywhere is going to see a decrease in productivity, it seems like the majority could all work 50-75% time and get everything done that anyone else needs us to get done (with the exception of critical medical equipment manufacturing, etc).

    9. J. F.*

      My spouse and I are both professors; schools and the college both closed Friday. The endless stream of emails basically reads “Do what you can, it won’t be great, don’t worry about it.” They’re offering staff can all take 2 weeks paid leave and wfh and will be paid through June even if there’s no work for them. Some staff do have to come in (food service for students who can’t leave, etc.) but it’s relatively humane.

    10. rogelio*

      Our leaders have been pretty callous about it. The only e-mail guidance we got was to a reminder that we can’t care for kids while teleworking, and suggesting that if people don’t want to burn through vacation time, they can telework before their kids wake up or while they’re taking a nap. There was also a super condescending reminder that older kids don’t need to be supervised by parents during all eight working hours.

    11. MT*

      I work for a municipality that offers camps and other kiddo activities in the summer so for employees who have to come in to work (work outside, etc) or need childcare and are living nearby, we are going to be running a day camp. They are setting it up now and hope to have it by the end of the week. They may even pull in staff members who don’t normally do that sort of thing but need something to do.

      For the WFH’s, right now they are pretending they aren’t working and watching their kids.

    12. Nicki Name*

      It’s been specifically called out in our WFH instructions that they realize this may lead to people working unusual hours. Like with everything else around this disruption, people are instructed to keep in touch with their supervisor about what they’re doing. This is a workplace that already had flexible hours and a lot of casual WFH, so it follows existing policy.

    13. Senses*

      I work for one of the big tech companies. Generally there’s an acknowledgment from management that not everyone’s schedule will be the typical 9-5 and that productivity during this time will go down.

      If we need to take time off due to school closures, we can take up to 2 weeks without using our sick or vacation days. Beyond that, we can have a paid caregiver leave up for 4 weeks.

  72. call centre bee*

    Just tried to say we should be allowed to work from home and had a coworker saying, “well we’re still a business at the end of the day, we’ve still got customers, life goes on…”

    It won’t for my bronchitis-suffering self if I catch corona…

  73. Alexis*

    I’m a new employee (only been there for 6 months) in an office of only 5 people. My CEO has told us to stay home if we have symptoms. The problem with the peer pressure strategy is that my other 4 coworkers don’t seem AT ALL CONCERNED. From the beginning, I’ve heard all 4 of them say things like “It’s just the flu” and “People are just overreacting.” I don’t know how to be the new employee who is pushing back without any peers to back me up. I am home today because I actually have symptoms (probably allergies, but who knows), but I’m expected to go back in once I am feeling better. I think part of the problem is that we are a small office, so it seems less likely that we will get sick from only 5 people, but we also share the office building (and bathrooms!) with other companies, so I’m still concerned. Help!

    1. Laney Boggs*

      Omg you could be me! We just got our training/WFH laptops but none of the others want to.
      I have a second job in a restaurant that will never close with immunocompromised people (one is on cancer meds, the other immunosuppressants &has asthma). I really want to stop coming in as soon as possible so I can stop spreading between the two but I dont know how I can…

    2. J.B.*

      I would just stay home unless and until I got in trouble, then deal with it. And honestly, I expect the news to get worse and worse so within a week everyone might be too. I don’t care if I am likely to survive, there have been enough apparently healthy middle aged folks winding up on a ventilator. I’d prefer to avoid that possibility if I can and if not, to postpone it until hospitals are less slammed.

    3. pancakes*

      They’re terribly uninformed, so I’d start with trying to bring them up to speed on two basic facts: First, people who don’t have symptoms can still be carrying and shedding the virus. Second, the death rate is far higher than the flu – for flu it’s around .1% and for coronavirus it’s around 2.3%. You should be concerned about working closely with people who’ve made no effort whatsoever to understand something that threatens their lives.

  74. Iris West-Allen*

    I work for a small manufacturing company (approximately 30 employees) and there is no work that can be done from home. Which is especially wonderful since I feel like am the only one taking this seriously. My company is still planning to send people out of town, no one washes their hands, and this morning my manager earnestly told me her theory that this is all a hoax to screw up our economy so the election will be affected. The joys of working in the South…

    1. KaciHall*

      It’s not just the South. Not that the Midwest is much better normally.

      My ‘favorite’ conspiracy theory I’ve heard is that the virus is real, but it’s man made and designed to kill off older folks because they vote Republican, while leaving the left leaving youth alone. (I say favorite, because it’s probably the most ridiculous of the theories over heard at work. I hate my office.)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      My dad was spouting some of the conspiracy theory talk this weekend. (Yes, I’m sure Italy is on lockdown to mess with the US election.) My mom said seemed to think it was fine to let old folks die. . .forgetting that they are in their late 60s, apparently. She also pushed cake and bread on my sister w/ gestational diabetes (who ate it without protest). My sister’s husband didn’t attend the family birthday dinner because he took a spring break trip to TX (he’s 35, unemployed, with an 8 month pregnant wife). I’ve decided to isolate from them long past this coronavirus situation. What a bunch of nuts.

      1. pancakes*

        Why not ask what needs to be asked? Something along the lines of, “have you forgotten that your age puts you in a higher risk category?” or “why would you want someone with diabetes to sabotage their health by eating that?”

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      I heard a few conspiracy theories from my service guys today. Shut that right down. One of them has an immunocomprimised toddler! UGH.

  75. SociallyDistant*

    Can an employer require staff to submit to having their temperature taken at work?

    I’ve seen restaurants and other public places doing this, but am wondering if my employer can impose this as a requirement for staff (I overheard a higher up asking our CEO).

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure, but given this is considered a national emergency, probably yes.
      Even before COVID, some employers forced employees to get things like flu shots and vaccinations, so I would think they can do so during the pandemic.

  76. AJK*

    I’m just so worried about my mom. She is very healthy and all, but she’s also 71. She works FT at a warehouse company so she can’t work from home, and she can’t really afford to stay home, either. I’m glad she recently transferred into a less busy area so she’s not as close to her co-workers, but still – the place isn’t closing or (as far as I know) offering any sick time or PTO to workers in a higher risk group. Plus, I know a lot of people who work at her place, they’re young and feel invincible and I’m sure most of them were out all weekend not taking any of this seriously.
    My office made us all WFH as of today. If I could trade jobs with her, I’d do it in a second.

    1. OfOtherWorlds*

      Is it possible for you to temporarily support your mother financially for a month or two until the COVID-19 pandemic has burned itself out? It sounds like you make a great deal more than she does. Warehouse jobs aren’t exactly hard to find, and two weeks notice isn’t really essential, so your mom could quit now and then just find another job when she’s ready to get back to work. I really do sympathize with your mom. Warehouse work can be backbreaking even when you’re young and healthy. It must be utterly debilitating at the age of 71!

      1. AJK*

        I wish I could. I do make more than her, but not enough to support them. My mother’s job at the warehouse is in an area where they deal primarily with mail so there’s no heavy lifting, thankfully. Even if I could, though, Mom likes her job and says it keeps her active – she’ll stay unless they shut the place down. This must run in the family – my grandmother didn’t quit working until she was well past 80, even though she had a good retirement and didn’t have to work, she insisted and we couldn’t talk her out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Mom feels so healthy but… she’s still 71!

  77. Zidy*

    My best friend’s company was still insisting as of Friday that they would only allow people to telecommute if they can prove they have a hard-wired connection to their computer, and my friend does not and with the way his house is laid out, it’s not something he can set up. I’m stunned on so many levels – especially as they’re a health-care adjacent field. Hopefully with the governor now insisting on anyone who’s been in the mountains in the last few weeks go into self-quarantine, they’ll come to their senses when he goes into the office today. He lives with his elderly mom who’s definitely one of the at-risk groups.

    Luckily, my company had already encouraged work-from-home as of two weeks ago and then on Friday, made it a requirement as of tomorrow for those positions who can be remote.

  78. cacwgrl*

    We’re telework liberal right now and some of us have to be here to close out actions while most of the others went home. I honestly don’t mind. Face to face contact is limited to nearly none, we’re dialing in all the time instead of walking over to a desk, social distancing and our building has always been hypervigilant about disinfecting regularly due to an immuno-compromised person that we work with. We’re basically just stepping up our game, minus our missing sanitizers… :sideeye: to our coworkers who took more than they needed for their buildings… We had sanitizer dispensers that were removed from a red tagged building and somehow, all the other offices managed to get them all and our building, who actually got the dang things, has none again.

    As of now, child care is open and the facility is restricted access. As long as my niece continues to go (it’s the best thing for her education and structure wise), I will be here in case something happens and she needs to be picked up. Otherwise we risk gate access and as a family, feel this is the best approach for our current situation. She’ll go and I’ll work for as long as we can since we know at some point, things are going to be completely locked down and we will not have the option to do otherwise.

  79. NCKat*

    My company is requiring certification of recovery from COVID-19 to come back to work but the CDC is advising against requiring it because of the workload for the medical personnel. Are companies required to follow CDC guidelines in an epidemic like this?

  80. MissDisplaced*

    My company wasn’t taking it seriously until last week, when they suddenly instituted WFH for “most” employees.
    Generally what they did was this:
    >All work travel and events have been cancelled unless there is a dire emergency need.
    >Most employees are expected to WFH until the end of March (exempt and non-exempt). The non-exempt are expect to report accurate time sheet accounting during WFH period.
    >The office is technically open 9-5 if there is an urgent need to come in to get something or if you really must come in to physically do your job (which isn’t many). Extra cleaning and disinfecting precautions are in place. But coming in is discouraged unless necessary.
    >My company has a pretty generous sick day policy–this hasn’t been too much of an issue overall if anyone has become infected and/or must quarantine.
    >The WFH edict did not apply to our field service personnel (who work remotely anyway). They are still being dispatched for service calls. However, this is being reduced given that many of our customers are also closing their facilities for WFH and/or are barring nonessential access to their facilities (sometimes our field service is considered essential–but it depends). We’ll see how that progresses, because if those non-exempt people eventually don’t have work to do, there will eventually be adverse effects and possibly temporary layoffs if this continues much beyond March.

    A lot of this is still very much a wait and see process.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I just wanted to add that I see the enforced WFH for non-essential personnel as something that helps to keep the roads, facilities and other public areas freer so that the ESSENTIAL personnel of public services, healthcare, EMT, police, fire, utilities and some necessary basic things like grocery and pharmacy stores and delivery to be able to function without crowds during a time of crisis.

      If you’re under WFH–Stay home! Don’t be out running about unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  81. Krakatoa*

    I work in a hands-on medical field job. Work from home is impossible. Social distancing is impossible. We deal with a lot of vulnerable and immunocompromised patients, so I’m just hoping to get lucky and not get anything.

    1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

      I work in a retail environment selling essentials so we are probably not going to close. I don’t mind that – I completely get that keeping homes habitable and with all utilities working is an important thing – but if one more person chirps to me “Well, if I’m going to be quarantined, I’m going to paint my house (or some other non-important home improvement)” while buying crap , I’m gonna scream.

  82. Jean*

    Reading this thread just makes me wonder what all these companies (and mine) are going to do when they have half or more their workforce out of commission sick. Or half or more of their customers unable to continue giving them business.

    How many of these companies are going to go out of business? And how many people are going to be left homeless, or dead, because corporate executives value their “optics” and quarterly growth over actual human lives? It’s going to be a lot, regardless of how many people win the right to wfh this week or next. It’s too late.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I just really hope that when this is all over, people remember how they were treated during this pandemic by their companies. I know that I will be bouncing TF out of here as soon as I can.

      1. littlelizard*

        Yeah, I can see this being a real turning point for a lot of people. This situation is really exposing depressing realities.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve been wondering that for years at my job because we are SO short staffed. If my officemate and I get sick, literally nobody else knows how to do what we do.

  83. Panthera uncia*

    I mentioned earlier today about an insubordinate director who came in against her EVP’s request after being in Europe last week. She finally left at lunchtime, but there was yelling involved, and she’d already used the bathroom/cafeteria/held meetings.

    I also just spoke to a field service colleague, who on Friday ducked out a side maintenance door of a hospital once he heard that cops were there and trying to quarantine everyone in that wing for exposure.

    IMO we have moved past the point of companies making good policies. There needs to be disciplinary action for noncompliance.

  84. Cheryl Blossom*

    My job doesn’t really allow for work from home, and my company’s current line is that all locations will remain open unless someone is tested positive. for COVID-19, at which point that location will be closed.

  85. Elenna*

    My company recommended work-from-home (and alternative/split worksites for those who can’t) this morning. Glad to know they’re taking it seriously. I’ve been working from home for the last week and a half anyways, because I was on the same bus as one of the earlier coronavirus cases (back when there were few enough in Canada that they were publishing all the details for each one) and my manager and I figured better safe than sorry.

  86. Yogurt Lady Laughing*

    Just wanted to share the email I sent to my HR representative in case anyone is looking for an example. I didn’t get an ideal response from them but oh well. Our facility has no work from home option, hasn’t yet suspended travel and hasn’t sent out notices encouraging best practices. I felt very angsty sending it since I feel like it’s not being taken seriously, but I at least wanted my comment so be heard.

    Dear HR, I’m sure you’ve already gotten questions or comments about the outbreak but I wanted a chance to ask some questions. I realize it’s very difficult for llama food manufacturing to close down. However, I wonder if there are ways to keep us all safer while we’re at work. For example, is it possible to have the cleaning contractors in here more often to sanitize break rooms, vending machines, water fountains, conference rooms and common areas? Or encourage people to do it themselves before / after being at a table or using a machine by putting out wipes? How often are smaller things like door handles, printers, visitor badges cleaned? Are we making efforts to change out protective equipment for employees that need them?

    Given the fact that many employees use public transit to get to work, or may go home to family members who are also going into their offices, there is a risk of infection. I know other employees also help care for elderly family members. I saw the sign posted on the bathroom detailing specific symptoms, which is very useful to know, but I personally think we should also be taking action to keep everyone safe while we are at work. I would be happy to help if needed, we all need to do our share to keep our community safe.

    Thanks for listening,

    Yogurt Lady

  87. JustaTech*

    My work has been really good about letting everyone who possibly can WFH do that. The folk who work in the manufacturing plant and the folks who work in the lab still need to physically come in if they’re working (our new sick policy allows us to go negative on sick days down to -120, which is 4 years of sick time), but the rest of us can work from home.

    I was coming in because I hate WFH, but after a very long discussion/argument with my in-laws about why *they* need to not go in to their office, I decided today’s my last day in. I borrowed a monitor from IT, I’m going to do my one lab thing and then I’m going to hunker down. (After stopping at the pharmacy on the way home, which I’m sure is going to be insane.)

  88. alacrity*

    Can we have another open thread about strategies for coping for working from home during this time? I did a search and the last one, from 2018, is full of advice like “try working in a cafe” or “break up your day by going to the gym.” It’s all lovely advice for ordinary times, but these aren’t ordinary. I just set up my desk to prepare for working from home (my office has gone to a staggered work from home schedule so only half the people are in the office at any one time) and am very nervous about productivity.

    1. Sharkie*

      I love this idea. Although I think you can sub “going to the gym” with a walk around the neighborhood or doing a puzzle.

      1. JustaTech*

        When I start (tomorrow) I’m going to try “commuting” by leaving the house to walk around the block at the beginning and end of my work day just to give me some structure (and get off the computer).

        I’d love some more tips!

        1. Sharkie*

          That’s my plan as well. I am also planning on eating lunch on my porch and doing lots of yoga/ stretching

        2. Nicki Name*

          I’m doing that too, to take the place of the bike ride I’d normally have. We’re still having winter weather here, so it’s certainly not putting me in danger of getting within transmission range of other people!

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Read last week’s Friday Open Thread for suggestions – many of the comments focused on this. Also, read some of last week’s regular posts because suggestions came up there as well.

    3. Ranon*

      Open your blinds! Turn on a fan of you have one and it’s comfortable to you. Rearrange furniture if possible to create a space that works better long term (e.g. we moved our bed off center of our window to make more desk space). Open your windows if the weather permits.

    4. Wing Leader*

      I love exercising at home, so my first tip would be to pop on a you tube video and have at it.

      Besides that, lots of museums and zoos have really cool virtual tours that you can take on their website, which would be really cool for some bored kiddos at home.

  89. Frustrated*

    I get that this is a blog aimed at middle-class white-collar folks, but I have to say I’m getting really frustrated with the attitude that 100% of work can be done from home and is no big deal if it doesn’t get done and we should totally just shrug and let everyone do half their job right now. There are so many people who are going to lose their jobs, their homes, and more because of this. And schools and officials acting like if all they do is make it so kids can do distance learning everything is fine because the only thing schools do is the education part, there’s nothing about taking care of kids all day or feeding them that’s considered. This feels like it is creating a significantly bigger gap between the people who have to leave their homes every day to do work to earn enough to feed their families and live on the very very edge and others. This feels like a decision to kill the poor.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      I get and share most of your frustrations, however, it’s so out of any situation we’ve ever had to deal with that people are just scrambling to get through this and will figure out how to pick up the pieces later on. Online classes that help some are better then none. Bag lunch pick-ups that help some are better then none. Keeping 50% staff away is better then none.

      I don’t agree with how my company is handling this (some staff are able to WFH, some must report for regular hours), but I 100% understand where they are coming from with not knowing what the hell to do when things can’t be shut down completely. Personally I think they should be offering compensation (overtime or extra PTO) and asking for volunteers to come in and cover what needs to be covered.

    2. MOAS*

      I’m seeing that around — luckily I can WFH but I know not everyone is in that position. I too once worked hourly positions tht couldn’t be done from home that if I were to do them now, I’d essentially be SOL. I am seeing things pop up where people are offering to help kids with meals or paying bills for them, but unfortunately that’s not a permanent solution. I think some schools in NYC are staying open just for meals to grab-n-go but I’m not positive.

    3. Wing Leader*

      I understand the frustration, but I don’t think it’s a decision so much as not knowing what decision to make. I cannot work from home, personally, and right now my office is at, “We’re staying full open and operational, just go home if you feel sick.” Not sure what’s going to happen in the coming weeks. People and businesses just don’t know how to respond.

    4. Faith*

      I totally get the frustration. On the education side of things, I honestly can’t blame schools for focusing on the education part, because for years and years, they’ve been ridiculed for being little more than babysitters even as more and higher expectations kept being put on them even as funding was dropped. I do think they’re doing the best they can given the circumstances, but it’s never been good for our system to rely so much on schools for so many things outside of education. It’s always been shameful that our nation’s safety net is so threadbare. I hope after this is all said and done, people will realize just how much they’ve undervalued teachers and schools. And I hope more communities and people who have means step up in this time to help those who are living on the edge.

    5. Mediamaven*

      I feel for you and agree although I don’t know what the solution is. I’m sorry and I hope you are ok. There will be many, many people out of work and it’s already happening.

    6. Retail not Retail*

      I also find the idea that everyone wants a job that can be done from home interesting. My mental health took the biggest hit during my internship when all I did all day was computer work. The database crashed so I was like i uh need to go look at the artifact somewhere else on the ranch to better research it.

      1. pancakes*

        I haven’t seen anyone say that. It’s a very unrealistic idea considering how many jobs are service jobs that cannot be done remotely.

    7. Kelly*

      I work in higher education and to be brutally honest, working from home isn’t really a realistic option for most people under normal circumstances.

      Collaboration with others to solve issues as they come up is a core part of most people’s jobs. A lot of the issues that come up at the core are caused by a lack of communication, which is harder to solve when working remotely and you have to use email, phone, or chat. Often it’s easier to have the in person conversation than do do the remote method. We have existing issues with some our back end people not listening to people in patron facing positions. Some of those back end people often work from home and have very little contact with our patrons, so the catalog they designed isn’t ideal.

      There was a big push to try to figure out who could work from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sure the only reasons that everyone had a conversation with their supervisors was so no one could claim that they were discriminated against, even though there’s no way that some people ever could work from home because of the public facing nature of their job. There’s also not enough laptops with the appropriate software installed for people who could work from home and don’t have a work assigned laptop. I’m in that last group.

      I’m really hoping that campus leadership realizes that it’s not worth their pride to stay open for fewer students and non staff people being on campus. It’s not worth the health and safety of nonessential staff forced to come into campus.

    8. Observer*

      I don’t think that most people here are saying that everything can be WFH and it’s ok to just not get anything done. What they ARE saying is that it’s stupid to make people come to work when it’s possible to work from home. In any case, companies MUST take this seriously and do what is possible to minimize exposure (even if it only means additional sanitizing!) And that as bad of an economic hit as all of this will be, not taking it seriously will make the economic hit much worse. Also, if as many people as possible stay home, then the people who do have to go to work are better off because there are that many fewer people sharing public transportation.

      I was listening to an economics podcast the other day, and they actually interviewed three different economists. The one thing that all three of them COMPLETELY agreed on (the only thing) was that the best thing you can do for the economy is get a handle on this and flatten the curve. They all lead up to it in different ways, but they all came out and flatly said that as expensive as all of this is, not getting a handle on the pandemic is going to ultimately be more expensive. (And, yes, they all had different ideas of how to mitigate the economic hit.)

  90. Just Frustrated*

    I work for a small-ish company (25-30 employees). Only a handful of our staff have laptops. CEO routinely brings up how they don’t approve of WFH (even pre-corona scare).

    Coworker has baby, daycare got cancelled. CEO is lettting coworker bring the baby to work since she said she prefers being here instead of at home. Am I wrong to think this is a bad call by the CEO? I get that they’re trying to be flexible, but it seems counterproductive.

    To add to that, we have no preparedness plan in place as of yet and CEO is leaving for a remote (no access to phone or web) trip in a few days. I’m frustrated and tired of trying to be the voice of reason these past few weeks. Company preparedness isn’t even part of my job, but that’s sometimes the case with smaller companies…

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. That baby could be a carrier and get the rest of you sick. Or it could become sick due to one of the other employees in the office who has the virus, but is asymptomatic.

  91. CMB*

    I’m working from home today because my job is actually very flexible with working from home days, and has always been, but pretty much everyone else is in the office right now and it’s creating pressure to still go in tomorrow or Wednesday. On one hand I fully believe that everyone in my office should be working from home but the office building has pretty much decided that Everything Is Fine and is doing business as usual even though the building’s largest tenants are all working from home. No advice needed but I just want to vent about the optics of that!

  92. Pregnant and Scared*

    I work for a small office that has a staff of about 15 who are in the office daily. We have 300+ independent contractors that we service who are in and out on a daily basis. I am 7 months pregnant and approached my manager last week and told her that I was going to speak with my doctor and see what she recommended for me as far as what precautions to take. Her immediate response was along the lines of “If you feel like you can’t come to the office because you are freaking out about this, then you can go ahead and pack up your desk and wrap it up. You have been all in your head ever since you got pregnant.” When I brought up the possibility of working from home, she shut me down. I could easily do 90% of my job from home. Other members of my office work from home from time to time and she works from home quite often. I do not want to lose my income 2 months before my baby comes but my health is more important than this job. I don’t know what to do!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      “If you feel like you can’t come to the office because you are freaking out about this, then you can go ahead and pack up your desk and wrap it up. You have been all in your head ever since you got pregnant.”

      What the actual eff?! She actually said that to your face? Is there someone above her you can report this to, emphasizing that if you get ill with this virus and have complications that impact your unborn child, you will be pursuing legal action. I’d also emphasize that it would not be in their best interest to allow her to fire you while pregnant during a pandemic since it wouldn’t play well in the media right now. I guarantee you your manager will get overruled.

      1. emmelemm*

        “I’d also emphasize that it would not be in their best interest to allow her to fire you while pregnant during a pandemic since it wouldn’t play well in the media right now.”

        Definitely. I’d go scorched earth on her and bring this right the eff up.

    2. Jean*

      WOW, what a BITCH. She’s definitely planning to discriminate against you and has already started. I’m sorry you’re in this position OP. I really feel for people who are having babies during this time. I would be terrified.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        My sister-in-law is about to have my second niece any day now, and I’m so scared for her and the baby.

    3. Pregnant and Scared*

      Thank you all for your kind words! Unfortunately, the only person above her is our owner who we have been told to NEVER go over her head to in any circumstances. And honestly, this is not even the worst thing she’s ever done. Needless to say, I will NOT be returning to this job after the baby comes. I’ve been just holding on until it’s time to go on maternity leave. I can handle the verbal abuse but I can’t handle being forced to choose between my job and my baby. I’m speaking to my doctor tomorrow to get a note to work from home. If she fires me after that, my first call will be to an employment lawyer.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yes – sue the hell out of this company if they try to fire you. That is outrageous.

      2. J.B.*

        I’m sorry. At least if you do get fired, I would think the employer could negotiate severance and health care (if you choose not to go through litigation).

  93. Social Distancing, What's That?*

    I work for a worldwide company. Got an email this weekend that boiled down to “we’re all troopers, it’s important we keep working. If you work out of an office location, you need to keep going to your office unless you are sick or can provide proof that you shouldn’t be in public.” I am appalled.

  94. Middle Manager*

    I had to push back hard on my senior management to get an exception for an employee whose mother (who lives with her) is currently going through Chemo. I was pretty horrified that I needed to do that. We have confirmed cases in a neighboring county that MANY employees in our office commute from. Her job can be done from home. Really? You want to literally put her mother’s life at risk for no reason.

    Luckily, it ended up with a total work from home for the whole agency, above my senior leadership, so worked out. But it was educational about how little some of them care about employees.

  95. Deer Field*

    “If your company hasn’t approved remote work for people whose jobs can be done from home and you are in a higher-risk group, say you need an exception. Talk to your manager or HR and say, “I am in a higher-risk group for coronavirus and will need to work from home until the government is no longer advising that higher-risk people distance themselves from groups.” Note that language — “will need.” You’re telling them, not asking. (In reality, they can still say no — but framing it as of course they’ll agree to let you follow public health recommendations will help.) Use the same approach if you live with someone in a higher risk group.”

    What if you are HR and at risk and being told you still have to come in because you have a boss who doesn’t understand teleworking and coworkers (who are also at risk) who don’t take this situation seriously?

    1. Ranon*

      Offer to be the guinea pig to test run work from home “just in case” and then never come back?

  96. Christina*

    I work for an org that has direct, daily, repeated contact with kids and families in high risk groups. While I usually work in our corporate office, which doesn’t have direct family contact, some of my coworkers do go to those locations. I had a terrible cold a week ago (the third this year due to several of my coworkers coming in sick) and ended up working from home 3 days last week. My VP (grand-boss) had a conversation with me and my boss on Tuesday as things were starting to swirl about this that we should feel comfortable working remotely as needed, and shouldn’t feel pressure to come into the office if we’re sick.

    Friday, we got an email from our parent org that said, in part, all non-essential staff should be working from home. I didn’t hear anything from our org, so I emailed by boss and grandboss and basically told them I’d be working from home and they both said ok.

    I know people are in the office today (including one coworker who repeatedly comes in sick and who I’m pretty sure is where I got my last bug), and don’t know if I would have earned some “points” if I had gone in, but I think I’ve earned enough credibility up to this point.

  97. voluptuousfire*

    I’m so glad my two recent employers have sense and have worked WFH at least twice a week (now full time).

  98. Mmmmm*

    I can’t work from home as I work in a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. But our business has dramatically declined in the past week. Last night I only had about 4 hours of work. Unfortunately my employer has a rigid attendance policy and people aren’t allowed to leave until their shift is over or they get written up. I’m really trying hard to get management to waive this policy during the outbreak because it makes no sense for all of us technicians to be sitting around the lab, not working and infecting one another.

    1. Sorrischian*

      Yeah, I work in a non-covid-related, non-hospital clinical lab, and while volume has been pretty normal the last couple of weeks we’re not sure it’s going to stay that way. At least try to maintain physical distance from each other and disinfect everything that might get touched with bare hands? That’s what our lab has been doing.

  99. Brett*

    Our police departments here are completely stuck with what to do.

    They are limiting public contacts and asking officers not to leave their vehicles. But, as a result, we have had another big uptick in shootings over the past week. Despite this, they keep losing officers to self-quarantine after exposure, dropping their numbers on the street even farther.

    Meanwhile, they have to whole issue of what to do with people in jail, especially those held on suspicion of violent crimes. I personally know of at least one incident where a person arrested on multiple violent felonies tested positive which meant that all the investigators in the case as well as the multiple officers involved in the arrest were exposed. And now they have to figure out how to hold him while he is a carrier.

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      I can’t believe this has never occurred to me before. Wow, that’s really crazy. Thank you for sharing this.

    2. Brett*

      I’ll add that the case with the person who tested positive is from a completely different state, and is not public information to my knowledge (that’s why I was very vague about what they were arrested for).

    3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      Our people are actually thinking of releasing anyone possibly infected/letting the officer do a judgement call. As in, non violent crime suspects–such as drug offenses– are released on own recognizance. Nothing is set yet but it’s weird.

      1. Brett*

        A few places (I think Ohio was the first?) has already started releasing both non-violent suspects and non-violent convicted inmates from jail (not prison). It is people who are in jail for violent crimes (especially as suspects) that are the big sticking point. The policy proposed here is to release anyone who could be released on cash bail, but that gets tricky because there are people being held on suspicion of attempted murder and other violent weapons felonies that are bailable offenses (even if the bail is seven figures, it is mandated to be offered).

    4. Oxford Comma*

      There was a program on NPR today about prison populations and covid-19. I didn’t even think about what this means for police.

      I have no answers. I am just horrified.

  100. Lucy P*

    They way our servers are set up, it is 100% impossible to WFH. There’s less than 10 of us. We each have our own office. We’re doing the best we can to stay away from each other. Unfortunately, we’re still a paper dependent company so reports have to be shared manually.
    Coworker coughing right now, but it’s also allergy season here and several of the folks have severe allergy and sinus probs.

  101. DC Limey*

    I’ve got two interviews this week, one with a large tech co, and they’re both doing video interviews in lieu of in persons.

  102. Poodles*

    We are still business as usual. In fact- business as usual with the instructions that everything is still expected on schedule, and that this whole thing is an overreaction and so there is no reason to change any business practices. No word on what parents with children who are no longer in school are supposed to do. I’d say 90-95% of us could work from home, but we aren’t allowed to yet.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      Parents with children do what non parents do–make arrangements. My public sector job is absolutely open and working as normal with the addition of sanitizer. We were told if someone becomes infected, they will go on administrative leave. Other than that, we are being calm and keeping on.

      1. MCL*

        But parents are also being told to impose social distance on their kids. I have a friend with a little kiddo (2 years old or so) who FINALLY was able to grudgingly get permission to work from home, and her kid’s daycare closed over the weekend. Her spouse works at a grocery store and can’t work from home. Neither of them has any paid leave banked after a medical emergency earlier this year, and they don’t make a lot of money so unpaid leave isn’t an option. They’re not supposed to take their kid anywhere, and people are discouraged from going over to each other’s houses. She has to get her work done in her 700sq foot home while somehow corralling a toddler who doesn’t understand what’s happening and only knows “when Mama is home, I can play with her.” All the schools in my county are shutting down this week. There are a ton of parents who are in this situation. It’s not possible to “make arrangements.” We have to understand that flexibility is key here.

    2. Poodles*

      But how do they make arrangements when schools and daycare are all closed? They literally have no options

  103. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    I can see people being very resentful if X can work from home and Y can not for whatever reasons. What companies can do is pay those who can’t work from home extra and also give them extra PO, etc. For those who can telework, great. Do it, childfree or no. (As in no, parents don’t get an edge over non parents).

    1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      I am a parent who will be working from home starting tomorrow and yeah, it really bothers me that my coworkers without kids are still expected to show up in the office. Not at all fair. We should all have the choice to protect ourselves.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Wow! So, a bias against those who don’t have kids at home, which could hit older people, some of whom are “empty nesters”. Horrible.

        It’s funny, we see the best and worst in people in this pandemic.

  104. Ann O'Nemity*

    My company is recommending but not requiring WFH. I’m surprised how many people are choosing to go to the office.

    1. Elenna*

      Yeah, we got an email today saying that WFH was being recommended, and then a followup email saying “some people asked, so yes, you can come in if you’re able to keep up social distancing”. I was basically like “why would people *want* to come in while this is happening???”

      1. WellRed*

        Because some people have tasks that are easier to do in the office, others can’t focus well at home or don’t have a good environment from which to work at home. I have a coworker who needs to take care of some large digital files this week. She’s not sure her home WiFi has the bandwidth. I’m not crazy about two weeks of unergonomic setup at home, or trying to work while roommates rattle around, or take calls on my cell, but will be WFH after tomorrow because we need to shut this virus down.

        1. F.M.*

          My campus just went from ‘students stay home, instructors can still come in, libraries will be open’ to ‘everything is closing’, and honestly I would’ve gone in to do my work from campus if I could have. Much as I love my dog, he’s a noisy little nightmare when he hears strange voices, and trying to do webcam instruction with him beside me is going to be… something. (And no, there’s nowhere else I can put him; he’d get louder and more hysterical if he were shut away from me while I teach.)

        2. Rexish*

          Also living situation. My Brother and SIL are teachers and conducting onlines sessions during school closure. They also have 2 kids that are doing their online school work and following their teachers having their lessons. So my SIL is considering going to her empty classroom to do the work.

          Me and my bf live in a Small apartment (it’s fine size for 2 adults who are not home 24/7). He is a student and I work in a job that doesn’t have a lo of phon calls and has Limited ammount of meetings. If both of us had jobs that requires a lot of communication then it might be better to work from office.

  105. ReadyPlayerThree*

    My boss seems to be motivated by the fake “stafford act” texts to start taking this seriously. I’m now worried he won’t once he realizes it’s fake. Honestly, he seems to be waiting for someone else (the governement) to make this decision for him, which is weird because he’s usually super quick to action.

  106. LizB*

    My friend’s work is still in the process of getting everyone set up to work remotely… and her coworker Jane came in today and cheerfully told the office that her HUSBAND had TESTED POSITIVE over the weekend but she (Jane) “felt fine” so she still came in. This is a company that produces medical equipment!! It’s pretty essential that they keep functioning!!!

    They sent her home immediately and sanitized everything, of course. But I feel like that’s a “You will be getting a skype call from HR for your disciplinary meeting” situation, tbh. Of all the boneheaded moves…

    1. LizB*

      Important update! Jane’s husband did not, in fact, test positive – he took the test over the weekend but it was determined yesterday (Monday) that he actually has influenza. (So, still not great, but…) It is unclear at this time whether Jane was misinformed or confused about her husband’s status, or whether she understood but lied about it for some reason, but I don’t think any of that changes how negligent her behavior was.

  107. Lorac*

    My company sent out a ridiculously tone deaf email saying they weren’t going to institute a mandatory WFH policy until the government requires it. However if we had some sort of special condition that requires it, we needed to get permission from our manager and department head. In the meanwhile, focus on our Q1 profits!

    Never mind the fact that our company literally sells networking equipment that enables people to WFH.

  108. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    The university I work for finally sent out notice that we are going down to essential staff only on campus, and everyone else should work from home. I took the day today to do kind of a pre(mid?)-pandemic admin day in anticipation of all state institutions shutting down. The biggest fear I have now is that my bosses will decide that since most other people in my office cannot work effectively from home, I will be directed not to either. I would really like to continue to get paid, and I CAN effectively work from home. There are 1-2 functions I am assigned that will fall behind as a result of WFH, but all other functions will not. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I’m prepared to go to HR and bat for myself with regards to this, seeing as their only response to suggestions of working from home so far were “We aren’t going to pay you to sit at home and not work” and “That’s difficult for us (the bosses) because if we let you work from home, then we get other people [who have different job functions entirely] wanting to work from home and we don’t want to deal with that”. It’s really revealing how terrible they are!

    1. Purple Jello*

      Maybe you could go into the office once a week to take care of those tasks you cannot do from home.

  109. Lemon Ginger Tea*

    My kid’s school is closed so I’ll be WFH starting tomorrow, but I feel horrible that my coworkers who don’t have kids are expected to keep coming into the office. They’ve been plowing ahead, prepping to WFH ‘in case’ but basically saying they want to stop coming into the office ASAP. According to the policy sent out last week, anyone who has it, has been confirmed, or who needs to deal with kids home from school can WFH/take time off without using PTO– but outside of those three situations, people are still expected to come into the office.

    I suggested to my boss that in the event we need to close the office completely we could start forwarding mail to my home so that I can process it there, and he replied “we’re not shutting down the office.” Um ok. I’m taking my desktop scanner home just in case.

    Over the weekend we had two confirmed positive tests at a senior community a mile away from the office. It’s a small town. Shit’s about to hit the fan. I don’t plan to come back to this office for a WHILE after today.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Pretty sure they can’t discriminate between people who have kids and those who don’t, not when it comes to life or death decisions. I also suggested having mail forwarded and was met with an utter horror reaction from boss. People are horrible and inflexible and greedy. Look out for yourself.

  110. ainnnymouse*

    I think they are trying to save money. Some of the workers are reusing gloves and I work in food service. It’s disgusting, but I don’t know if I should bring it up.

  111. Mx*

    Working in the social care sector in the UK. We aren’t provided with face masks even if giving support to people who may have symptoms. We are also told to buy our own hand sanitizer and they will refund us. It would be all right if we could find in shops, but try to find a hand sanitizer these days.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      OMG, this is horrible. Report them to whatever governing body overseas your work.

  112. Mary Richards*

    As I’ve indicated before, I work in the entertainment industry (that’s about as specific as I want to get). We’re shut down. There are people who can work from home, but obviously, certain things can’t be done from home. So we’re just waiting.

    I’ve had stuff canceled left and right and I’m currently being left hanging on something that would provide some financial relief to my team.

    At the same time, I have an immunocompromised immediate family member and I know that this is important. Please stay home, wash your hands, and help flatten the curve. I’m sorry that more offices aren’t helping people take the time off to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

  113. MT*

    Our big big boss told us we could WFH (if able to) or use leave to take care of sick family members, etc. His wording was like, “do what you need to to take care of yourself and your family and we will work out pay or leave at a later time.” So I was like, “byyyyye, I’m going home with my laptop” because a)I don’t want to get sick and b)I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I also can work 100% at home. I thought that more of my coworkers would follow but hardly any of them did it last week, possibly because of our director. He sent something out that made it sound like WFH was a privilege and we must be peak productivity at home. Like, dude. We are all professionals, we aren’t going to just mess around all day long.

    Anyway, the big big boss was upset that so few people decided to WFH last week so he created a new policy that you MUST WFH unless your director determines that your job cannot be done from home (5 people out of 32 for our dept). So that solved that problem.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*