COVID-19: Employer Notification Strategies for Self-Quarantine

Yesterday my wife decided to self-quarantine. She works as a cost accountant for a large food manufacturer with high social expectations. Social pressure is an ongoing issue and people are afraid to speak out for fear of job loss. Unfortunately, the company has taken no action regarding the pandemic despite one employee reporting contact with one of the currently known cases of COVID19 in our state. So my wife will take action and face the social pressure head on and I thought it might be helpful to discuss strategies and templates to deal with this and other pandemic issues (such as developing local community support networks).

Employer Notification Strategies for Self-Quarantine

The Direct Approach

Some of you are headstrong enough to go this route. Go straight to your employer and inform them of your decision.

Hi John, can we talk for a moment? Hey John, I just wanted to let you know I’ve decided to self-quarantine starting today and I was wondering how to handle this? (or “I was wondering what is the procedure for this?” or “I was wondering how do we go forward with this?” or “I was wondering how I can work from home?”)

Key points:

  • Start with your decision to make it clear your mind is made up (you take control and there’s nothing to challenge you on)
  • Ask a question at the end so your boss feels like he’s involved in the decision (false sense of control)
  • Be ready to support your decision if your boss asks questions (an easy way to do this is to share this article.)

Alternatively, you could go to HR first instead of to your boss.

Hi Jim (HR Manager), I’ve decided to self-quarantine because of Coronavirus. What steps should I take for a smooth transition? (or “What steps should I take to start working remotely?” or “How can I work remotely?”)

HR should have an answer for this. If they don’t, then this forces them to come up with one, not just for you but for everyone. Also, your question presupposes HR has plans for remote work (so they don’t assume you’re quitting). Once you get info from HR, then follow up with your boss with the full support of HR.

The Indirect Approach

This is for people like my wife who tend to buckle under social pressure. Instead of going face to face with your boss you will use email from home. If possible, CC Human Resources.

Subject: Decision to Self-Quarantine (or “Procedures for Self-Quarantine?” or “I have decided to self-quarantine”)

Hi John,

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve decided to self-quarantine. I am not sick but I am very worried about the growing likelihood of infection. To protect myself, my family and my co-workers, I’ve decided to stay home until the risk to myself and others has substantially decreased.

I would like to continue working for XYZ Company, and I hope that this will not affect my employment. I understand the burden this places upon yourself and the greater workforce. The decision was not easy. Please let me know how we can continue to work together remotely and I will make arrangements. Thank you for understanding.

Saul Goodman

Key Points

  • Use the subject line to set the context for your decision (so it is already made)
  • Start by presenting the problem (Coronavirus pandemic) and use it to justify your decision “because X I have decided Y”
  • Let the employer know you are not sick but you are worried (they can empathize with this)
  • Remind them the risk is increasing (this might help them decide to take similar actions and could save their life)
  • Reinforce your decision and support it with humanitarian reasoning (it’s not just to protect you, but your family and co-workers)
  • Let your employer know you aren’t quitting!
  • Show empathy for their situation (I understand the burden)
  • Don’t ask if you can work remotely. Make it a statement so you are in control
  • CC HR or a second supervisor to apply social pressure on the email’s target

Please note: none of these approaches are tested nor guaranteed. Be prepared to get fired. I don’t think that will happen because of the potential shit storm it would reign down on your employer if you went to the media. In any case, it is probably better to get fired than to get infected and risk infecting others, but only you can make that decision.

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