Contain, delay, research and mitigate: the four stages of the UK’s response plan to coronavirus.

As it officially announces the start of the “delay” phase, the Government does not appear to be in a hurry: the current official guidance for employers advice boils down to “keep them home if they have been in red areas” and “wash your hands”; schools and stadia will remain open and people with symptoms will have to self-isolate.

Sensible as this advice may be under controlled circumstances, I – like the many who are now touching elbows and deserting crowded places – am left with a nagging doubt: “in what way does ‘letting it grow a bit more before intervening more harshly’ actually helps the fight against an epidemic?!?”

The official answer is today’s breaking news: “herd immunity” (Chief Scientific Advisor video – Robert Peston’s blog), which I find somewhat unsettling but this is not the point of this post.

What is clear is that this is a global problem where each of us can make a difference through responsible, timely decisions. Among the myriad things I heard and read in the last few days, I found, in Tomas Pueyo’s call to action, a rational and comprehensive compass.

As the head of a London-based software company, having the luxury of being able to support a “work from home” setup, my managers and I came to the conclusion that a “reverse-staging” approach would be the most sensible course of action.

How? By starting from the worst-case scenario.

We ditched our initial “incremental response plans” in favour of pretending that we were already in full lock-down (cue Italy now), assigning each employee one of three colours:

  • GREEN: the people who can walk or cycle to the office
  • RED: at least one person per critical project
  • BLUE: the “in-betweeners”

From next Monday, the RED will work from home until further notice; for at least one week, the BLUE will work from home and the GREEN will rotate so that a minimal skeleton will be working from the office.

This will allow us to:

  • detect and address any teething issues with “full-scale work-from-home” arrangements before (and if) major restrictions are mandated;
  • progressively relax the rules in response to de-escalating Public Health recommendations.


Good luck to us all!