The deadly disease has arrived in some offices, and employers are figuring out how to adapt.
At Facebook on Thursday, March 6, the questions from spooked employees came thick and fast.
The evening before, the social network had disclosed that the coronavirus had been diagnosed in a contractor in its Seattle office and had said all employees in that city should work from home until March 31.
Other Facebook employees, some of whom had recently travelled for work, soon began asking their managers and one another: Who was the contractor? Had that person been near them? And what did that mean for their work?
That same alarm has now spread through other companies around the world, despite escalating efforts by many of the firms to deal with disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak that started in China. Microsoft, Amazon, Ford Motor, CNN, Citigroup and Twitter have put employees through work-from-home drills, dusted off emergency-response plans and ordered increasingly stringent safety measures to protect their workers.
Even so, the coronavirus has moved faster than their preparations. Amazon said this week that two employees in Europe, who had been in Milan, were infected with the virus and that one employee at its Seattle headquarters had tested positive for it. HSBC said on Thursday that the coronavirus had been diagnosed in an employee at its global headquarters in London. And AT&T said a retail employee at one of its stores in San Diego had tested positive.
The depth of employee anxiety has forced senior executives to take calming measures. Uber sent out a memo to staff on Wednesday saying it had formed an internal task force to handle its response to the virus, according to a copy viewed by The Times.
The ride-hailing company urged employees to have empathy for one another, to make decisions based on data and to restrict all nonessential travel until April. Uber added that it was working with an epidemiology consultant for further guidance.
“Much of this situation is new — not only for Uber but for the world,” Andrew MacDonald, a senior vice president at Uber, wrote in the memo. “We won’t get everything right from the start.” The measures that companies are taking in response to the virus may shift workplace behaviour over the long term. Telecommuting, which has been in and out of favour for decades, may become more ingrained. The use of digital tools for remote collaboration may also rise.
Article Courtesy: The New York Times, March 6 2020