Some of Washington state’s largest employers are telling their workers to telecommute to minimize the spread of coronavirus, and the policy could soon extend to Silicon Valley and far beyond.
Last week it did, when Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.85% encouraged employees to work from home if possible. On Tuesday, Alphabet Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +1.82% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +1.86% Google advised its North American employees to work from home. Earlier, it recommended that employees at offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle work from home, if possible. A majority of the company’s 119,000 employees work in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +2.34% has told employees in the Puget Sound region in Washington state and the San Francisco Bay Area to work from home until March 25. Two employees in Washington state have tested positive for the virus.
Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.91% , which employs 50,000 people in the Seattle/Bellevue area, is “recommending that employees.. who are able to work from home do so through the end of the month,” a company spokesperson told MarketWatch. (Amazon and Microsoft have subsequently asked New York employees to work from home.)
Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.98% also told MarketWatch it has told several thousand employees in Seattle to work from home “if they have a heightened health concern,” a spokesman said. That includes those who are immunocompromised or lives with someone who is; those who are pregnant; anyone who has been in contact with someone with COVID-19; and anyone with kids home from school due to a school closure that doesn’t have childcare coverage.
Microsoft’s LinkedIn division has recommended its more than 5,000 San Francisco Bay Area employees that capable of working from home to do so through March. It’s also asked workers to postpone “all non-essential business travel” and not participate in external events in March and April.
HP Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203461582/composite HPQ +5.71% has offered similar guidance for its 55,000 worldwide employees who can work from home.
Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +2.18% has also given employees the option of working from home.
Earlier this week, Twitter Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +3.41% Chief HR Officer Jennifer Christie tweeted that the company “strongly” encouraged its 4,800 employees worldwide to “work from home if they’re able.”
Health officials in Washington state have said at least 70 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and at least 10 have died there, which means the state has reported the most significant clusters of cases in the U.S.
The decision by tech companies to shift thousands of workers to a telecommuting work schedule could led other industries to follow suit. Tech is better positioned to handle such an arrangement because it has the infrastructure and technology in place to effectively communicate and collaborate virtually. Indeed, many tech companies use teleconferencing and several -- including Google, Adobe Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200389143/composite ADBE +1.84% , and Workday Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201157610/composite WDAY +1.92% -- to move physical conferences to online-only summits.
Some 76% of Amazon employees and 30% of Google employees work from home, according to a survey conducted last week by Blind, an anonymous professional network with more than 3.2 million work-email verified professionals.
Remote work has been advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s one of the policies that nearly half (46%) of organizations are implementing because of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to a survey of employers by Willis Towers Watson /zigman2/quotes/202694274/composite WLTW +1.35% , an insurance brokerage and advisory company.