The state of coronavirus and remote work

Coronavirus has shocked the world and will have enormous repercussions for how people work for the foreseeable future.

I've spent a lot of time researching coronavirus and it's impact on remote work. For those who are curious, here's a compilation of what I've learned by scouring the web. I'll continue to update this regularly.

USA employees stop traveling and attending conferences, and some are starting to work from home

Twitter is strongly recommending that employees work from home. Photo by Sara Kurfeß / Unsplash

On Feb 25, the CDC announced that they expect a wider spread of the virus in the US (WSJ). Their website says that "the current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic" (CDC).

On Feb 26, the first possible case of "community spread" of coronavirus was reported in Northern California (Business Insider). "Community spread" means the virus is circulating among the local community and infecting people, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected, according to the CDC.

This case revealed a significant hole in the USA's response to the issue, as the CDC delayed testing the patient for days, during which time numerous hospital staffers interacted with the patient (NPR).

"Community spread" is now accelerating in Washington, where 27 have been infected and 9 have died (NPR).

In light of these recent developments and other worldwide concerns, the US stock market initially tanked ~10%. It has since recovered a bit due to an emergency Fed rate cut.

The CDC published its "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020", which recommends companies implement hygiene standards, encourages sick employees to work from home, and recommends planning for a US pandemic.

Companies are taking numerous precautions to protect their employees. Ericsson, LG, Google, Apple and others have already suspended employee travel (Business Insider).

Facebook cancelled it's annual F8 Develop Conference set for May 5-6 in San Jose. Microsoft, Epic Games, and many others have also cancelled conferences or withdrawn attendance in other conferences (LA Times). IBM withdrew from RSA conference in San Francisco (Washington Post).

On March 3, Twitter and Square became two of the first companies to ask employees to work from home (Verge).

Thousands are forced out of offices in Europe

Photo by Benjamin Voros / Unsplash

Milan, located in the center of the European coronavirus outbreak, is "extremely empty" (Guardian). Armani, Generali, and other Milanese corporate giants have adopted varying degrees of work-from-home policies (NYTimes).

In London, many companies are either embracing remote work or carefully screening who can enter their facilities. Chevron and OMG instructed hundreds of employees to work from home when some employees developed flu-like symptoms. Sky, one of the largest employers in London, is barring entry to employees who have traveled to "high risk" countries like China and Japan (NYTimes).

The UK is making plans for significant disruption if coronavirus spreads in the country (Guardian).

Nestle, which employees 291,000 people worldwide, told employees to avoid traveling for business until at least mid-March. L'Oreal recommended the same through March 31 (Bloomberg).

Hundreds of thousands work from home in Japan

Tabata Station
Photo by Zhipeng Ya / Unsplash

In Japan, Shiseido (8,000 employees), Dentsu, NTT (200,000 employees), Hitachi and others are asking employees to work from home (BusinessInsider).

In addition, the Japanese government has closed all schools for a month (NPR). Hokkaido, the northern island, has declared a state of emergency (NHK).

Japan currently has 226 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, a number which excludes more than 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship (Worldometers).

Video conferencing soars in China as schools & offices close

China Roundup: Amid coronavirus, tech firms offer ways to maintain China’s lifeblood
App rankings compiled by Sensor Tower show that all three apps experienced significant year-over-year growth in downloads from January 22 through February 20, though their user bases vary greatly:
DingTalk: 1,446%
Lark:  6,085%
WeChat Work: 572%

Zoom downloads and users have surged, largely in China, causing their stock to rapidly increase in spite of a market downturn (CNBC).

Factory production in China struggles

Apple has warned investors it expects to fall short of its revenue goals as its China factories slowly reopen after forced closures. (Axios)

The just-in-time inventory model which most retailers follow today is very efficient but fragile to disruptions. Some worry that the impact of factory disruption could be over $1 trillion to the global economy. (Bloomberg)

Amazon, the king of just-in-time, is ramping up purchasing to avoid significant disruption (NY Times). They are having trouble preventing price gouging for masks (Verge), and a cursory search on Amazon for N95 respirators shows that they are becoming difficult to order.

Companies require self-quarantine for those who have visited high risk countries

According to Aljazeera, a number of companies are requiring employees to work from home for two weeks after traveling to "risky" countries.

Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc. is asking employees who traveled to mainland China to work from home for two weeks before returning to the office, similar to steps taken by Bank of Montreal and Manulife Financial Corp. Sun Life and Manulife deriv ed 17% and 34% of their earnings from their Asia divisions, respectively, in the most recent quarter.

Goldman Sachs recently also implemented a self-quarantine policy. From the Washington Post:

In addition to mainland China, “all employees who have traveled to South Korea or the impacted regions in Italy, or who have been in close contact with individuals who have been to these areas, are required to remain out of the office for at least 14 days,” the company said.

Other news

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