Google asks its North American employees to work from home due to coronavirus concerns


Google hopes to slow the spread of COVID-19

By Cohen Coberly
In context: The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is wreaking havoc on the tech industry. As an increasing number of worldwide workers are staying home and otherwise avoiding unnecessary travel, markets have been disrupted, and major conventions -- like GTC, MWC, GDC, and E3 -- have been canceled or changed significantly.
Now, Google, one of the largest tech firms around, is telling all of its North America-based employees to avoid going into the office. As long as their role allows them to do so, workers are advised to stay home and do their best to telecommute. Given that Google employs well over 100,000 people globally, many of which are concentrated in just a few NA work locations, this is certainly not a bad call from company leaders.
Notably, though, this decision does not appear to be a strict mandate. Google says it's a "[recommendation]" borne out of an "abundance of caution." Of course, even if it's not a hard and fast rule, we expect that most employees will welcome the opportunity to work from the comfort of their couch or home office, virus or no virus.
Google is putting a soft deadline on its recommendation -- employees are asked to work from home between March 12 and April 10, which is an interesting, but seemingly arbitrary timeframe. It's not likely that COVID-19 will be eradicated by mid-April, after all, but perhaps the search giant is looking at it from a different (and unknown to us) perspective.
"The goal of businesses moving to work from home (WFH) arrangements is to significantly reduce the density of people and lower the health risk in offices..."
This news came to light via a company-wide memo (obtained by CNN) sent out to workers by Chris Rackow, Google's VP of global security.
"The goal of businesses moving to work from home (WFH) arrangements is to significantly reduce the density of people and lower the health risk in offices, and also reduce the burden on the local community and health resourced, enabling those in need to get quicker support," the memo reportedly states.
We hope, for North America's sake, that Google employees heed this recommendation. COVID-19 is spreading fast, and one could argue that major players in the tech industry have an obligation to mitigate the damage if possible.
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March 12, 2020
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