Global Companies Making the Move to Remote Work in the Face of the Coronavirus
With as many as 120,000 cases (at the time of writing) of the coronavirus confirmed worldwide, a death toll of approximately 5000, 81 countries affected, and six deaths in the US alone, COVID-19 has caught the attention of the world. These shocking numbers have affected a wave of change felt around the world as big-name corporations and smaller businesses alike send their workers home to work remotely in an attempt to slow the rate of the infected.
Even before recent events, remote work was on the rise in America. According to the Federal Reserve, the past 15 years have seen the rate of remote work triple. With the health concerns of today, many internationally renowned companies are asking employees to work from home as a protective measure.
Worldwide Brands Going Remote
Microsoft, Hitachi, and Chevron are only a few of the major companies making a push to have employees work remotely. Others, such as Oracle, Twitter, Apple, and Nestle are also making a push to restrict non-essential travel.
Google: Google shut down all Chinese offices and ended business travel to China for the time being. Its Dublin campus sent workers home.
Apple: All Chinese-based Apple stores and offices have been closed down. Travel to and from China has been restricted as well. Apple’s CEO asked any employees that can work remotely to begin doing so.
Amazon: Amazon will similarly be restricting Chinese travel. If any employees did travel to China, they will be required to stay home and work for a minimum of two weeks following their return. At its Seattle office, employees are working from home through the beginning of April. This strong measure is in response to the 10 COVID-19 deaths in the state of Washington reported thus far. For Amazon employees in New York, with 142 confirmed cases, and New Jersey with 176, the company advised working from home.
Twitter: The social media giant will be suspending all travel and events that are not considered to be critical and issued a mandate for all employees to work from home.
Facebook: Facebook pulled out of the upcoming South by Southwest conference to be held in Austin, Texas. All of its employees in China are working remotely, and non-critical travel to China has been stopped for the time being.
Indeed: Employees of this Texas and California-based company will be working from home through the end of March.
Nestle: Any employees of the world’s largest food company who have traveled to affected countries will be staying home for two weeks. International travel has been put on pause, and the company asked employees to avoid traveling within their home country as well.
Spotify: Daniel Elk, the music streaming service’s CEO, has instructed all employees to work remotely for the next two weeks at a minimum
The Difficulties of Remote Work
Economists studied the impact and effectiveness of remote work in 2016, releasing a paper entitled “Does Working From Home Work?” which discussed their findings. In a study of the Chinese travel agency Ctrip, a small number of call-center employees were instructed to work from home. The benefits were clear: Ctrip saved approximately $1000 per employee on the cost of office space, employees reported feeling happier with their work, and the retention rate increased. However, a loss in creativity and a general feeling of loneliness dragged employees down.
Is it a Success?
So far, it would be impossible to say whether the move to remote work has been entirely successful. Sources vary on the subject, with some stating that the struggles have outweighed the benefits, and others claiming that it may change the future of working for millions around the globe.
Until all of this has wound down, it will be impossible to say for sure. Derek Thompson, a staff writer for The Atlantic, called it the current climate a “huge, stressful experiment in working from home”, stating that the outbreak of the coronavirus has launched a full-scale trial run for employees of companies big and small working from home, a trial run that could cause a permanent impact on the working culture of America and the world.
It is also important to note that as technology improves, the pitfalls of remote work may begin to fall away. For example, one software company has created the ability for companies to host hologram meetings. Changes such as these will make up for the lack of connection that comes alongside remote work and may go a long way towards improving the future of remote work.
Doing Your Part: The Big Five
As companies respond to the spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has released a public service announcement regarding five things the public can make a habit of in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Hands: Wash often
Elbow: Cough into
Face: Don’t touch
Feet: Stay more than three feet apart from others
Feel: Sick? Stay at home
Click here to learn more.