Last week, Google sent out a memo to staff recommending that Washington State-based employees work remotely, in order to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. Today, the suggestion has been dramatically expanded, in line with the spread of the virus. A new note from the company recommends similar action for employees across North America.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed earlier reports with TechCrunch that employees across the continent are being recommended to work from home, if their positions allow for it. The company confirmed that other regions have been given similar guidance, as well. Europe, for example, is mostly recommended to work from home at present. Different regions are subject to different guidance, based on a variety of local requirements.
Last week's precautions followed initial reports of the coronavirus strain's spread in the Pacific Northwest, including King County, in which Google's largest offices in the state -- Seattle and Kirkland -- are based. Instances of COVID-19 have spread quickly across the country. At last count, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cases listed at 647 nationally, with 25 deaths. New York State has jumped to the top spot, with more than 170 cases reported.
Google is one of a rapidly growing list of tech companies taking similar action to avoid the spread of the virus. Microsoft, Box, Lyft and others have addressed concerns with employees, either recommending or requiring staff to work from home, and, in some cases, maintaining wages in spite of reduced hours. Google's annual spring time developer conference I/O was among the major tech shows that are taking the year off over health precautions.
The software giant has also announced the establishment of a COVID-19 fund for temporary staff and vendors across the world.
"As we’re in a transition period in the U.S.—and to cover any gaps elsewhere in the world—Google is establishing a COVID-19 fund that will enable all our temporary staff and vendors, globally, to take paid sick leave if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, or can’t come into work because they’re quarantined," Google's Director, Workplace Services Adrienne Crowther writes. "Working with our partners, this fund will mean that members of our extended workforce will be compensated for their normal working hours if they can’t come into work for these reasons. We are carefully monitoring the situation and will continue to assess any adjustments needed over the coming months."