Coronavirus | Twitter & Google instruct staff to work from home

Twitter & Google instruct staff to work from home

Over the last few weeks, several organisations have adjusted working arrangements to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The latest firms instructing some of its staff to work remotely include Twitter, Google and Coinbase.

According to Business Insider, the majority of Google’s 8,000-strong workforce in Dublin, Ireland, have been told to work from home where possible from Tuesday this week after a staff member reported flu-like symptoms.

The tech behemoth explained that this was a precautionary measure and one that aligned with the advice issued by medical experts.

A Google Spokesperson told Business Insider: “We continue to take precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of our workforce, in accordance with the advice of medical experts, and as part of that effort we have asked our Dublin teams to work from home tomorrow.”  

Additionally, Twitter is now recommending that all employees around the world (almost 5,000 in total) work from home out of an “abundance of caution” in a blog post on Monday.

"We are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they're able. Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us," the blog post stated.

What have other organisations done to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Last week, Chevron Corp told 300 workers from its Canary Wharf office in London to temporarily work from home after an employee – who had returned from an infected country – reported flu-like symptoms.

At the time, Reuters reported that Chevron staff including traders, analysts and office staff were among those asked to work from home until the test results determined whether the individual had the virus.

Elsewhere, at the start of February, Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific asked staff to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave in an attempt to cope with the illness.

Looking for more

At the time of publication, the airline revealed that it hoped to reduce service by about 30% over the next few months, which will include a cut of about 90% of flights to mainland China.

Cathay Pacific said in a statement that preserving cash was ‘key to protecting the business’.

“Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme, which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June. All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period,” the statement continued.

Government advice

Last month, the Government issued guidance for employers around COVID-19. The site explained that the following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has developed the virus: coughing, difficulty breathing and a fever.

While there are currently no vaccines to prevent COVID-19 at the time of publication, the Government explained that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Therefore, Public Health England (PHE) recommended following the general cold and flu precautions which include the following:

  • Regularly disinfecting touched objects and surfaces.

  • Try to avoid close contact with those who are unwell.

  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren’t clean.

  • Wash hands regularly with hot, soapy water.

  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and bin it straight away.

What does Acas say?

As coronavirus continues to spread more widely in the UK, Acas advised employers to consider simple steps to protect the health and safety of staff.

Therefore, the site has issued the following guidance as good practice for employers:

  • Keep the workforce updated on actions being taken to reduce the risks of exposure in the workplace.

  • Ensure that all staff contact and emergency details are correct.

  • Educate managers on how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and make them aware of any relevant processes including sick pay, and procedures if an employee develops the virus.

  • Make sure office spaces have the correct facilities for employees to regularly wash their hands with hot, soapy water.

  • Ensure that tissues and hand sanitisers are provided and encourage staff to use them.

  • Consider if planned business travel is essential.

  • For those in vulnerable situations, consider protective face masks.

The professional body does explain that employers must ensure that no employee is singled out and not treat anyone differently due to their race or ethnicity.

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