Coronavirus: Google Orders All North American Staff To Work From Home

The impact of the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread as Alphabet’s Google division orders all of its Northern American staff to work from home.

In a memo sent to Google staff on Tuesday, Reuters reported that the search engine giant recommended that its staff in North American work from home until at least 10 April, if their jobs permitted it.

This seems to be the first time that a tech firm has ordered a blanket ‘work from home’ policy. Until now, most big companies have limited the work from home option to specific regions in the United States.

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Work from home

Last week for example, Microsoft asked its staff in the Seattle region near its headquarters and the San Francisco Bay Area to work from home for most of this month.

Apple and Facebook have also issued similar instructions to their staff in certain locations.

Google had also previously only asked its staff in the San Francisco Bay, Dublin, and Seattle areas to work-from-home, but it has now expanded this to all of its North American staff (roughly 100,000 people), when it confirmed to Business Insider that they should work remotely until 10 April.

It is understood that Google offices and of course its data centres, will remain open to those staff who have to be physically present to do their jobs.

Meanwhile Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai also urged people to “contribute” to social distancing in a tweet on Tuesday evening.

“Contributing to social distancing if you are able to, helps the overall community spread and most importantly, will help offset the peak loads through critical healthcare systems and also saves it for people in need. (based on expert advice),” he tweeted. “Please contribute if you are able to.”

Google in a blog post also revealed that it is establishing a Covid-19 fund, by which all its temporary staff and vendors can take paid sick leave if they show symptoms of the virus or are unable to come to work due to being quarantined.

“This fund will mean that members of our extended workforce will be compensated for their normal working hours” if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or are quarantined, the company wrote.

Google last week had already confirmed it would give its hourly workers their regular pay if they had to miss work due to coronavirus.

Separately, a Google spokesperson also told Reuters that the company is temporarily banning ads for medical face masks on its platform “out of an abundance of caution”.

Other firms

Google seems to be one of the first big tech firms to issue a call for all North American staff to work from home, and it remains to be seen whether rivals will follow suite.

Amazon and Facebook are known to already have staff struck down with Covid-19.

Meanwhile on Sunday Apple CEO Tim Cook encouraged employees at several of its global offices to work remotely “if their job allows” from 9th to 13th March.

Last week Twitter told staff to work from home to help stop the spread of the virus when it said it was “strongly encouraging” all of its 5,000 staffers around the world to not to go into their offices.

However, for Twitter staff in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, it is now mandatory for them to work remotely.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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