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Google Urges North American Staff To Work From Home To Reduce Coronavirus Risk

For employees in the U.S. and Canada whose “roles allow” remote work, Google recommended staying away from the office for at least a month. Previously, San Francisco Bay Area and New York City employees were allowed to voluntarily stay away from their offices.

Google on Tuesday advised its employees across North America to work remotely when possible over the next month to help halt the spread of coronavirus.

A memo sent to staff in all North American offices told those whose “roles allow” to consider staying home if their job functions allow, a Google spokesperson confirmed to CRN.

The memo, shared with CRN by a Google employee, was addressed to all staff in the United States and Canada. It said the shift in policy officially starts Wednesday.

Previously, employees in Google’s San Francisco Bay Area and New York City offices were given the option to work remotely on a voluntary basis due to concerns around the global outbreak. The “voluntary” option for those offices was changed to “recommended” along with all other North American offices with the latest decree.

The decision to urge staff to not come into physical offices, first reported by Business Insider, will likely impact tens of thousands of employees—Google’s workforce at the end of last year stood at almost 120,000, with most of those employees in the United States.

[Related: Amazon, Google Further Restrict Employee Travel Due to Coronavirus]

The memo said all “site leads” across the region were involved in the decision to “significantly reduce the density of people and lower the health risk in offices” while also reducing the burden on local health services organizations.

Google has established a COVID-19 fund that will allow temporary workers and vendors around the world to take paid sick leave if they have symptoms of the deadly virus or need to be quarantined, Adrienne Crowther, director of Google’s workplace services, announced on a Google blog

The fund will also pay for a commitment the company made last week to fully compensate hourly service workers who see their hours reduced, Crowther said.

“We know it’s an uncertain time and everyone is navigating a lot of ambiguity right now. As we all do so, we want to help everyone in our workforce prioritize their health and the health of our communities,” Crowther wrote.

At the end of January, Google suspended operations at its offices in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for an indeterminate amount of time as the COVID-19 virus first broke out in that region of the world.

And last week, the company changed its Google Cloud Next conference to a virtual format to limit travel amid the global outbreak, then cancelled this year’s Google I/O, a highly anticipated developer conference that highlights some the Internet giant’s cutting-edge technologies and emerging products.

The decisions to not welcome attendees to conferences came after Google confirmed one of its employees in Zurich, Switzerland contracted the deadly disease first reported more than two months ago in Wuhan, China. That employee was in the Zurich office for a “limited time” before exhibiting symptoms, Google said.

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