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Twitter tells employees to work from home as tech firms react to coronavirus

Twitter logo outside the company’s headquarters
Twitter has told employees they should work from home if possible to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Twitter on Monday became the first major U.S. corporation to strongly encourage its employees to work from home to avoid spreading coronavirus.

“Beginning today, we are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able,” the San Francisco-based social media company wrote in a blog post. “Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us — and the world around us.” Twitter had more than 4,800 employees at the start of 2020.

The announcement followed news earlier in the day that cases of the viral infection had been identified in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Placer counties, and that four additional people had died from COVID-19 in Washington state, bringing the total U.S. death toll to six.

Twitter had announced Sunday that it was suspending all non-critical business travel and events, which was already a step farther than most of its corporate peers.

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Large tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple have said that they are restricting travel to and from China. Google’s restriction also includes Japan, South Korea, Iran and Italy. Amazon and Salesforce have both frozen all nonessential business travel indefinitely.

Many companies with offices and retail outlets in China, such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, have either closed them temporarily or asked employees to work from home. China remains the nation most deeply affected by the viral outbreak, and to date 2,803 of the more than 3,000 reported deaths from the virus have been in China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak began.

Google also confirmed reports on Monday that, in response to a possible case of COVID-19 at the company’s offices in Dublin, Ireland, the company is asking all 8,000 of its employees there to work from home on Tuesday.

“We continue to take precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of our workforce,” a Google spokesperson wrote in an email. “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.”

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Here in the U.S., several large tech conferences have been canceled out of an abundance of caution, including Facebook’s annual F8 event and the video game industry’s major Game Developers Conference. Facebook has also started restricting social visits to its offices, according to the Verge. Both Facebook and Twitter have canceled plans to participate in the upcoming South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

The digital currency exchange Coinbase issued new guidance to its workforce Monday, saying, “Employees that are likely to get sick more easily or for whom getting sick would be particularly problematic should now work with their manager to move to 100% Work From Home.”

Twitter’s decision comes as the company faces pressure to change from an activist investor, who has floated the idea of ousting Chief Executive Jack Dorsey from leadership. Even before the threat of the virus emerged to promote the idea of remote work, Dorsey had mentioned potential plans to spend as much as six months of this year telecommuting from Africa.


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