Workplace Adaptations - Social Distancing, Teleworking and More

Large Companies Respond to COVID-19 With Enhanced Safety Policies, Restricting Meetings and Travel

SUBMITTED BY MICHAEL SCRIBNER, APMM SECRETARY

Just as members of the APMM were planning to convene our biennial gathering, in Seattle, WA - of all places, a virus was conspiring to ground us and make us rethink even the mundane task of going to work or to a professional gathering.

Now, organizations across the country are taking proactive steps to avoid putting employees in harm's way. Because of the extremely contagious nature of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus, changes are being enacted that affect off-site visits to clients, conference travel, and in some cases, even inter-office meetings between coworkers, in an effort to minimize the risk of illness.

Just as the APMM decided to reschedule our gathering, we are in good company as the following organizations have taken decisive actions to eliminate large gatherings and curtail travel:

  • Google cancelled their large annual developer conference, known as I/O, due to concerns over the virus. They also placed travel restrictions on their employees, forbidding non-essential international business travel.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey requested that his entire staff (nearly 5,000 employees) work from home, and the company suspended all non-critical business travel and events.
  • The online payment platform developer Stripe took similar steps, with most of its employees encouraged (and in some cases required) to work remotely.
  • GPS manufacturer Garmin International suspended non-essential business travel globally, and recommended its employees reconsider personal travel to areas of increasing transmission.
  • Microsoft suspended some non-essential business travel, as well as closed its campus to tours or non-essential meetings and cancelled some upcoming events.
  • Whirlpool took similar measures, with their Europe, Middle-East and Africa headquarters, located in Milan, being situated in an area heavily affected by COVID-19.
  • The high-profile South by Southwest music and media festival in Austin, Texas has seen several large corporations such as Intel, Twitter and Facebook withdraw their participation, and more than 33,000 signatures on an online petition calling for the festival to be cancelled entirely, over fears of advancing transmission of COVID-19 in Texas. (The festival has since been cancelled.)

Some companies have taken this self-distancing policy as an opportunity to utilize virtual meetings. Whether teleconferencing through Skype or other software, or using more elaborate virtual meeting software such as GoToMeeting, many companies are finding this to be a suitable substitute for physical, in-person connection. 

  • Starbucks recently announced that they will be holding their annual shareholder’s meeting virtually. Starbucks headquarters is located in Seattle, Washington (currently the US state with the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19).
  • Adobe cancelled their annual summit in Las Vegas, saying it would become an “online-only” experience.
  • Similar steps have been taken by Facebook, converting one upcoming event into a virtual expo and cancelling another altogether.

Whether your organization is large or small, the implications to employee health and well-being, as well as the stresses to your bottom line because of work stoppages, shortages or shutdowns can weigh heavy. When fighting any foe, knowledge can be power, so here are a few links to read up on this latest threat and how some organizations are coping:

https://quillette.com/2020/03/03/dealing-with-a-once-in-a-century-pathogen/

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/03/811728989/coronavirus-cancellations-and-travel-bans-google-is-latest

https://www.moodyonthemarket.com/whirlpool-takes-precautions-as-coronavirus-advances-near-emea-hq-in-milan/

https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2020-03-03/twitter-amazon-google-among-businesses-guarding-against-coronavirus

 

Return to top of 2020 Winter Newsletter