Microsoft tells Bay Area and Puget Sound employees to work from home if possible as coronavirus spreads

Key Points
  • People who can work from home in the two affected areas should do that, Microsoft said.
  • Microsoft said non-essential business travel in areas where the coronavirus is active should be canceled.
  • King County and San Francisco have both declared a state of emergency.
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft is encouraging employees in two areas hit by the coronavirus to work from home if they can for the next few weeks. The new rules affect the Puget Sound area in Washington that includes Microsoft's headquarters and California's Bay Area.

Several technology companies have been putting provisions in place to keep work going while trying to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, of which there are at least 93,000 cases, according to the World Health Organization. The COVID-19 virus was identified in Wuhan, China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Consistent with King County guidance, we are recommending all employees who are in a job that can be done from home should do so through March 25," Microsoft executive vice president Kurt DelBene wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. "Taking these measures will ensure your safety and also make the workplace safer for those that need to be onsite. Please let your manager know that you will be working from home, so all our teams remain well coordinated."

The new direction applies through March 25, DelBene wrote.

Employees who need to be on site, like those who staff retail stores and data centers, should go to work as usual, except those who are over 60, pregnant or have a compromised immune system or health condition, wrote DelBene, who cited information from Washington state's King County, where Microsoft is headquartered. Such people should consult with their managers, and sick people shouldn't come in, he wrote. Prolonged interaction with others in close proximity should be limited, he wrote.

Microsoft is suggesting that people postpone trips to its Puget Sound and Bay Area campuses unless they are essential, and all business travel that isn't essential in areas the coronavirus is affecting should be canceled, DelBene wrote.

More than one-third of Microsoft's 151,163 employees work in the Puget Sound area as of Dec. 31, according to the company's website.

Earlier this week Microsoft announced the cancellation of a conference that it had planned to hold in the Puget Sound later this month. Facebook and Google have canceled developer conferences that had previously been scheduled. And Amazon and Google have sought to prevent certain employee travel. On Wednesday videoconference software company Zoom said it has told employees as its San Francisco headquarters to work from home. On Monday San Francisco-based Twitter advised employees to work from home if they can.

King County and San Francisco have both declared a state of emergency.

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