Pfizer tells all US salespeople they must work remotely

Key Points
  • Pfizer joins a small but growing number of companies that are requiring that workers stay remote, rather than coming into the office. 
  • That applies to workers in "customer-facing" roles. 
  • These employees are also being asked to conduct their meetings virtually. 
Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer pharmaceutical company, arrives to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Pfizer just made it mandatory for all "customer-facing" employees in the United States and Puerto Rico to work remotely, according to an email viewed by CNBC. 

The drug maker, in a note to workers from its newly formed COVID-19 "task force," said that employee health and safety is the priority. The policy will be implemented on Monday of next week, and the company said it would hold phone calls to discuss the new guidance with its workers. 

"We are asking that you cease in-person engagement and use virtual customer tools where possible. This decision has been made out of an abundance of caution, with the aim to mitigate the risk of exposure to the virus for colleagues and our community," the note addressed to sales reps reads. Other employees at Pfizer have been given guidance on flexible working arrangements depending on their location.

The company employs more than 88,000 workers globally, but does not disclose how many of them are salespeople. However, large pharmaceutical companies typically employ big salesforces, and the number of affected employees is probably in the thousands. One person at the company, who asked not to be named discussing internal matters, estimated the number of affected people around 10,000.

Pfizer joins other large companies, like Twitter and Cisco, which have now moved from making remote work optional to requiring that some employees stay at home.

A spokesperson for Pfizer told CNBC that the company made the decision to help limit the spread of the virus: "All Pfizer customer facing colleagues in the U.S and Puerto Rico will use virtual customer tools to maintain important contact with health care providers and other customers."

"We will continue to re-assess this decision and continue regular communications with our customers," they added. 

Pfizer on Friday also outlined its five-point plan to battle the coronavirus as it continues its spread across the globe. In a press release, it described how it is converging a "SWAT team of our leading virologists, biologists, chemists, clinicians, epidemiologists, vaccine experts, pharmaceutical scientists and other key experts to focus solely on addressing this pandemic."

Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to fight the coronavirus. There are now more than 125,000 cases worldwide. 

Correction: Pfizer's work from home mandate applies only to salespeople in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

President Trump declares national emergency due to coronavirus pandemic
President Trump declares national emergency due to coronavirus pandemic