Microsoft is allowing and encouraging its employees to work from home as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread in countries around the world. The software giant has updated its guidelines for employees, allowing anyone based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home through March 9th. Microsoft is also recommending that those who are feeling sick, have a compromised immune system, or have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) should work from home.
In an internal memo obtained by The Verge, Microsoft reveals that around half of its “multiple sites” in mainland China are open with temperature screenings in place. Working from home is optional at Microsoft’s Chinese offices, but a “large percentage” of the company’s employees are utilizing the option, according to Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy. At the time of writing, Microsoft has not yet disclosed whether any employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
There are currently more than 94,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 128 confirmed in the US. An ongoing coronavirus outbreak in King County, Washington (close to Microsoft’s corporate campus) has resulted in 21 cases and eight deaths. Amazon also confirmed that a Seattle-based employee has tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
Microsoft is also requiring employees in South Korea to work from home, and although the Singapore office is open, employees are being asked to work from home, too. In Europe, Microsoft still has its Italian offices in Milan and Rome open, and working from home is optional there. Microsoft is also allowing other offices in Europe to work from home if need be. Microsoft has also canceled all nonessential business travel to regions with active novel coronavirus outbreaks.
The software maker is still busy considering its options for the planned Build developer conference in May. Google just canceled its I/O event, and Microsoft has already scrapped its annual MVP Summit that was due to take place in a couple of weeks. It’s not yet clear whether Build will be fully canceled. But given the outbreak in the Seattle region, it’s likely Microsoft will be forced to consider a virtual option for Build this year.