Twitter and Square are ‘strongly encouraging’ employees to work from home amid coronavirus fears

Twitter and Square are asking their employees across the globe to work from home over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Monday, the two companies, both of which are led by CEO Jack Dorsey, said they were “strongly encouraging” employees to stay home. About 5,000 employees from Twitter and 4,000 employees from Square will be affected. The two companies have also suspended all non-critical business travel and events.

“Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us,” Jennifer Christie, head of Twitter’s human resources, said in a blog post. “We are operating out of an abundance of caution and the utmost dedication to keeping our Tweeps healthy.”

Twitter and Square’s policies are some of the most cautious as tech companies continue to clamp down on travel, pull out of trade shows, and cancel major events out of fear of the rapidly spreading virus. On Monday, Google announced that it was morphing its Google Cloud Next conference, which had been scheduled for April in San Francisco, into a streamed event, while Microsoft said it wouldn’t host its MVP Summit later this month near Seattle. That followed an announcement from Facebook last week, which canceled its most publicized annual event, its F8 developer conference. 

Meanwhile, a petition with about 20,000 signatures is circling in the hopes that organizers will cancel the Austin’s annual South by Southwest, a conference Facebook and Twitter already pulled out of. 

Twitter’s work-from-home policy is mandatory for employees in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, due to government restrictions. The company said it will work to make its meetings and internal tasks doable remotely. Outside of the mandatory restrictions, offices will remain open for those who need to come in or prefer to work there. Meanwhile, the company is increasing the deep cleaning and sanitizing of all its work spaces, and will be offering pre-packaged food options for employees. 

Twitter said that its criteria for the new policy will “evolve over time” as it gets more information. 

Square similarly is keeping its offices open, minus a shut down in Shenzhen, China, according to an internal email sent to employees on Monday. The company is also deep cleaning its offices and providing sanitizing materials and “basic culinary” offerings for employees who are not able to work from home. Square also said it’s suspending outside visitors to its offices, including job candidates, which will be interviewed via video conferencing.

The news comes as four more deaths from the coronavirus were announced in Washington on Monday. The epidemic has already exceeded 90,000 cases and caused 3,000 deaths worldwide. In the U.S., about 100 cases have been reported to authorities and six people have died.  

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Coronavirus is giving China cover to expand its surveillance. What happens next?
—Coronavirus shows why we need vaccines before, not after, an outbreak
—Before coronavirus, there were SARS and MERS. Do epidemics ever really end?

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