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How Marc Benioff is helping out during the coronavirus pandemic

May 5, 2020, 9:30 AM UTC

Amid a pandemic, Americans have seen emergency authorization of a new drug, emergency orders of ventilators—and even emergency use of customer relationship management software.

On this week’s episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff tells Fortune’s Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt that one of the many ways his company has responded to the the crisis is by getting its products to more than 6,000 companies and organizations that needed it for critical applications including managing the governor of California’s emergency supply database.

Now the San Francisco tech company wants to continue to help businesses get back on their feet. On Monday, Salesforce launched Work.com, a solutions-oriented guide that aims to help businesses get employees back to work as quickly and safely as possible with things like contact tracing, shift scheduling, and emergency response communication.

The company first built the technology for the State of Rhode Island and quickly realized that many companies would need such tools.

“We don’t have a vaccine yet, so we’re going to be interacting still with the virus,” Benioff says. “We want to mitigate the amount of interaction that we have with the virus, so we needed to build apps that are going to help our customers get back to work safely.”

Benioff, who cofounded Salesforce in 1999, calls the novel coronavirus pandemic the “most severe” economic situation he’s ever encountered. His company has confronted it directly: 50 Salesforce employees have contracted the virus, he says.

With so much to be done, Benioff encourages business leaders to home in on the philanthropy they want to deliver during a crisis.

“You have to decide what it is you’re going to focus on, and what it is that you can do,” he says. “Where is it that you’re going to add value? One area that immediately might illuminate that for you is where you have relationships or where you have expertise in a certain area.”

Whether during a pandemic or normal business operations, the best Salesforce initiatives are born from the passions of its employees, Benioff says.

“My job as CEO is to be just listening and responding to my employees,” he says. “And my customers, of course.”

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How T-Mobile shifted 12,000 employees to work from home in less than two weeks