Companies, agencies look to telework in combating COVID-19
CDC recommends remote working when possible.
As the coronavirus continues its march into Virginia, some businesses and agencies are asking employees to telework as a precautionary measure.
McLean-headquartered Capital One has encouraged its employees and contractors to work from home starting Thursday, according to an internal memo obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Its founder and CEO, Richard Fairbank, noted that although the financial services company doesn’t have any known cases of COVID-19 among its employees, the company was enacting precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus.
In a Richmond news conference Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam said that state agencies are examining telework options. Federal government agencies also are encouraging workers to telecommute, including some with Virginia operations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans a “telework test” Thursday for employees who can do their work remotely, and NASA — including its Langley location in Hampton Roads — had a similar test last week to assess its telecommuting capabilities.
The Securities and Exchange Commission was the first federal agency in Washington, D.C., to close its office Monday after discovering an employee may have the virus. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also encouraged heads of federal agencies to prepare their employees to telework. Many federal workers in the Northern Virginia area already telecommute a day or two a week to alleviate traffic.
The Department of Defense released a memo Sunday outlining its plans for minimizing risk among its military and civilian workforce, including those who work at the Pentagon. The DOD made a policy exception through the end of the year for its civilian employees, who can work from home if they have a child or other person requiring care. They still must take paid or unpaid leave to account for any time spent away from work, the memo said.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner wrote a letter Wednesday to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, asking his agency to collect information about gig and contingent workers’ access to benefits in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that people work remotely and stay home when ill. Warner called these workers, who number about 15 million nationwide and make up about 10% of the labor force, “likely the most vulnerable workers to a potential spread of the coronavirus. They may be working without access to a health care plan or paid sick leave.”
Meanwhile, as more colleges and universities decide to move their classes online, most Virginia institutions still remained open for employees as of Wednesday afternoon. The University of Virginia, for instance, recommends its staff and faculty to “continue reporting to work as usual” while taking safety precautions.
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which runs the free Telework!VA program to help companies start or expand their telecommute plans, is encouraging Virginia companies to use its services as part of coronavirus precautions.
As more information comes in, Virginia Business will update this story.