Coronavirus has officially been declared a pandemic and every time you look at news about current events you see another set of numbers, each higher than the last, telling how many people are infected or have tested positive. Amidst the warnings from actual health officials and the brush-off from politicians, you'll also find more and more companies have closed offices down and have employees working from home.
All the big names have already done it: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Twitter off the top of my head. And doing it was the smart call from both a company liability standpoint as well as a way to look out for the welfare of employees.
Cornavirus is passed from person to person so limited exposure is the best preventative medicine.
Avoiding any setting where a large group of people is near each other is smart right now, but for tech companies, it's even smarter — so many employees are flying all over the world visiting other offices and that means the chances of those folks contracting the virus is much higher because of basic math. Get close to more people, the chances you'll come in contact with someone who has the virus and doesn't know it yet gets higher.
It sounds like an easy idea to grasp, but I'm also seeing a good many people saying that closing offices and schools, telling people to avoid large crowds, or even self-isolating if you think you've been in contact with the virus is a silly panic manufactured by the media. It's not, and the people saying this are either ill-informed and have bad intentions.
Google has well over 120,000 employees spread out among 70 offices in 50 countries. The odds are that a significant portion of them will eventually come in contact with the coronavirus is fairly high. And that is enough reason why employees need to work from home. Add in the fact that many Google employees have travel as part of their job and those odds get higher.
The employee flying home with the virus can infect almost anyone at their office, who can then infect almost anyone else there.
If someone were to fly from Mountain View to South Korea, for example, where the population per square mile is extremely high they stand a higher chance coming in contact with the virus. If they then fly home, they could infect the people they share an office with, the people staffing the cafeteria, and the people providing security. Those people then could spread the virus if they were to catch it, eventually spreading it outside of the Google campus to children, the elderly, and other at-risk persons.
That's how a pandemic works. Numbers increase exponentially with one infected person creating many new infected people. The idea that one person can infect only one other person doesn't work, and since this is a virus that transmits without any exchange of bodily fluids or a particular type of contact, the odds of transmitting it to someone else before you even know you're infected are rather high.
If a chicken has a contagious infection, you euthanize the whole flock. That doesn't work with people.
People aren't livestock. If we find an infected individual amongst the flock, we can't just euthanize everyone to prevent the spread. And by the time a person realizes they are infected, the number of other people they have eaten lunch with, or shook hands with, or patted on the back, or rode the subway with is almost too big to count. That's why closing your child's school or your office or even canceling NBA games makes sense.
And if you're a big tech company that has employees jumping between offices on six different continents, it makes even more sense. It's not creating panic or even contributing to media hysteria — it's being proactive and smart.