A strain of coronavirus could be reaching pandemic proportions, having killed 2,700 people and infected more than 81,000 people in more than 40 countries. The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, is sending ripple effects around the world, including a push for more people to work remotely, while health organizations work to contain and treat the outbreak.
After a recent spike in cases outside of China, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to ask their schools and workplaces about contingency plans, like working from home, in case they have to shut down over coronavirus. Companies from Wuhan to Silicon Valley have altered how and where they do business as the virus rages on.
In February so far, 77 public company transcripts mention “work from home” or “working from home,” according to financial data platform Sentieo. That’s up from just four mentions of the phrase in the same month a year ago. The vast majority of those documents also mention coronavirus.
“The crisis is a very, very big challenge to the society,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang told investors on a recent earnings call, but it also gives people a “chance to try a new way of living and new way of work.”
Remote workers make up anywhere from about 5 percent (those who typically work from home) to nearly two-thirds (who sometimes work remotely) of the workforce, depending on the measurement. What’s certain is that the trend has been ticking up and a pandemic like coronavirus has the potential to fast-track the move by making it more universally accepted and prominent.