Since Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has spread in many countries all over the world. As the number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus i.e. COVID-19 rise drastically, many governments, schools, and companies around the world are taking more drastic measures to restrain the virus’s spread. At this time, coronavirus has more than 118,000 cases and 4,290 deaths worldwide.
As the number of infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus are still increasing day by day, people are advised to avoid public presence, social gatherings, etc. At present, India has over 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus with employees in IT companies affected and 9.41 Lakh people have been screened at airports. Similarly, there are at least 1,267 cases of the coronavirus with more than 29 deaths in the United States.
Many major companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple & so on are also making sure that their employees do not get affected and stay safe during this outbreak. Google has advised all its employees in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to work from home starting March 12th, expanding a recommendation sent on March 10 to North America-based employees to work from home until at least April 10th.
On Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook encouraged employees at several of its global offices to work remotely “if your job allows” from March 9th to 13th. And by the end of last week, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and many other tech companies asked their employees in the Bay Area and Seattle to work from home. Moreover, Google also confirmed that it would give its hourly workers their regular pay if they had to miss work due to coronavirus. The US Centres 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 changed how and where they do business as the virus spreads on.
Due to drastic spread of coronavirus lately, many Indian corporations & startups are asking their employees to work from home. This includes Flipkart, Snapdeal, Swiggy, Paytm, Uber & Wipro and so on. Nithin Kamath, founder of stock broking startup Zerodha, stated that the entire team of 1,200 has been asked to work from home. Similarly, other Bengaluru-based startups like fintech startup Instamojo, edtech platform Unacademy, Byju's, Bounce and Meesho have asked their employees to strictly work from home to avoid any risk. E-commerce companies like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Paytm & also Swiggy are encouraging their employees to work from home by using technologies like videoconferencing to interact with their clients and colleagues. Also ride-hailing companies like Ola & Uber are asking their employees to work remotely especially if one is feeling unwell. Moreover, IT industries like Wipro & Tech Mahindra are taking necessary precautions by keeping employees,who travel overseas for their projects, in quarantine. Telecom major Reliance Jio Infocomm & Coal India have given their employees choice to work from home without any biometric attendance.
Many companies are looking for solutions to enable their employees work from home without compromising the efficiency of work. For this, they are adopting various technologies & software.
The Chennai-based office suite provider Zoho also made the announcement that it also implemented a work from home policy for its own employees. The company states that over 8000 employees across more than 10 countries will be working from safety of their homes until the virus is brought under control. Zoho uses Remotely toolkit to run their remote operations. Zoho Corp CEO Sridhar Vembu has been running the company from a remote farm near Tenkasi, a town in southern Tamil Nadu with the help of Remotely — the company’s virtual collaboration and productivity platform. Now, Zoho is also offering the same tools to its business partners and clients for free temporarily. Zoho Remotely includes a selection of apps in advanced software suite which will enable communication and collaboration between colleagues and customers.
Similarly, the networking giant Cisco is offering its remote collaboration tool Webex for free under 90-day licences to businesses who are not its customers. Cisco’s SVP and GM, Sri Srinivasan said that they would also be helping existing customers meet their rapidly changing needs as they enable a much larger number of remote workers by expanding their usage at no additional cost. He further revealed that that after the Covid-19 virus, traffic on the Webex backbone connecting China-based Webex users to their global workplaces has increased as much as 22 times.
At the same time, other companies are relying upon video conferencing and chat software. During this outbreak, the demand for Microsoft, Google, and Zoom's Video Conferencing Software has increased significantly all over the world. This demand is expected to increase even more as the number of cases rises. As the number of school closures and quarantines increases, video conferencing will become ever more & more important. According to reports, Microsoft's Teams collaboration platform has seen a 500% increase in usage in China since end of January. This usage is increasing in the U.S. as well, with more employees working from home. While, Zoom CFO, Kelly Steckelberg has said publicly that its usage is up significantly from its 100 billion minutes run rate at the end of January. During the same time period, the company also saw four-five times as many users in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
Considering the risk and intensity of COVID-19, these companies are offering many services free of cost. All that demand has made the tech companies to make it easier and in some cases free to use their software. Microsoft announced that Teams is now free to anyone with an email address. Google said last week it's offering access to its Hangouts Meet video conferencing service and all its G-Suite as well as to G Suite for Education collaboration platforms for free of cost. Even, Zoom has also lifted the 40-minute limit on meetings for its users in China. Now, it is being extended to schools and universities in the U.S. upon request. Slack, a messaging platform, already offers a free tier but the company is offering live Q&A and webinars free.
In the middle of worldwide health and safety worries, the company and its team once again shows its agility and tenacity by offering free services. This is really good gesture in tech market.