Atlassian, EY, and Twitter tell tech staff to stay home due to COVID-19

Australian tech firms take extra precautions as workers experience illness that could be flu — or the coronavirus

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Australia’s biggest tech success, Atlassian, on Thursday closed both of its Sydney offices after a service provider in one of the offices reported symptoms of the flu. The company told all employees in its Sydney offices, including its George Street headquarters, to work from until further notice. 

“This afternoon, Atlassian was made aware that a service provider in one of its Sydney offices reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19 [also known as novel coronavirus]. The individual has been tested and results are pending. The same afternoon, we took immediate action to close our Sydney sites until we know more,” Atlassian said in a statement.  

The company last week told all its staff in the US and Europe to work from home. It has a global workforce of more than 4,000, with about half of that in Silicon Valley.

Atlassian, which listed on the Nasdaq in 2015, already has a good remote working story, using its collaboration technologies and offer of remote work to boost access to better and cheaper talent outside its headquarters in Sydney. Its Jira service desk team last year became Atlassian’s first fully remote team.

Meanwhile, consultancy EY, or Ernst and Young, reported on Thursday there had been a suspected case of COVID-19 at its Brisbane office. It’s asked everyone who was in close contact with the person to self-isolate until it receives test results, but noted that it’s business as usual in the office with no changes planned for already-scheduled client meetings. 

Atlassian’s request for Sydney staff to work remotely came as US President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on people traveling to the US from the 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen free-travel zone. [The UK and Ireland were added to the ban on 14 March. —Ed.] The World Health Organization on Wednesday also officially labelled COVID-19 a pandemic.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Twitter and other tech firms have either urged or directed staff to work from home over the past week due to the coronavirus outbreak.   

Twitter on Wednesday also upgraded its COVID-19 response to March 2 that originally ‘encouraged’ all its 5,000 employees globally to work from home. It was then only mandatory for its workers and contractors in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea to work from home. But in an updated blog post on Wednesday, Twitter said it was now mandatory for all staff globally to work from home — and that means Twitter’s offices in Sydney’s central business district will be empty. “We are moving beyond our earlier guidance of “strongly encouraging work from home” provided on March 2 and have now informed all employees globally they must work from home,” Twitter’s head of human resources at Twitter said.

The coronavirus’s impact could have a lasting impact on the culture of remote working, Christie told Buzzfeed last week. “People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back,” she said. Christie add that Twitter’s all-hands meeting — carried out entirely over Google Hangouts and Slack — was enabled introverts and staff outside of the US to participate more than in past phone-based meetings.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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