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As the world grapples with the coronavirus, media conglomerates have joined other companies and organizations in recommending that employees work from home in the latest effort to stem the global pandemic.
On Friday morning, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey informed staff that if they were able to work from home, they should do so starting Monday and until further notice. Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff also sent a memo to staff about what working from home for the studio would look like. The studio’s Bob Greenblatt, who oversees contenet for HBO Max and cable brands, also sent a note to staff. (Read all three memos to staff, below.)
On Thursday afternoon, NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell sent a lengthy memo encouraging staffers to work remotely, if possible, effective immediately. (Read his entire memo, below.) Shell, who has only been on the job for three months, also used his first company-wide memo to encourage staffers to avoid large gatherings and cease nonessential business travel.
Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra also sent a memo informing staff, “If you feel more comfortable working at home, you are free to work remotely for the time being.”
“We are aware that family demands are becoming more complicated as this crisis unfolds, so we want you to have flexibility,” Vinciquerra’s memo sent to The Hollywood Reporter read. “Our company is resilient and in a strong place to weather these types of situations given the diversity of our businesses. We are well-positioned to act on the opportunities ahead and to focus on what we do best: Working with top talent and making world class entertainment for audiences around the globe.”
NBCUniversal and Sony’s decision Thursday came on the heels of news that Amazon Studios had also recommended employees who are able to work from home do so through the end of March.
NBCU’s and Amazon’s decisions follow similar moves by major agencies including CAA, ICM and Paradigm. Other companies implementing the same procedures include top Hollywood publicity firm Rogers & Cowan/PMK, CBS News and Spotify.
Netflix also shuttered one of its Los Angeles buildings after what sources described as a “close contact” to the company was confirmed to have coronavirus. It’s unclear if any Netflix staffers had contracted the virus, but employees were encouraged to work from home, effective immediately. Netflix declined comment on which of its L.A. offices had been closed and if any staffers were being tested for the virus.
Sony Pictures Entertainment shut down their offices in London, Paris and Poland as a safety precaution, while others across Europe remain open. For the same reason, Imax has limited nonessential business travel for employees.
Meanwhile, Twitter revised its safety policies to include a mandatory work-from-home instruction for employees in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. In addition, the company “strongly advises” employees globally to work from home if they are able. According to CNN, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are encouraging employees in Seattle to work from home.
The Hollywood Reporter will update this story as more companies issue work-from-home directives.
Here is Stankey’s memo to staff:
Here is Sarnoff’s memo to staff:
This is not the first companywide note I envisioned sending to you. During my first three months in this job, I have been amazed by the breadth of this company’s content and expertise, as well as by the many talented employees who are responsible for our success. I had planned to reach out and discuss my thoughts and outlook on the business soon, but today I want to personally address the COVID-19 situation and let you know how we are dealing with it.
I want to begin by assuring you that my top priority, and that of our entire management team, is the health and safety of our employees. NBCUniversal is being guided by an experienced team of medical and crisis management experts who are in constant communication with government officials. My direction to that group is to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to give you the safest possible working environment and the tools you need to do your job, manage your life, and keep you and your family safe. Please use good judgment as you make your own daily decisions and please let’s make sure we are all taking care of each other.
While we are focused first and foremost on staying healthy and safe, we also remain committed to maintaining business operations. To that end, we have put in place new policies and procedures that will allow us to continue to run the business in a responsible manner while at the same time helping to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Our company is composed of a diverse set of businesses with different needs operating in different geographies. As a result, it is impossible to give uniform guidance across the board. For instance, employees in theme parks, national and local news productions, film and entertainment TV production, sports, on-air operations and other select areas may not be in a position to work from home or avoid travel. We understand that and you should continue to take guidance from your business and HR leaders about how specific policies are being implemented for your business. Most of you, however, should follow the below policies until further notice:
Work Remotely – The company strongly encourages all employees globally to begin working remotely if possible, effective immediately. By now all groups should have tested their work-from-home capabilities and should be prepared for this step. Please speak to your manager about specific arrangements and click here for remote access tips. For those who cannot work remotely, our offices will remain open and we will continue to clean and disinfect work areas and have medical staff on the premises. If you have a job that requires you to be present in the office and you are concerned, please contact your HR manager.
Avoid Large Gatherings – Employees should limit large gatherings. Please do not have in-person meetings unless it is absolutely necessary, and in that case limit the number of people as much as possible. Please avoid large gatherings in your personal life as well. Do not have outside visitors come to the office.
Cease All Non-Essential Business Travel – With the exception of the areas referenced earlier in the note, all non-essential business travel both domestic and international should cease. Essential travel outside those groups must now be approved by Adam Miller, Anand Kini or Kim Harris prior to booking.
Be Smart About Personal Travel – Please do not visit countries and areas where COVID-19 has a significant presence. Anyone who does choose to travel outside their home country must report that information to their HR leader, and for those still reporting to work, we will assess whether a 14-day home quarantine is necessary upon your return.
Taking these steps is the best way to keep us all safe and healthy and I appreciate your support.
I also want to say thank you for your commitment during this difficult time. I recognize that there are other significant effects of COVID-19, such as school closures or caring for a relative that may have an impact on your daily life, and I want to personally commit to you that we will be understanding, flexible and supportive and in every instance we will strive to do the right thing.
Lastly, please know that our company is strong and resilient. This situation will pass and NBCUniversal and Comcast will continue to grow and excel. We could not be better positioned strategically and financially. We have the strongest balance sheet in the media industry, and we’re fortunate to be in a lot of businesses that are built to withstand crises like this one and continue to flourish.
Thank you for your cooperation. We will keep you updated, and I look forward to sharing broader views on the business at some point soon.
March 12, 6:01 p.m. Updated with Sony staff memo.
March 13, 9:56 a.m. Updated with WarnerMedia staff memo.
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