WarnerMedia, NBCU, Amazon, Netflix Among Companies Encouraging Employees to Work From Home

Alex J. Berliner
Jeff Shell

NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell, who has 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.

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: 

Colleagues:
 
I want to let you know how much I appreciate everyone’s efforts while COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty.
 
As a global unified organization, it is important we take action that not only best takes care of our people and our business, but also the communities and resources around us.
 
Beginning Monday, March 16, all WarnerMedia employees around the world who are able to work remotely are encouraged to do so until further notice. We will provide updates on the timeframe as we continue to evaluate trends and developments. For those whose jobs cannot be done remotely, business leads are working closely with HR partners and managers to support employees in those roles and will follow up directly. Please note that our offices will remain open for employees who need to continue working there, or to pick up their equipment or resources to work remotely.
 
This is recognizably a significant shift, and I’d like to highlight a few key points behind this very important decision:
 
First, we take the health, safety and well-being of our employees, their loved ones, and our community, very seriously. We are committed to helping limit the spread of the virus and risk of exposure.
We can help minimize stress on the resources and infrastructures around us by doing our part to reduce population density in our commutes and daily activities, in efforts to help reduce spread of the virus.
In support of our colleagues who need to continue working in our offices, we need to help reduce population density and risk of exposure in those locations by minimizing the on-site staff.
We have come a long way in the last year in terms of how we work as a unified company and I am confident that we are ready to work differently to succeed through this unique challenge. We will have to actively work with leaders and teams to develop and employ new techniques that drive connection and progress in a dynamic environment. I have seen us build skills around agility and collaboration, and I have no doubt that we will succeed together.
 
Remember - there are steps you need to take before Monday to ensure you are prepared to work remotely.  And there are tools to help us do so seamlessly, collaboratively and productively. It’s all accessible on the WarnerMedia ONE Remote Working Resources page.
 
Of course, as is always the case, there will be times where this won’t be easy, but we have an opportunity to come out stronger and better as we learn new ways to dynamically navigate in this new work environment. 
 
Once again, thank you for all you do.

Here is Sarnoff's memo to staff: 

Dear Colleagues,
 
By now, you’ve seen John Stankey’s memo regarding working from home.
 
As a follow up, I wanted to reach out to let you know what working remotely will look like at Warner Bros.  Given that we are a global company with operations on six continents, there isn’t a single solution, so what follows are general guidelines.
 
First of all, I want to acknowledge that the current situation surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus) is disconcerting, to say the least.  This is uncharted territory for all of us as individuals and for Warner Bros. as a company.  Your health and safety are of utmost concern, and to that end, we increased the cleaning protocols at all of our facilities last week.
 
To reiterate what John said in his memo, as of this coming Monday, March 16, all employees around the world who can work remotely should do so until further notice.  We encourage you to use today to make sure you are completely prepared for remote working.  It is unclear how long this guidance will be in effect, but we will be in touch regularly with updates for you.
 
We are also working to accommodate those employees who are not able to work remotely, including production.  The Burbank lot and our global offices will remain open for employees who need to continue working there or need to pick up materials or equipment to work from home.  All productions will be contacted today, and their needs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 
 
We believe these measures can help reduce density and limit exposure in our offices and facilities.  If you still have concerns, please speak to your manager.
 
We know these are big changes for all of us.  We thank you in advance for your agility and encourage you to review the tools and resources available for remote working here on WarnerMedia One.  Continually updated COVID-19 information, FAQs and resources are also available on WarnerMedia One.  We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will update employees regularly as things continue to evolve.  Warner Bros.-specific information can be found here on Behind the Shield.
 
Since many schools are now closed or offering classes remotely, we know childcare is an issue for many employees.  We’re encouraging everyone to be as accommodating as possible given these extenuating circumstances.  While we need to maintain our focus on business, we know that this is anything but business as usual.
 
In the meantime, I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to the success of Warner Bros.  I know that, by working together, we will get through these difficult times.
 
All best,
 
Ann
 
Here is Greenblatt's memo to staff: 
 
Team,
 
We know this is a complicated time for you and your families, and we would like to provide some more clarity and peace of mind about how we’re going to work for the foreseeable future while ensuring everyone’s safety in the face of the COVID-19 virus. Please know that John Stankey and your leadership team have made this our number one priority.
 
It’s a critical time for our business on many fronts and we have already achieved so many impressive results together over the last year. That’s a testament to all of you. There’s no reason this all can’t continue – especially with the launch of HBO Max right around the corner. To that end, we’ve decided to make some fundamental adjustments in how we work.  
 
Beginning Monday, March 16,  if you’re in a job that can be done from home, we would like you to do that until further notice. With the help of technology and phones, most of our critical work can get done without missing a beat, though we also know it will require some flexibility and patience from everyone at first. Before you leave for the weekend, think through what you need to take home with you, and if you have any questions about this new direction, check with your manager or HR representative. 
 
If your job can’t reasonably be done from home, you should continue to work in your primary work location and make efforts to reduce your proximity to others. Please know that we will continue to maximize the cleaning of all work areas. Additionally, your supervisor may also ask you to stagger your arrival time in an effort to reduce the number of employees showing up at any one time. 
  
Below are some basic social distancing guidelines to help you protect yourself and others:
 
Avoid physical contact, including no handshakes or hugs. 
Wash your hands frequently. Whenever possible, stay 6 feet away from others. 
Also, do not gather in conference rooms or confined spaces. Conduct meetings virtually, whenever possible.
If you do need to meet in person, limit your gatherings to no more than 5 people. 
It’s very important that you strictly follow these new social distancing guidelines, simply as a means to keep yourself healthy. 
 
For managers who have engaged consultants, please ensure they are aware that employees will be working remotely, and work with them to determine the best arrangement for their role.
 
As a reminder, if you are not feeling well, even if you have mild COVID-19 symptoms, stay home, see a doctor and keep open lines of communication with your manager.
 
WarnerMedia ONE will stay updated with the latest information, and will provide central access to tools and resources you’ll need to work remotely. You can find some great tips and videos on how to stay connected and productive here. You can also download a PDF about remote working resources here.
 
Please know that you have the support of WarnerMedia behind you during this time. We will continue to take all the necessary steps to support you, your families, our customers and our communities.
 
Best,
 
Bob
 
Here is Shell's memo to staff:

Hi Everyone,

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.