WeWork still hasn’t given many US tenants guidance on the coronavirus outbreak

  • WeWork has still not offered many of its US tenants guidance on the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Other major tech companies have closed offices and encouraged their workers to work remotely, or banned non-critical travel altogether.
  • WeWork closed more than 100 locations in China and is increasing office cleanings, a spokeswoman said.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has sickened more than 90,000 people globally, and killed more than 3,000.
  • For more WeWork stories, click here.

WeWork has yet to offer many of its US tenants guidance around coronavirus, even as fears continue to mount about the deadly global viral outbreak.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has sickened about 90,000 people and killed more than 3,000, and is causing mounting disruption around the globe. Major events are being canceled and company supply chains are being disrupted, and many major companies are locking down their offices and encouraging workers to work from home. Others are banning non-critical travel altogether.

As of Tuesday early afternoon, multiple WeWork members — the company’s name for its tenants — across the United States had said they had yet to receive any kind of official communication from the company about how the coronavirus might affect their operations. Those members included one in the state of Washington, where seven people have died from the virus. 

On Tuesday, WeWork sent a one-page sheet to some members who asked about it, detailing its increased cleaning regimen and recommendations for working from home if members had been to high-risk areas. There has still yet to be any all-member communication about the steps the company is taking, with multiple other tenants saying they have yet to receive anything beyond an email about fundraising.

The coworking spaces are hubs of activity, typically home to dozens of businesses at each location and with numerous people coming and going — making them a potential high-risk zone for transmission.

Business Insider has various WeWork-based offices around the country, including in Boston, Los Angeles, and downtown San Francisco. None had received guidance from the company on its plans before Tuesday. The only previous email from WeWork that mentioned it came in mid-February, in reference to a donation drive the company is making to support a NGO working to combat the outbreak across the Asia-Pacific region. Additional bottles of hand sanitizer have also appeared in the kitchen areas.

A member at a WeWork location in Dumbo, New York, said they had yet to receive any official communication. Another member at a Manhattan WeWork said she had not heard any communication from the company, and a third New York member said: “I’m surprised they haven’t addressed coronavirus specifically, since they have sent out a few proactive emails about cold and flu season and set up a station on the second floor with tissues and cough drops and tea.”

Additionally, WeWork has not sent any emails about coronavirus to tenants in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, the epicenter of a fatal outbreak in the US.

In the one-pager of guidance sent to some members who asked for more information, WeWork says it is following CDC guidance, is prepared to close offices if necessary, and is increasing its cleaning regimen. “We have a robust global emergency preparedness plan in place in the event any member or employee has contracted the coronavirus. In certain circumstances, depending on the severity of the incident and the guidance from relevant health authorities, this plan could involve shutting down a building for an extended period of time.”

It added: “Third, in connection with guidance provided by the ​CDC​, we have strengthened on-site cleanliness measures, such as more frequent wiping and disinfection, equipping each location with additional sanitation products, and working with building management to increase cleaning and sanitization in common areas.” 

Reached for comment, a WeWork representative wrote:

All WeWork locations are subject to increased daytime cleaning and regular sanitation of common touchpoints, and we are providing members with additional sanitation products. WeWork locations in higher-risk regions have heightened levels of preventative measures, including temporary building closures in some instances. We continue to communicate directly with members, vendors and employees affected by changes to our procedures and operations based on their locations. 

The Company also has a mandatory 14-day ‘work from home’ policy for any employee recently returning from high-risk regions, as well as those who exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. Documentation from a medical provider is required to return to work. The list of high-risk regions is informed by guidance from the CDC and continues to expand; all non-essential business travel to these places is also restricted until further notice. WeWork’s travel restrictions are updated regularly and subject to change as we continue to evaluate travel risks worldwide. WeWork members have been made aware of these policies and are encouraged to adhere to the same guidelines for the health and safety of the people in our workspaces. WeWork reserves the authority to limit access to our spaces for health and safety reasons.

It’s not clear how members were purportedly made aware of these policies, given multiple members report having heard no official communication whatsoever. The company has closed more than 100 WeWork locations in China, the country bearing the brunt of the virus. 

Meanwhile, social networking firm Twitter is recommending that all its employees work from home due to the outbreak, and Google has also required its Dublin-based employees to work remotely after a worker exhibited flu-like symptoms. Facebook is banning employees from bringing social guests to the office, and is clamping down on in-person interviews.

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