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Fairfield nonprofit tells employees to work from home Friday in preparation for potential coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — While no one has tested positive for the coronavirus in Connecticut, one Fairfield-based nonprofit is taking precautions and asking employees to try telecommuting.

Save the Children is asking its employees to work from home Friday just to see how it would work if they have to do it later on.

The worldwide organization that works in more than 100 foreign countries is delivering 600,000 masks to healthcare workers in WuHan, China. For the workers who are not on the front lines, many can work from home, so the organization thought Friday would be a good day to try it.

“While it might seem like a lot to ask your entire workforce to work from home for the day, it is a good way to make sure we are prepared, so we are not caught off guard when people are safer staying at home,” said Negin Janati.

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Save the Children got a headstart on many other companies that are thinking about telecommuting; it is a worldwide company that already uses the internet to its advantage.

“We work in more than 100 countries around the world, and health is one of the top things we work on, so on our staff we have pandemic preparedness experts, we have global health experts that are guiding us to make sure our staff and children on our staff are safe as possible,” Janati said.

Janati said it’s a good business decision because employees can continue to get work done in the event of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s also good for the employees, as long as they realize they are at home to work, and still have to put in eight hours as if they were in the office.

“Just because of fears and concerns doesn’t necessarily mean you are immune from your job requirements,” said Attorney Gary Phelan.

Phelan specializes in workplace rights. He said there’s a fine line between refusing to travel or go to work for fear of the coronavirus and reasonable expectations by employers.

“Employers need be flexible right now, there are alternatives, increasingly, you’re seeing Amazon and Facebook, they’re not necessarily prohibiting travel but it’s more on an as needed basis,” Phelan said.

Experts said the cellphone might be the most critical tool for employees to work from home because they can call, video chat, return emails and do a lot of the work they would usually do at the office on their phone.

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