As we have all seen in the news recently, while there has been encouraging progress in the fight against COVID-19 in some parts of the world, case numbers continue to rise in other areas, especially here in the U.S. This has led several U.S. states and cities to roll back some of their re-opening plans and, in some cases, reinstate the strict “stay-at-home” measures we saw early in the pandemic. Given these factors, we will be delaying some of the Return-to-Workplace phasing we anticipated rolling out in the weeks ahead, most notably, here in California where almost half our employee population is based.
While we cannot predict when or how things will start to improve in California or in other troubled areas, it is very likely that the majority of our U.S.-based employees who are currently working from home will continue to do so until the end of the year. With case numbers rising as they are, it is important that we limit the number of people onsite to only those who cannot effectively work from home so that we maintain safe physical distancing.
Please note, we are not changing course or reversing our work to date in our return efforts. We are only delaying the next phases in our on-site work resumption planning in areas where COVID-19 conditions are worsening. Should things improve before the end of the year, we will seek to resume our next phases as quickly as possible, and in full compliance with local health and government guidance. Whenever that may be, it will be done with plenty of advance notice in order to give employees appropriate time to adjust.
We recognize that employees have been managing myriad needs at home throughout this pandemic – whether caring for loved ones who are elderly or vulnerable, home schooling or any number of circumstances. And last week’s announcement that Los Angeles schools would be extending remote learning this fall will present a whole new set of complexities for many employees with children. We realize that these competing demands require flexibility and will continue to work with you to manage through them. Please connect with your manager or P&O partner to discuss your needs and that of your teams.
While conditions in several U.S. states and cities are challenged, in other parts of the world, such as countries in Europe and Asia, things are starting to improve. And in those regions, our return plans continue apace, with employees heading back into the office where restrictions have started to lift in some locations. Many have returned on split-team schedules to ensure that physical distancing and key safety protocols are supported, and others have been able to resume full operations given greatly improved conditions, such as in New Zealand. And in London, if conditions continue to improve, we can hopefully welcome employees to the new Brunel building later this summer or early fall.
As you can see, the spread and containment of the virus varies from region to region and return plans for the markets in which we operate will vary accordingly. Please look out for further updates from “Protect SPE” or your local Safety and P&O leads regarding return to workplace updates.
One brief note on production; resuming production of our film and television content remains a top priority for us. As you have seen in the news, the challenges facing individual productions are complex given the large numbers of people required on projects and varying regional guidance. We are resuming activities where conditions permit and where we have agreed-upon protocols in place. And we are in close contact with our filmmakers and showrunners, and our talent, unions, guilds and other industry partners to make sure we keep our sets and working environments safe.
I want to thank everyone – in all our locations around the world – for continuing to work through this very challenging time. Despite this difficult environment, we are not standing still, and I appreciate all your efforts to keep our business moving forward and in solid shape so that we can take advantage of new and emerging opportunities.
Please continue to stay safe and look out for friends and relatives. Each of us has a role to play – by wearing face coverings, avoiding crowded places and other commonsense safety measures – in reducing the spread of this virus in our communities.
In the northern hemisphere, we are in prime summer vacation months when many of us typically plan time for travel to destinations away from home. While the usual vacations may not be possible now, I encourage everyone at the company to take some time off, if you haven’t already, to relax and recharge.