Capital One asks employees to work from home to fight virus

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Capital One Financial Corp. requested that its employees work from home if they can, joining other companies in trying to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Chief Executive Richard Fairbank told staff that they should begin working from home on Thursday. For branch workers or those in other roles that can’t be performed remotely, the firm will begin spacing out employees to “reduce density” in workplaces.

“It reduces the chains of potential transmission and thereby slows the spread of the virus,” Fairbank said in the memo. “This matters because it directly reduces the risk of transmission for our associates, and because it helps reduce the strain on local health systems.”

Capital One, the third-largest U.S. credit card issuer, said it isn’t aware of any confirmed cases of the virus among its employees. Still, the company will increase its paid sick leave and introduce more flexible attendance policies for workers “until further notice,” Fairbank said. Capital One, which has almost 52,000 employees, had already ceased nonessential travel and canceled many internal events, Fairbank said in the memo.

The country’s largest employers have been rapidly introducing new measures to curb the spread of the disease, also known as COVIV-19, and many have implemented bans on employee travel. Citigroup Inc. began splitting its thousands of workers in New York, sending some to redundancy sites and telling others to work from home.

The coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic, the World Health Organization declared on Wednesday. It urged governments to step up containment efforts as the number of worldwide cases topped 120,000 and deaths exceeded 4,300.

The spread of the virus has roiled markets and prompted central banks around the world to lower benchmark interest rates, including a 50-basis-point emergency rate cut by the Federal Reserve last week.

In a separate statement Wednesday, a spokesman for Capital One said said the McLean, Va., firm is encouraging customers impacted by the virus to reach out to the lender “so we can discuss and help find a solution.”

Bloomberg News