COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world. Travel restrictions and new rules on large public gatherings have changed the daily routines of millions. Over the past few weeks, many of my colleagues and customers have approached me to ask: What can we do to help?
Lily Zheng is a good friend and coworker who lives in Shanghai. We have worked together in person in China but mostly we meet on Microsoft Teams. Recently, Lily wrote a letter to regional customers about what she and her team have learned working remotely while weathering the outbreak. Her letter inspired our team to make Microsoft Teams available for free for people moving to remote work during this challenging time. I wanted to share it with people worldwide who may benefit from our Shanghai team’s experience. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.
Let me turn it over to Lily.
My name is Lily Zheng, and I am a Microsoft employee who lives and works in Shanghai. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect millions of people here in China, we have experienced a huge spike in remote work. It’s as if every school, hospital, and business in China is now a distributed organization – if only temporarily. From virus outbreaks like COVID-19 to unexpected weather emergencies, there are many reasons that working remotely could become suddenly necessary. So I wanted to share three lessons I have learned over the last few weeks, as well as three lessons we have gathered from our customers as they adapt to remote work.
Like a lot of you, I began hearing about the virus back in January, mostly on social media. But I didn’t realize what a big deal it would be until just before the Chinese New Year. That’s when, due to the Spring Festival travel rush, the number of affected people began to rise rapidly. On January 23, the government sealed off Hubei Province in order to curb the spread of the virus. The next day, New Year’s Eve, my family had planned to go see a movie. When we learned from the press that movie theaters across the city had been shut down, the severity of the outbreak really sunk in. Two days later, the government announced unprecedented cancellations of Spring Festival events, and I cancelled a long-planned family vacation. The kids were crushed, but our health and safety had to come first.