Covid-19: Wikimedia asks staff to work from home, half time

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on March 18, 2020

As millions of employees take to work from home amid Covid-19 fears, they face the daunting task of handling kids, whose schools are closed, too, fixing doctor appointments and fetching groceries from crowded supermarkets.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs a bouquet of information sites including Wikipedia, has come up with a novel idea — work from home, half time.

This means Wikimedia employees work just 20 hours a week. They get full compensation in lieu of sick leave. The staff don’t have to count the hours of work or use paid time off (PTO).

When they are not working, the employees can tackle the Covid-19 challenges, said Wikimedia Foundation Chief Executive Officer Katherine Maher. “Work is not the only thing on people’s minds right now. Their families, bills, childcare and school closures, the economy…we are all trying to manage a lot,” she pointed out.

“We want to reduce the cognitive strain on our colleagues so that people could take care of themselves and stay healthy.”

The Wikimedia Foundation has shut down its San Francisco office and put a stop to all non-essential travel. It has cancelled all planned near-term global events, and asked the Wikimedia volunteer editing community to do the same.

“We are guaranteeing all contract and hourly workers full compensation for planned hours worked. We are waiving all sick days, so staff do not have to count or use PTO,” said Maher.

“We have cancelled all near-term, in-person gatherings until the WHO declares this pandemic over. No need to worry if that Hyderabad summit will be on in four months, and what visa needs people might have — we can all focus on more immediate concerns.”

If some people can put in more hours, that’s welcome, she said, adding: “But we’re not tracking their time.”

Published on March 18, 2020

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