Comcast aggressively moves to work-from-home during pandemic
Comcast says it is shifting large portions of its cable-division workforce out of offices and call centers in an effort to dramatically boost work-from-home numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve asked every employee that is able to work from home to do so, in every office across the country,” Comcast said in a statement to Ars. “In addition, we have been transitioning thousands of customer service representatives across the country to work from home. We have teams working around the clock to help our call-center teams make this transition to work from home while continuing to support our customers.”
It’s not clear just how extensive Comcast’s work-from-home shift is. Comcast said it’s keeping most retail stores open and did not give us any information about contractors, for example. But it’s clear that Comcast is doing more than Charter, which is facing employee complaints over its rigid rules against working at home. Comcast is the biggest cable company in the US and Charter is the second biggest.
In a phone call with Ars, a Comcast spokesperson said the work-from-home shift is advancing quickly, with the goal of getting more employees into work-from-home situations in the coming days.
What the Comcast spokesperson told us is consistent with what we heard from a Comcast employee who reached out to us this week. Comcast’s IT team has been busy deploying the necessary equipment to employees who normally have to be in an office or call center, the Comcast employee told us.
“Comcast is shedding hundreds of call-center and office employees to remote work per day,” the employee told us. “In my facility, which is in a risk area, the goal is to empty all 500+ employees by next week. For the rest of my division, the rest [would work at home] within two or so weeks.”
Some retail stores are closed
Comcast’s cable division has about 88,000 employees—the company hasn’t told us how many of those have already been transitioned to work-from-home. Comcast also owns NBCUniversal, but we only talked to Comcast about its cable division.
The Comcast spokesperson said the transition to work-from-home is more complicated for call-center employees than for many other employees, since the call-center workers need access to billing systems and hadn’t previously been issued the right equipment to work from home. Comcast’s retail stores are generally still open, but Comcast told us it is reducing store hours and closing some stores. In some cases, Comcast is required to close the stores because of orders from local government authorities.
Comcast technicians who go to customer homes to fix problems or out into the field to maintain the network are still doing that. Comcast said it is implementing safety protocols such as temperature checks for technicians before they go into customer homes.
Comcast told us that “customer-facing employees who cannot work from home are receiving an increase to their base salary in recognition and appreciation for their effort to care for our customers and the community.” We’re still waiting for confirmation on some other details, such as whether Comcast is paying retail-store employees for hours that they would normally work in cases where hours have been cut. We’ll update this story if we get more information.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have been closing many of the retail stores that they own. AT&T also told its staff that “Employees who are in jobs that can be done from home should do so until further notice.”
Disclosure: The Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which owns 13 percent of Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which owns Ars Technica.