Coronavirus Impacting Hollywood Offices: Gotham Group, UTA, ICM Partners Latest To Mandate Working From Home – Update

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UPDATED, March 13: The Gotham Group has joined UTA, ICM Partners, Paradigm, CAA and Viacom in initiating work-from-home mandates amid the growing coronavirus threat.

The Gotham Group Founder and CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein made the announcement in a memo to employees Friday. The order takes effect Monday, March 16.

“As we see the effects and impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) increase and until we feel we are over the worst of it, the most responsible next step is to move our company’s operations to a work-from-home mode. This will be mandatory starting Monday, March 16th. We do not take this step lightly, but rather soberly, after much consideration and discussion. Your health and that of our clients, partners and colleagues is my number one priority and working remotely for a time seems to be the smartest way to protect everyone’s well-being.”

UPDATED, March 12: Hollywood agencies UTA, ICM Partners and Paradigm have joined the likes of CAA and Viacom in making adjustments to work arrangements in the face of the growing coronavirus threat.

UTA on Thursday made the decision to close the agency’s physical offices worldwide effective at the end of business today for the next several weeks. Previously, it said at the end of the day today it would discontinue visitors at its headquarters worldwide or outside meetings for employees. On Friday, the company is going ahead with a scheduled global telecommuting test to gauge the longer-term feasibility of working remotely. Sources say there have been no reported coronavirus cases at the company.

It joins ICM Partners, which on Wednesday “strongly recommended” that all employees who fall in the CDC list of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 work from home, now has mandated all employees work remotely beginning today in New York and Washington, DC, and Friday in Los Angeles. It previously had said all large meetings, including the weekly all-agency meeting, have been put on hold indefinitely.

The moves come after CAA today is telling its staff to stay home, having implemented a plan for all worldwide employees to work remotely for at least the next two weeks, with offices essentially closing at end of business today.

Yesterday, Paradigm said it had arranged for 200 employees in its New York to work remotely as of Wednesday afternoon. Sources said there are no suspected cases in the agency’s NYC offices or in its 54-story building at 140 Broadway, but the company worked quickly to set up the technology to ensure staffers could work from home. The offices remain open.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: Both CAA and Viacom are going to test out the prospect of doing business remotely, in an effort to protect its employees from the spread of coronavirus, and to help employees with things like childcare as some schools begin to close in Los Angeles.

They are not alone. Virtually every Hollywood studio, network and agency is either instituting, testing or preparing to transition its staff to working from home, sources said.

Starting Thursday, CAA will institute an optional policy where all staff in its Century City and other outposts, are given the option to work from home. This comes after the agency grounded its agents from flying two weeks ago, and strongly encouraged them not to bring outsiders into the office. Sources said the agency has been training support staff for several weeks to get them ready for a move like this. It’s open ended, and not mandatory, but the slogan I’m hearing internally is they expect this to be a smooth move and business as usual.

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As for Viacom, sources said chief Bob Bakish sent a company-wide email that the corporation will engage in a test to try and allow its troops to work from home this coming Friday, with an eye toward this being an option as things go forward.

These moves follow a rash of closings and dramatic moves being made in everything from sports to entertainment as the world closes ranks. Here is the memo that Bakish sent company-wide today. Deadline has omitted a passage about specific remote systems. Because after all, who can forget the Sony Hack? Here is the memo:

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In our ongoing efforts to keep our employees safe while continuing to operate our business, we are asking for your help with a very important test.

This Friday, March 13, we are conducting a companywide work-from-home test. This will allow us to assess our remote access capabilities, ensure everyone has the technology they need to do their jobs remotely, and help us practice how we work together when we’re all out of the office at the same.

So what does this mean?

All US-based employees should plan to work from home this Friday—even if you’ve already been part of another work from home test.
There are some exceptions – particularly in News, Sports, productions and Network Operation Centers – and your managers will be speaking with you directly.
Ensure you have everything you need on Thursday, including laptop, key files, etc.

[Portion omitted]

Again, more broadly, as I said in my email earlier today, any employee in any location – in consultation with your manager and HR business partner – can work remotely if it’s an option and makes you feel more comfortable.

Additionally, please visit the CDC’s website for more information about the special precautions you can take. We encourage everyone to take preventative actions and stay home if you are sick. As a reminder, you can find our policies and best practices on The Greenroom for legacy Viacom employees and on CBS & YOU for legacy CBS employees. Our emergency site will also be updated continuously with new developments.

We will continue to follow guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health agencies and keep you updated with the latest information. In the meantime, please email or contact your HR business partner with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your continued support on this important effort.


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