The coronavirus will test the limits of working-from-home technology first hand for the U.K. telecommunications industry.
BT Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen tested positive for Covid-19 late Thursday and went into self-isolation, becoming one of the first leaders of a major corporation to be infected. Vodafone Group Plc’s U.K. CEO Nick Jeffery, Telefonica SA’s UK CEO Mark Evans, and Three UK’s CEO Dave Dyson, who met with Jansen in London on Monday, will quarantine as a precaution.
“Given my symptoms seem relatively mild, I will continue to lead BT but work with my team remotely over the coming week,” Jansen, 53, said in a statement. “There will be no disruption to the business.”
Many companies have asked employees to work from home when they can, but the self-isolation of CEOs is taking the work-from-home experiment to the next level. BT said staff and board members who have had contact with Jansen will also avoid the office. The company is undertaking a deep clean of relevant parts of its headquarters.
Vodafone’s Jeffery “will be using our remote working technology and network to continue to work from home,” a company spokesman said, adding that the executive feels fine.
The coronavirus has also reached the highest levels of government across the globe. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in self-isolation and working from home while his wife awaits test results. Confirmed cases include a U.K. health minister, Brazil’s communications secretary, Spain’s equality minister and several lawmakers in France, among others.
Most patients have mild symptoms, but the pneumonia-like disease can be deadly for the elderly and those with underlying conditions. There is currently no vaccine. The number of cases in the U.K. has reached 590, with eight deaths, according to government data.
Jansen, who took over a year ago following the ousting of his predecessor, has been trying to turn around the former monopoly in the face of multiple challenges, including a price war on new 5G mobile services and new rules from the British phone watchdog that make it easier for customers to find lower tariffs and switch providers.