Work in the time of Coronavirus

By Satyen Sangani

Published on March 27, 2020

In a spirit of sharing and transparency, in this post we’ll share the policy that we have adopted at Alation in approaching work during this Coronavirus outbreak. We announced this policy to our employees on Friday, March 6, 2020.

It was the time when they loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity.

Alationauts –

See below for our Coronavirus Policy (COVID-19). This policy is subject to change and we’ll notify you as material changes occur.

Alation COVID-19 Policy for US and European Employees

We are implementing the following policies given the public health risks caused by the Coronavirus. These policies are inline with guidance from the US CDC. In general, we are trying to practice what public health officials call social distancing.

  • Offices will remain open for those unable to work from home or that reasonably need to be in the office.

  • If you’re not sure whether you need to be in the office, speak with your manager.

  • If you need accommodations to work from home, speak with your manager.

  • Travel: Only travel if absolutely necessary to retain or win business. Attempt to substitute Zoom meetings where possible. Please speak with your manager before confirming travel.

  • Hygiene: Whether travelling, in-office, or out in public, please

  • wash your hands frequently

    • avoid handshakes in favor of [pick: elbow tap, namaste, etc]

    • try to refrain from touching your face (which is admittedly pretty hard)

If you work/live outside of the US or Europe, please work with our People team to determine the best practice for your geography. The net intention behind these policies is to slow community spread, both within the Alation community as well in the broader population.

To be 100% clear, unlike other companies that are shutting down offices completely, our policy does rely on the good judgement of our employees to act with an abundance of caution. We believe that our employees are capable of that given our culture and context provided below.

How serious is this?

Based on what we know, we don’t believe that our employee population, in general, faces a material level of mortal risk. The mortality rate appears to be higher than the flu, but less than 1% with the rates for those under 50 materially lower. The World Health Organization reported a mortality rate of 3.4%, however that number was based on deaths from confirmed cases. We know that many cases are not confirmed, either due to lack of test or due to lack of severe symptoms. The biggest risks are to the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and those that might be immuno-compromised like cancer patients.

We also believe that most people will be exposed to the virus and many of us will become infected. While there are some notable exceptions, most epidemiologists seem to agree that true global containment will not be possible.

If containment is likely impossible, why all of the fuss?

We all have relatives, friends or colleagues that are in the high risk group. To the extent possible, we’d like to slow the rate (and ideally decrease the exposure) of the disease to these individuals. The main reason to slow the spread of Covid-19 is to help prevent our healthcare system from being inundated. This graphic helps explain what we’re collectively trying to do:

Source: CDC

Specifically, delay helps in the following ways:

We can limit the demand on healthcare services. By limiting hospital and clinic visits, we can help ensure that those that need the care are the most likely to get it.

We can limit the impact on healthcare providers. Unfortunately, providers (doctors, nurses, first responders) that are exposed are often taken out of the healthcare system even if they are not confirmed to be infected. This means that the supply of care is going down precisely when the demand is going up. #bad

An overrun healthcare system doesn’t just impact those with Covid-19; it impacts anyone with an illness at the time. An overrun healthcare doesn’t discriminate between those with or without Covid-19. You could have a heart attack, a broken leg, cancer, a cut, or the flu. The lack of supply impacts everyone.

We buy more time to find and commercialize a vaccine. While a vaccine may already exist, testing and commercializing such a vaccine could take 12 – 18 months.

Given that our policy is based on the hypothesis that we’re trying to slow down the rate of infection, we’ll update the policy as we get more data on infection rates.

Ultimately, it’s our duty as citizens and as human beings to help those most in need. Even if we don’t know the specific impact of our actions, we can have a real impact on people’s lives and well being.

So, does the world and Alation just stop?

Heck, no. We have laptops, phones, Zoom and we work in an industry that does not require the exchange of any physical goods. If you build products that source from Chinese suppliers, you might have an excuse. We don’t. So, if you have not already, you should test whether you can work from home. Test Zoom both with and without video. Test VPN. Test connectivity. Find the quiet spaces in your home. Buy headphones with a mic if you don’t have them. Figure it out and continue to follow our core value of #build-for-the-long-term.

More fundamentally, in times like these, it’s our job to fight the panic and carry on with our work. Fear is the enemy. Of course, we’ll continue to be compassionate and flexible if you or your loved ones have been affected by Covid-19 or any other significant illness. However, barring direct effects, the best thing that we can do is quickly and calmly adjust to the circumstances and work hard to get the world back to a “new normal.” Let’s model adaptability, resilience, and optimism. Our business needs to go on. More importantly, our customers’ businesses need to go forward.

People need data, science and inquisitiveness now more than ever. It’s never been more important for people to be able to find, understand, and trust the data that they need to make business decisions. Don’t delay and don’t allow anyone in your network — whether they are colleagues, vendors, suppliers, or even customers — to delay either. If you demonstrate urgency and remember our core value, #move-the-ball, others will follow your lead.

And if you are an Alation customer, I encourage you to join the conversation on the Alation Community Site where I dive deeper into how we are supporting customers. Your feedback is welcome.


  • Alation COVID-19 Policy for US and European Employees
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