ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said most employees won’t be returning to offices this year as the company rethinks its plans amid a COVID-19 resurgence and focuses on restarting production, which he called “critical.”
Production, he said in a memo to staff on Wednesday, “generally has to be done in person and is the lifeblood of our business.”
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“Unfortunately, we have seen recent spikes in infection rates in many areas across the U.S. This obviously makes our facilities-related planning difficult.” He said the company had hoped to be able to bring a small number of employees back to U.S. office locations beginning in August but even those plans have been derailed. “It’s clear this will not happen. In fact, at this point, we are assuming the majority of employees will not be returning to U.S. offices this year.”
The decision will allow the company to focus on production and outlined steps underway to move things along, including work with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and government organizations “on industry-wide recommendations, as well as determining our internal process for planning and evaluating all ViacomCBS productions.”
A production task force has also been working to ensure personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection services, validate safe travel and hotel resources, secure testing and health screening services, and to hire and vet COVID compliance consultants and vendors.
“In addition to the few productions that have returned domestically and internationally, all of our businesses have been working hard to develop highly detailed and thoughtful plans for each of their unique shows, events, features and series to get them back into production under these new safety protocols,” he said.
Full Bakish memo below:
As we all know, there continues to be significant complexity, disruption, medical issues and uncertainty around COVID, and, unfortunately, we have seen recent spikes in infection rates in many areas across the U.S. This obviously makes our facilities-related planning difficult, despite the fact that we are in constant contact with a whole range of constituents, including governments, medical advisors and more.
At the same time, we know everyone is juggling a lot of uncertainty — including around schooling in the fall, caring for family members, the prospect of commuting, and more — so we feel it’s important to provide you with the best information we have at this point about our return to offices and productions. As we do so, know that we continue to hold the health and safety of our employees as a critical priority of ViacomCBS.
First, on our offices:
- While we were hopeful we’d be able to bring a small number of employees back to U.S. office locations beginning in August, due to recent spikes it’s clear this will not happen. In fact, at this point, we are assuming the majority of employees will not be returning to U.S. offices this year.
- If you need to make decisions that won’t allow you to return to the office this year even if the outlook for office return changes (e.g., relocating to a different city for the fall school semester), we completely understand—please just discuss with your manager and HR.
- We are providing this update for a few reasons:
- Given the continued trajectory of the virus, we believe having fewer people commuting and gathering is best.
- You have proven how well we can work remotely as an organization.
- As a result, we can continue to focus our time and resources on supporting our business-critical employees who need to work from facilities, as well as enabling our return to production – which generally has to be done in person and is the lifeblood of our business.
- Our international colleagues will continue to operate in line with the various local market conditions, and they will be receiving separate communications on their specific situations.
As mentioned, getting back to production is critical, and we’ve made important progress in navigating the complexities of doing so.
- We’re collaborating with our industry partners at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and government organizations on industry-wide recommendations, as well as determining our internal process for planning and evaluating all ViacomCBS productions.
- Our Productions task force has also been working to ensure we have personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection services, validating safe travel and hotel resources, securing testing and health screening services, hiring and vetting COVID compliance consultants and vendors to support our Production Safety and Environmental, Health & Safety teams.
- In addition to the few productions that have returned domestically and internationally, all of our businesses have been working hard to develop highly detailed and thoughtful plans for each of their unique shows, events, features and series to get them back into production under these new safety protocols.
COVID has clearly forced all of us to work differently, and in many ways—both big and small—rethink how we operate for the long term. We’ve proven we can work more collaboratively and flexibly across divisions and teams, and do it almost all virtually. We’re now spending a lot of time thinking about what this means for our operations moving forward—what learnings we’ll take to evolve how we organize and operate beyond the current work-from-home period.
Remote working is a big part of that, as we’re considering a variety of longer-term employee work arrangements. Getting your feedback will be an important input as we shape our thinking. To that end, we will be doing a survey in the coming weeks to hear your thoughts and gather more information. We’d greatly appreciate you taking the time to complete.
I want to thank you again for your flexibility and focus over the past few months. Please stay safe and keep up all the great work.
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