Coronavirus could force people to work from home, experts say

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. The Canadian Press

Experts say the novel coronavirus could force millions of people across the globe to work from home, posing potential challenges and benefits.

Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, a business professor at the University of Quebec’s distance-learning school, says studies show telecommuting may result in higher productivity and quality of work, despite the disruption to routine.

She says that outcome demands structure, discipline and a resolve to overcome the connotations of “phoning it in.”

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Tremblay notes that working from home remains a hypothetical for most businesses in Canada, but that employers and employees would do well to confront the possibility and head off any problems down the road.

She says effective telecommuting requires remote access to relevant work tools such as software and databases. It also includes setting up a distinct, office-like space at home — rather than just a laptop on the couch or the kitchen table.

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Johanne Brunet, a marketing professor at the Université de Montréal, suggests offsetting the isolation of telecommuting by socializing more with friends and family.

The number of infected people worldwide exceeded 100,000 on Friday.

The World Health Organization says most of the new cases had shifted from China to other countries, including more than 50 confirmed or presumptive cases in Canada.

Health officials in Ontario, British Columbia and across Canada have said the risk posed by COVID-19 in this country remains low.

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