Mark Zuckerberg said in January 2020 that the pandemic might force all staff to work from home. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg thought he was ‘nuts.’

Sheryl Sandberg

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg thought CEO Mark Zuckerberg was “nuts” when, at the start of 2020, he suggested all employees might have to work remotely due to coronavirus.

Zuckerberg told her and other senior Facebook staff in January 2020 to prepare for the possibility that all employees would have to work from home during the pandemic, Sandberg said in a podcast interview with Axios Re:Cap on Monday.

“I thought he was nuts. I was like, ‘What do you mean there’d be a pandemic? What’s a pandemic? And would we really work from home?’ But he said, ‘No, no. It’s possible that everyone’s going to have to, like, go home,'” she said.

Through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a philanthropic organization spearheaded by Priscilla Chan and her husband Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO received briefings from health experts in January, Sandberg said. 

On March 6, the entire Facebook workforce of 50,000 employees was told to work from home. In August, the work-from-home directive was extended to July 2021.

Sandberg said all employees had company laptops when they were sent home, but that tens of thousands of contractors, who were also sent home, didn’t have the same equipment, and so faced tech problems.

Last year, Facebook gave all workers $2,000 to buy the equipment they needed to work from home, as well as an additional 10 weeks of COVID-19 leave designed for staff to recover from the virus, or to look after their children or older relatives, Sandberg said.

Facebook’s hourly contractors and subcontractors would not be eligible for these benefits, The Intercept reported at the time.

Like many other workers, Sandberg said that she misses informal communication in the office. She said on the podcast she started doing monthly check-in meetings with her team, and calling people one-on-one.

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