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Broadcom orders its software employees to return to work a week before Colorado will allow others

That’s unusual for a tech company, where remote work is easier than many other jobs. Colorado Technology Association says some members even may switch to hybrid work-at-home model post coronavirus.

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Before Gov. Jared Polis said reopening the state would begin slowly on Monday, Broadcom engineer Andrei Taraschuk, who works at the San Jose-based chipmaker’s Broomfield office, was shocked to get a note from his company telling everyone to show up in the office starting April 27. 

He tweeted his disgust:

“As of today, @Broadcom employees are required to show up to an office 1 out of 4 weeks starting the week of April 27th. Seriously? We write code and we’ve been productively working from home for weeks. I don’t get it, how are [we] essential employees?” 

Other Broadcom employees who contacted The Colorado Sun said they were appalled to be ordered back to the office even if they had young children with nowhere to go or older adults with underlying health conditions living at their home. They were software engineers who could easily work from home. The alternative to not going into the office when required? Take an unpaid leave of absence or quit.

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A media-relations person for Broadcom emailed The Sun on Wednesday that the company “does not have an official statement. Sorry, we’re not able to comment on your request.”

Broadcom, which makes chips for Apple iPhones and Wi-Fi devices, had 19,000 employees as of November, according to the company’s annual report. It has a manufacturing plant in Fort Collins where about 1,500 people work, according to BizWest. Another 500 work in Broomfield, according to the city. And the company has an office in Colorado Springs.

Broadcom has kept its Fort Collins plant operating with workers on split shifts during Polis’ shelter-at-home order. The company is part of the critical infrastructure and telecom industry, which was deemed a critical business and allowed to operate. Its CEO Hock Tan also serves on President Donald Trump’s “Opening the Country” council of business leaders.

Polis set the record straight on Wednesday regarding the return of nonessential workers to job sites, as Colorado appears to have bent the curve on the coronavirus spread. Starting May 4, up to 50% of a company’s staff can return to their places of work.  

Employees should still stay at least 6 feet from one another, wear masks and wash their hands frequently. Offices should also also designate a coronavirus coordinator to make sure workers’ temperatures are taken regularly, high-touch surfaces are sanitized, windows stay open if possible. Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, Polis said during a news conference. 

“But it’s not a contest to see how many people you can have go back to the office. If they can telecommute they should still telecommute,” Polis said. “But if you absolutely can’t, and I understand that some businesses will go out of business and the jobs won’t be there for folks if they don’t go back, they’re able to go back at 50% capacity. … I know everybody’s champing at the bit, but we need to get this right if it’s going to be successful.”

He suspects that if companies violate these rules, he’ll hear about it.

“If businesses try to jam people in, believe me it’s gonna be reported to us. You can send it to my Twitter or Facebook, send it to your county public health department,” he said. “And there will likely be a county health order, perhaps a warning first, but then an order for them to close down for a period of time before they can successfully reopen.”

Some businesses are allowed to return to work on Monday to put social-distancing “best practices” to work. Hair salons, pet groomers and tattoo parlors can open to the public on May 1 because those are one-to-one services and not workspaces that attract crowds, like restaurants and bars.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Sole Loomis plans to be back at work on Monday cutting and styling customers’ hair at Alter Image Salon in Pueblo. It’s been more than one month since state government orders forced her shop to close, leaving Loomis with many financial concerns. But she has a good attitude about it.  

“I’m more worried about what box color (customers) put on their hair,” said Loomis, who owns the salon. 

She plans to limit people in her 2,400-square-foot salon to 10 people, which includes herself and four hairstylists. It’s the only way they can make a living. “We’re hands on, we can’t do this from our homes,” she said. 

But she understands it’s not safe for everyone yet and has already worked with older customers with other health risks to change appointments until late June. 

“We have clients who have gone through chemo,” Loomis said. “If they want to hold back on their appointments, we respect that.”

Denver-based technology companies were among the first in the nation to voice concerns about the need to “stop the spread” and “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus, with many joining together to encourage fellow tech companies to keep employees at home. Most tech workers, of course, also could easily telecommute.

Returning to the office earlier than the state allows wasn’t even considered for some.

Read more business stories from The Colorado Sun.

“I haven’t heard of any companies returning to the office – more the opposite,” said Ben Travis, marketing manager at Bonusly, a Boulder tech firm that helps automate HR administration and improve retention with digital rewards for employees. “Seems like a lot of tech folks, including my team, are going to be working from home full-time for at least another month.”

Frannie Matthews, president and CEO of the Colorado Technology Association, said she hasn’t heard of any member or tech company sending workers back to the office. 

“No one is feeling they need to be at work and sharing an office,” she said. 

In fact, she’s heard more from businesses who may keep the telecommute option when they’re allowed to return to the office. She plans to survey her members after hearing that the North Carolina Technology Association did a survey and found that 46% of members would likely switch to a hybrid office so employees would work from home and the workplace. 

“For leading a team, it’s been positive to be in front of people, but with the tools available, we’re doing a pretty good job” of working remotely, Matthews said. “I’m more worried about burn-out by technology leaders because they’re working their tails off.” 

This story was updated on April 24, 2020 to reflect new guidance by the Governor’s Office on when services like hair salons can open to the public.


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