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Firms extend remote work with creativity amid prolonged virus outbreak


Amid the prolonged outbreak of the COVID-19, South Korean businesses are extending telecommuting and flexible work hours for employees in various forms to prevent further spread.

While the companies are putting such measures temporarily in support of the so-called “social distancing” campaign promoted by the government to keep people from gathering in large crowds, some companies are taking it as an opportunity to seriously consider plans to build virtual and smart work systems.

SK Group, which introduced telecommuting -- the first major conglomerate to do so on Feb. 25 -- said it will extend the period, across all affiliates.

SK SUPEX Council, which is the group’s de facto control tower, will extend the remote working period until the end of March, while other affiliates, such as SK Innovation and SK E&S will lengthen it for two more weeks, until March 22.

The decision to stretch the period seems inevitable as the opening of new semesters for schools and kindergartens has been postponed.

According to the group, it has not been influenced much by the new working environment, as it has already established its own Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, which is a smart office business it is promoting.

Lotte Duty Free, a major duty-free business here, is to offer various working options for employees to reduce the number of people working in the office at the same time.

The company said it will extend the remote work system until Wednesday for workers at its Seoul headquarters, and also will allow those who wish to work four days a week, until the end of this month.

For all of its employees, the company has a short leave of absence program it introduced on Feb. 15, to allow them a holiday from two weeks to up to a month to take care of their health or of their homes.

“We intend to use this trial operation of remote work system to review possible introduction of a smart work system,” the duty-free operator said.

LS Group, which had to close its LS Yongsan Tower in Seoul for two days after one of its employee was confirmed with COVID-19, said it will expand investment for a smart work system.

“Under the premise that an economic slump and the COVID-19 outbreak can prolong, I will invest more into establishing a cloud computing work system,” said Koo Ja-yeol, the group’s chairman, in a letter to employees.

Hyundai Heavy Industries said it will run staggered work hours from Monday to the end of this month, allowing technical posts to commute between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for office workers.

As of Sunday afternoon, the number of confirmed coronavirus patients stood at 7,313, while the death toll reached 50.

By Jo He-rim (