AbbVie to bring employees back to work despite safety concerns

Sept. 14, 2020

AbbVie is planning to bring its employees back on-site to work, despite worries that it may not be safe.

According to a CNBC report, AbbVie’s CEO, Richard Gonzalez, sent an email to its workforce in late August saying that in order to preserve the company’s “culture,” it will need to resume face-to-face interactions.

Like most U.S. companies, AbbVie sent its workers home on March 17, when the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency. Since then, it has been using a phased approach to bring employees — including R&D staff, manufacturing operators and essential lab workers — back on-site. But many, including sales and marketing professionals, were also given the opportunity to continue working from home.

Now, many office employees say that in order to keep working at home, they will need to receive manager approval. And some interviewed by CNBC expressed concern that asking for that approval could mean getting fired. Other employees have complained on anonymous public forums that coming back into an office could put their health and families and risk. 

AbbVie says it is taking a number of safety precautions including plastic partitions to separate cubicles, hand sanitizer stations, increased ventilation and webcams for virtual conference meetings. The Illinois-based company has 47,000 employees across the world and about 12,000 in the U.S.

Other major drugmakers — including Novartis and J&J — have continued to implement flexible work-from-home policies.