Coronavirus: Thousands of Silicon Valley employees work from home amid COVID-19 fears

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many Bay Area companies this week to have their employees work at home.

Something like this has never been done on a scale with tens of thousands of employees doing so at a single company.

It's a strange sight to see in Silicon Valley.

The parking lots at Cisco are empty because nearly 18,000 employees here, in San Francisco and in Pleasanton are on mandatory work-at-home status.

For collaboration, they're using Cisco's teleconference service, Webex.

RELATED: Coronavirus Impact: San Francisco businesses reduce hours, layoff workers amid COVID-19 outbreak

So did we to interview Cisco's chief people officer about what they've learned with its local work force at home.

"If we're not careful, we can actually be sitting here in our office all day long versus what we're normally used to, walking building to building to offices," said Cisco's Fran Katsoudas.

"We're trying to give people breaks so they can get up and stretch."

Only a skeleton crew is staffing the downtown San Jose showroom and offices of KBM Hogue, which builds out offices for top tech companies.

150 employees in San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento are working at home.

RELATED: Coronavirus in California: Get resources and information about COVID-19

So far, it's working, but not for every aspect of their work.

"At some point somebody wants to sit in a chair, they want to touch a fabric, some guys need to pull up in a pickup truck or a van or a 45 foot trailer and offload and build furniture," noted CEO Stan Vuckovich.

"So we're good so far, but this is a dynamic situation. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow."

For realtors, safety is also a consideration. Open houses may be changing.

Sandy Jamison is president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.

RELATED: Live coronavirus updates: Trump to declare national emergency over COVID-19

"For the elderly sellers, we're actually recommending to not have the open house because we don't want to ask them to leave the home for an afternoon and put themselves out in a public space when they really should be staying at home."

So many offices have space where people can collaborate, where interaction among employees is encouraged.

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.