How Dropbox is managing the COVID-19 crisis


Published on May 14, 2020

Closed offices, schools, restaurants, and parks. Pleas for people to stay home so that our healthcare systems won’t have to ration care. This would have been unimaginable a few short months ago, but now it’s a part of our normal life. 

While the toll on our personal lives has been heavy, our professional lives have also shifted dramatically. In the spirit of transparency, I want to share what we’ve done at Dropbox to protect and support our employees during this crisis.

At Dropbox we have a cross-functional Crisis Management Team that manages business disruptions. We work through exercises each year to test our decision making and preparedness. Usually these tabletop exercises involve a natural disaster at a single location. Although we had never planned for an event affecting our entire global footprint, this practice was crucial because it prepared us to make decisions quickly and with clear ownership.  

Members of the CMT and our Business Continuity team started meeting regularly to discuss the novel coronavirus in late January. From the outset, we were guided by two principles: 1) The safety and well-being of our people and communities comes first; and 2) we would follow public health guidelines from the experts. Initially, we paid close attention to local guidance in Singapore and Japan. As the virus began to spread in the United States, we listened to officials like Dr. Sara Cody in the San Francisco Bay Area and Dr. Jeff Duchin in Seattle along with San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed and Governor Gavin Newsom.

By early March, we were meeting daily and preparing contingency plans. When we started seeing cases in our communities, we mobilized quickly. On March 5th, eleven days before the Bay Area issued shelter-in-place orders, we asked all employees who were able to begin working from home the next day. It’s a testament to the thorough preparations of the CMT that almost as soon as we made this decision, we could roll out the announcement to our team globally and provide our employees with the information they needed to make the transition as smooth as possible. We’re also fortunate that Dropbox products help distributed teams work effectively, so as a company we were able to continue getting work done.

As the crisis has progressed, the CMT has continued to meet regularly. Our goal has been to provide transparency and as much predictability as possible to our employees. When there is so much up in the air, we wanted our people to be able to plan their lives and know that they wouldn’t be rushed back to the office at a moment’s notice. So we recently decided to extend this policy through September 1 and we’ve also let our employees know that we strongly support anyone who wants to work from home for the rest of the year. Protecting the health and safety of our employees and communities has been our north star throughout.

Now more than ever, our personal and professional lives have become intertwined and I want to share what we’ve done to support the wellbeing of our people. Initially we provided our workers with stipends to make sure they had the set up they needed at home to get their work done, including to boost internet speeds. We’ve rolled out a number of new mental health and wellness benefits, and made sure employees knew of existing resources that could help. We’ve emphasized the need for flexibility with all of our employees, and particularly to managers, since this new situation presents unique challenges to those who have to balance other responsibilities like caregiving. We continue to strongly encourage our employees to carve out a work routine that makes sense for them and to work with their leads to make sure they’re supported. 

We’ve also encouraged people to take PTO when they need it. Burnout is real, and we’ve all felt the fatigue of back-to-back-to-back Zoom calls. On top of that, most of us had not set up our lives to work from home. Many are also caring for children or other family members, coping with isolation, or navigating challenging living environments. To show our commitment to ensuring some semblance of balance, we announced that this Thursday, May 14th will be a company-wide holiday where everyone can have some time to take care of themselves, their families, and communities.

We’re also proud of the work that we’ve done to support those in need. We’ve donated our products to non-profits and NGOs on the front lines of combatting COVID-19 and those affected by it, as well as to K-12 educators to help facilitate distance learning. We joined the COVID-19 Tech Collaborative, a coalition of tech companies that are donating funds to critical public health organizations like the CDC and WHO to support their efforts. And to amplify the generosity of our employees, we’ve matched their donations to COVID-related causes.

Deciding what our return to the office will look like is the next  big step. We are decidedly risk-intolerant when it comes to the health of those who work at Dropbox. The CMT has been hard at work trying to map out the various changes and protective measures we will put in place when we do eventually return. While we don’t have all the answers yet, we will always put the health of our employees first.