Microsoft said Thursday it will keep paying the wages of hourly service workers in the Puget Sound area and in northern California during the coronavirus outbreak even as the company’s need for them lessens while many of its employees work from home.

“This will ensure that, in Puget Sound for example, the 4,500 hourly employees who work in our facilities will continue to receive their regular wages even if their work hours are reduced,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post Thursday. He referred to “individuals who work for our vendors and staff our cafes, drive our shuttles and support our on-site tech and audio-visual needs.”

Smith encouraged other big businesses to do the same.

“While the work to protect public health needs to speed up, the economy can’t afford to slow down,” he wrote. “What’s affordable for a large employer may not be affordable for a small business, but we believe that large employers who can afford to take this type of step should consider doing so.”

Microsoft, with nearly 54,000 employees in Washington state, in a separate blog post Wednesday recommended employees in King County “who are in a job that can be done from home should do so through March 25th.”

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