Photo/Illutration Many commuters wear face masks on a street in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward on Feb. 17. (Shiro Nishihata)

Telecommunications giant NTT group started encouraging employees to work from home or commute during non-rush hours on Feb. 17 in response to the spreading new coronavirus epidemic.

The group employs 180,000 people in Japan, and many will be eligible for staggered working hours. Group companies will adopt the teleworking system once they are ready.

NTT Corp., the group holding company, notified major group companies, such as NTT Docomo Inc., NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp., of the recommendation on Feb. 14.

It has advised against holding large-scale meetings involving many employees.

Each group company will also consider additional preventive measures against the infection.

The NTT group has been introducing the teleworking system, and employees at some companies such as NTT East are already able to use it.

The major group companies, such as NTT Docomo, have adopted a flexible work schedule system, which requires employees to work at their offices only between the core hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.