Many businesses telling employees to stay home ahead of Friday storm

Many Massachusetts businesses are hurriedly telling employee not to bother coming into the office on Friday during the expected blizzard, while others said they are leaving it up to workers to decide whether they can make it in.

With the MBTA and commuter rail lines shutting at 3:30 Friday afternoon, and Gov. Deval Patrick asking commuters to remain off the roads, most corporate work sites will likely be empty anyway Friday.

Commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle sent its Boston employees an e-mail in big red letters telling them not to come into the downtown Boston office Friday unless it’s absolutely necessary.

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“We’re all jamming two days of work into one,” said the firm’s spokesman, Stephen Steinberg, who recalls nearly getting stranded during the Blizzard of 1978. “ People will still be working, but much of it will be virtual work from home.”

Out in Needham along Route 128, software maker PTC Inc., will close its campus Friday and is telling the 1,000 workers who work there to work from home, if possible. Another major tech employer, EMC Corp. of Hopkinton, told its roughly 9,000 employees in New England to consider staying home on Friday. The company also has a 24-hour “snow line” for updates on company facilities.

Fidelity Investments, which has thousands of workers in downtown Boston, southern New Hampshire and Rhode Island, said it expects many of its local employees to work from home Friday. Decisions will ultimately be up to individual managers, spokesman Vin Loporchio said.

Other firms are still watching the forecast.

As of Thursday evening, Eastern Bank planned to remain open for regular business hours through the storm. The Lynn-based bank asked employees to call into a severe weather phone line it set up for updates on Friday morning, spokesman Andy Raven said.

Technology is making it easier for companies to close offices during major weather events, as most businesses said they expect employees to be able to work remotely from home. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts will close its offices Friday, but an “e-workforce” of more than 700 will swell to more than 2,000 as more employees work remotely from home for the day.

“We are telling everyone tonight to bring home their laptops and power cords so they can work from home,” said Katie Burke, a spokeswoman for HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge. As of Thursday evening, the company hadn’t decided to close its office outright on Friday.

HubSpot also created an online chat room – which it has dubbed “Snowpocalypse 2013” – for employees to share storm related information

The forecast has many companies scrambling to secure property, especially with near-gale force winds forecast for Friday night.

Suffolk Construction, which has multiple high-rise building projects underway in Boston, had employees spending much of Thursday battening down work sites.

“The winds get very strong when you get up 300, 400 feet, so we’re locking down our buildings and making sure nothing hazardous can break loose,” said Suffolk chief executive John Fish.