What happened

Okta (NASDAQ:OKTA), Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK), and Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) stocks were all off to the races this morning, jumping 9% and 10% before beginning to retrace their steps. As of 12:25 p.m. EDT, shares of identity verification company Okta are still up 2.2%, those of freelancing website Upwork are up 4.2%, and video communications company Zoom is hanging on to a 5.4% gain.

Why?

Young woman works from home drinking coffee sitting on a desk and reading from a tablet PC

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Yesterday California -- the state with the largest population in the U.S. -- issued a statewide stay-at-home order to its 40 million residents. Governor Gavin Newsom warned that the novel coronavirus is on track to infect as much as half the state's population, but isolating people in their homes could help spread out the infections such that the state's hospitals will be better able to deal with them as they come in.  

Nevada has instructed "nonessential" businesses to close for 30 days. And this morning New York ordered nonessential employees to work from home. As more and more states follow suit, it appears working from home could become the new normal in America.

Now what

That's naturally going to be of benefit to businesses like Upwork, which helps people find temporary jobs that they can do from home, Okta, which helps to verify their identities online, and Zoom, which facilitates interaction among such remote workers. In each of their respective fields, these companies are proving to be the leaders.

We've all seen how topsy-turvy the markets can get in a time of crisis, with stocks alternatively jumping and plummeting -- often on no specific news whatsoever. Regardless, the longer this particular crisis stretches out, and the more firmly the idea of working from home gets entrenched in the American economy, the better the future prospects for work-from-home stocks like Okta, Upwork, and Zoom.

Over time, I expect this trend to get clearer and clearer.