Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The future of work,
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The future of work
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Daily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.Credit…The New York Times
California will allow all adults to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot.
The Netherlands will begin a partial lockdown on Saturday to quell a fourth wave of Covid infections.
A study found the Covaxin vaccine developed in India to be nearly 78 percent effective, Bloomberg reports.
Our future work lives
As the pandemic drags on, so does the profound reordering of work and office life.
After a year without commutes, many white-collar workers have grown accustomed to the flexibility of working from home. Companies are reassessing whether they need to rent large office spaces with so few employees coming in. A record number of U.S. workers quit their jobs in September as the “Great Resignation” continues, while thousands more are protesting pay or working conditions.
For insight into how the shifting tides of the pandemic will shape our work lives, I turned to my colleague Emma Goldberg. (She’s already making waves on her new beat with a look at conflicts in the office between Gen Z and millennials.)
You’re the new future of work reporter at The Times. What does that mean?
It’s an exciting beat because it’s very broad — it encompasses everything from the social dynamics of the workplace and the design of the office to whether the office itself has a future. It covers everything from what productivity means and how it’s assessed, to the public health implications of our return to offices.
Where do things stand with return to office?
A lot of companies were supposed to be back in their offices in July or September, but with the Delta variant’s surge, there were a lot of postponements. Now, there are companies that are saying they’re going to be back in offices in January or in early 2022. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.
That said, the Biden mandates should make a lot of larger employers and workers feel safer. Some experts are saying that smaller and medium-sized companies are going to follow their lead. So as vaccine mandates roll out over the next 60 days, we may start to see more of those long-elusive reopenings finally starting to pan out.
What trends will shape our work lives in the coming years?
A big one is the question of flexibility. During the pandemic, a lot of companies had to face the fact that some of the norms of the office that have been so fundamental for years aren’t necessary to produce great work output. In fact, they were making things really challenging for some people. That forced a reckoning among employers about what kind of flexibility could be afforded to workers.
Another trend is the war for talent. Right now, there is a big labor shortage, with record high rates of people leaving their jobs, which makes talent a scarce commodity. That’s pushing companies to rethink what perks they’re offering, from raises to other kind of benefits. And that’s happening across sectors.
There’s also continued conversations about what companies can do to support the movement for racial justice. Last summer, there was a wave of commitments from companies promising to rethink their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. Now, a little over a year later, workers are following up and asking how much of it really panned out and what companies are going to do to make good on the initial promises they made.
How has the pandemic changed work culture?
Companies that went remote or hybrid over the last year had to rethink what it means to build culture when workers aren’t sitting next to each other. For some companies, it has meant organizing virtual holiday parties and pumpkin carvings. Others are having their employees do virtual hikes together, meaning they each separately go on walks but call each other up while doing so. And still others are finding that their workers miss being together in person, and they’re coming back to their desks to hang out even though it’s not required.
What about long-term changes to our work lives?
Something I heard from a lot of people over the last year is that the pandemic has forced a reckoning with the premium people place on their careers and on the role of work in their lives. It’s forced them to question what really makes them happy and how to build a balance between work and life that feels more sustainable. This mentality could prompt a huge shift in how much time and energy we devote to our jobs, or how we draw boundaries between work and life.
What bosses want
C.E.O.s are struggling with how and when to bring employees back to the office — or if they even need to bring employees back at all. Many are eager for employees to return, but they’re also afraid of alienating those who have grown accustomed to working from home. Several bosses spoke with The Times’s David Gelles:
The new normal
At Upwork, employees are helping to shape company policies and determine the future of their shared office life.
“I think they do have more power now,” said Hayden Brown, Upwork’s chief executive. “Companies are listening to their employees more than ever before, and I think that’s partly because the war for talent is greater than ever.”
The case for in-person work
For Chris Merrill, a co-founder and the chief executive of Harrison Street, the romanticization of remote work is balderdash.
“Being in the office makes sense,” he said. “It’s very, very important for the younger people to be together. That is where they learn. That is where they grow. That is where you’re going to create upward mobility.”
Downsides of staying remote
Andi Owen, the chief executive of MillerKnoll, warned that workers who resist going back to the office could find themselves isolated and at a disadvantage.
“One of my biggest worries is that we’re going to have remote orphans,” she said. “Walking down the hall to somebody’s office and knocking on the door, or doing a drive-by versus setting up a video appointment, these things are easier to do in person.”
The benefits of flexibility
Liz Fraser, the chief executive of Kate Spade, worked relentlessly for years and now has an 18-year-old daughter. She said she wished she’d had more opportunities to work remotely earlier in her career.
“It would have been a game changer for me to have had a little bit more flexibility so that I could take my meetings from home in the afternoon,” she said. “I definitely traveled a lot and I worked really hard, and I wanted to. I don’t regret it. But there’s no such thing as quality time. There’s just time.”
What else we’re following
President Biden nominated Dr. Robert Califf, a former commissioner of the F.D.A., to lead the agency again.
China’s top leader said this week that the county had “overcome the impact of Covid-19,” but, as Bloomberg reports, authorities in Beijing are asking companies to cancel all conferences to limit viral spread.
Booster shots are most popular in states where vaccination rates are low and rates of new virus cases are high, The Washington Post reports.
“A scandal”: The W.H.O. said the world’s rate of booster shots outstripped poorer countries’ vaccinations.
Germany will bar unvaccinated people from some entertainment venues, France 24 reports.
Austrians rushed to get vaccinated in response to new restrictions.
The Italian police searched the homes of four people linked to the “No Green Pass” movement.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” featured an interview with Dr. Fauci.
Vaccine skeptics who capitulated to mandates and received a shot are now promoting sometimes dangerous treatments that they say reverse the effects of the vaccine, NBC News reports.
The Broadway play “Chicken & Biscuits” announced it would end its run early after a coronavirus outbreak on set forced it to cancel more than a week’s worth of shows.
What you’re doing
Decorating the house for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Some people say, “Why?” I say, “Why not?”
— Ann Konkoly, Solon, Ohio
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