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November 16, 2021 10:13 PM EST

The Virus

The latest virus forecast: The US has had a 15% increase from two weeks earlier, with about 83,000 new cases yesterday, and 68% of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. About 900,000 kids aged five to 11 got a first dose in the week after its approval.

The business impact: Consumer prices increased 6.2% in October from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1990. Consumer sentiment fell unexpectedly amid concerns about inflation, which is already leading shoppers to opt for less expensive items at the supermarket. CEOs’ outlook for business conditions one year from now continues to decline, because of factors such as inflation, supply chain disruptions, and tight labor supplies.

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What Else You Need to Know

The Great Resignation is accelerating. More than 4.4 million US workers quit their jobs in September, the highest monthly number on record.

  • A labor shortage has emboldened people to voluntarily leave their employers, giving them confidence that they can find better or higher-paying roles. Savings accumulated during the pandemic has freed them to be choosier about their job.
  • “What I’m seeing across the board is that people are tired,” explained HR expert Ben Jackson in an interview with Charlie Warzel.
  • Industries that require people to work in person, such as manufacturing, retail, leisure and hospitality, and health care, are seeing the most resignations—compounding their existing labor shortage.
  • Companies are raising salaries to try to retain and recruit workers. And employers including Amazon and Starbucks are offering increased scheduling flexibility.
  • Companies are also turning to robots to deal with the labor shortage. One-third of firms with staffing difficulties are implementing or exploring automation to replace workers, such as security patrol robots and new machinery to make pizza dough balls.

Fair hiring practices are being adopted slowly. Just 31% of companies use structured interviews, and 21% use assessments to evaluate candidates’ skills, according to a SmartRecruiters survey. Such practices are important to limiting bias in hiring decisions. Only 15% of employers said they removed identifying factors in hiring for internal job candidates.

MBA students care about social impact. Wharton now offers over 50 courses in the area, and social-enterprise classes are in high demand at Harvard Business School. That’s as jobs with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) dimensions—such as renewable-energy finance or climate-change risk assessment—grow.

Return to workplace speed round:

  • Small firms in industries such as construction are wooing vaccine-hesitant workers by touting that the Biden administration mandates for vaccination won’t apply to them.
  • Companies including Amazon and JPMorgan Chase have dropped mask requirements for some workers.
  • More than 300 Hearst magazine workers have signed a petition protesting the requirement that they return to the office at least once a week starting tomorrow.
  • Just 28% of Manhattan office workers are back in their offices, and less than 50% are expected back by January.

Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:

  • Focus on the benefits of mentally taxing tasks. Researchers found that people often preferred physical pain over work that makes their brain hurt. One approach is to imagine the positive outcomes, or create some if needed, such as rewarding yourself with a cup of coffee. It also helps to break mentally taxing work into smaller units so it’s less daunting.
  • Use data to improve your meetings. Track behaviors during meetings, such as who speaks, and share that data with the group. By noting things such as the number of people who are taking notes or who haven’t spoken, it helps groups break patterns and increase creativity.

Coda

Beware of “air pocketing.” That’s a term for when senior people are stuck in a rut but are paid too much to quit and are too good to fire.

Get a loose suit. Sales of business suits are starting to recover. But after working from home (in sweatpants, leggings, and whatever else), consumers are now into suits for work that are loose, flexible or washable.

More people are traveling on weekdays. Airbnb says Monday and Tuesday are now its busiest travel days, as workers tack on extra vacation days to business trips and families travel longer.

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