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The Virus

The latest virus forecast: The US has had a 30% increase from two weeks earlier, with about 93,000 new cases on Friday. Michigan and Minnesota in particular have seen surges in cases. About 69% of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and roughly 16% of fully vaccinated people have gotten a booster, which the CDC on Friday endorsed for vaccinated adults 18 and up. A Georgetown immunologist predicted that a vaccine-resistant Covid strain will emerge this spring.

The business impact: Consumer spending in stores and restaurants rose 1.7% in October from the month before, hitting a record that is 21% above pre-pandemic levels. Early holiday buying prompted by concerns about supply-chain-related shortages and pent-up consumer savings from the pandemic are seemingly contributing to the strong retail sales.

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What Else You Need to Know

The Great Resignation has reached CEOs. In a survey of 1,095 companies by Heidrick & Struggles, more than 100 named new CEOs in the first half of this year.

  • That’s more than double the turnover from the latter half of 2020, when 49 companies in the same group installed new chief executives.
  • Roughly two out of three new CEOs in the study were internal hires, a practice that’s become a more common way to fill open roles over the course of the pandemic.
  • Some 13% of the CEOs named during the first half of 2021 were female, compared to 7% last year.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are under-funded in company budgets. One study of DEI leaders in tech found that the majority believed they didn’t have the resources to execute their vision.

  • Nearly one quarter of respondents said they were the only person at their company whose job was to focus on DEI.
  • Some 79% of companies have said they plan to allocate more money to DEI efforts in 2022.

Companies have a long way to go in supporting employees with disabilities. A new report from the advocacy group Project Include outlined the scale of the challenges disabled workers face, including the “disclosure bind”: disclosing disability can make it possible to get accommodations, but also lead to discrimination and unwanted interrogation about the disability.

  • In 2020, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities reached its highest point in seven years, in part because industries with higher concentrations of disabled workers—such as hospitality—were also some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Return to workplace speed round:

  • More than half of companies are overhauling their spaces as workers return, and around one quarter of those undergoing an office makeover are doing away with private offices, according to recent survey data from CBRE. The majority of individual offices that remain are going to be capped at less than 150 square feet.
  • The shift to hybrid and remote work has left small businesses that rely on commuter foot traffic struggling to pay rent in expensive city centers.
  • Employers appear to be loosening up on long-term work-from-home arrangements: The average company plan now includes 1.33 remote days per week, up from 1.06 days at the start of the year. But there’s still a ways to go before that matches employee demand: The average worker wants to work around 2.3 days from home each week.
  • Roughly half of in-person holiday parties this year will include a mask requirement (though most company gatherings will likely stay virtual).
  • Apple is now asking workers to return to the office for one or two days each week starting Feb. 1, and will shift to its three-day in-office hybrid plan starting in March.
  • As companies grapple with the messiness of hybrid meetings, Zillow has instituted a “one Zoom all Zoom” rule, requiring even those in the office to join from separate screens.
  • Early stage tech startups are dramatically increasing their spending on Airbnb and flights as they emerge from the pandemic, according to accounting firm Kruze Consulting. Car-service and coworking-space expenses are also climbing.

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

  • Use “punctuated collaboration” to optimize your hybrid weeks. As much as you can, jam-pack all your meetings into the time when you’ll be in the office, and use your remote days for uninterrupted stretches of solo deep work.
  • Know your warning signs for scarcity mindset. That’s the form of mental burnout where everything starts to feel like a threat and problem-solving becomes difficult or impossible. When everyone on the team is comfortable saying if they’re slipping into scarcity mode, you can take breaks when necessary to help everyone function at their best.
  • Have two leaders for every hybrid meeting, one who’s remote and one in-office. Switch off who’s in charge of which segment. One leader can read the body language of participants in the room, and the other can focus on keeping remote attendees engaged.
  • Embrace the life-changing power of extended time off. Research shows that sabbaticals, far more than a long vacation, can be a transformative experience.


All hands on deck. With 76,000 open retail roles to fill ahead of the holiday shopping season, Macy’s is asking its corporate employees to volunteer to fold clothes and restock merchandise in its stores.

  • Wear “comfortable, close-toed shoes and business casual dress,” it advises them.

Portugal is de-blurring the line between work and personal life. A new law forbids businesses from contacting their employees outside of work hours, except in emergencies.

  • The same law also stipulates that employers who refuse a request for remote work have to supply a written explanation, and that parents of young children don’t need employer approval to work from home.

Pay transparency could become complete in Finland. Proposed legislation would allow employees to access their coworkers’ salaries, a move intended to curb gender-based pay discrimination.

  • Despite its status as one of the most gender-equal nations according to the World Economic Forum, Finland currently has one of the highest pay disparities of all OECD countries.
  • Finland already publishes the taxable income of every Finn each year, though deductions and other factors mean it doesn’t necessarily fully indicate a person’s salary.
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