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December 13, 2021 11:15 AM EST

The Virus

The latest virus forecast: The US had a 38% increase from two weeks earlier largely due to a Delta variant surge, with about 121,000 new cases on Friday and New Hampshire having the highest rate of recent cases per capita. About 61% of the US population is fully vaccinated, with 16% also having received a booster dose. Early—though not definitive—research suggests that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than earlier variants, including among vaccinated people, but is causing less severe illness.

The business impact: Inflation rose 6.8% in November from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1982. There are 11 million open jobs in the US, with just 6.9 million people unemployed and looking for work. Some 2.8% of American workers quit their jobs in October, down from the record 3% in September.

Check out Charter’s Reset Work package of tools, resources, and services to help your team navigate this next phase.

What Else You Need to Know

2022 will be the year of the raise. Employers are projected to increase wages by 3.9% next year, the most significant growth in more than a decade.

  • A report from the Conference Board pointed to higher salaries for new employees as the main driver of wage growth, with just under half of companies surveyed citing it as a factor in their salary budgets for the year ahead.
  • Inflation was the second most commonly cited factor, with 39% of respondents saying that it played a role.
  • Google separately told employees at an all-hands meeting last week that the company had no plans to adjust compensation companywide to account for inflation.

The first unionized Starbucks is here. Workers at one of the coffee chain’s Buffalo-area locations have voted to join Workers United, making it the first company-owned store to successfully unionize. Three other stores in the area have recently filed paperwork to hold union elections of their own.

  • The vote comes toward the end of a high-activity period for labor organizing, as “Striketober” saw employees from companies including John Deere, Kellogg’s, and Kaiser Permanente walk off the job to protest working conditions.
  • Late last month, the National Labor Relations Board granted a revote to workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama after accusations that the company had pressured them to vote against unionizing.
  • Despite the fact that union membership has decreased for decades (with a small uptick last year), public support for unions is currently at its highest level since the 1960s.

A popular rating system for assessing a company’s environmental impact doesn’t mean what most people think it does. Bloomberg reporting on MSCI, a firm which grades organizations’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, found little connection between a company’s ESG rating and its actual commitment to sustainability.

  • Rather, Bloomberg found, the ratings reflected the reverse: MSCI “was looking only at whether environmental issues had the potential to harm the company.”
  • MSCI ratings are widely used to market mutual funds and other investments as sustainable.

Companies struggling to retain employees are investing in internal job boards in the hopes that greater internal mobility will help them hold on to workers.

  • Other organizations are taking a different approach to combating attrition: Microsoft has created new guidelines for managers to help with retention, instituting a practice of regular “career check-ins” for supervisors to talk to their team members about career growth.
  • A new Wharton report outlines practices managers can adopt to use inclusivity as a retention strategy, including transparency around hiring policies and helping employees build their internal networks.
  • In one recent survey, more than 60% of employers said they were having a hard time keeping employees, a challenge that most expected to stretch into 2022.
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Return to workplace speed round:

  • Google and Uber have now pushed back their office returns indefinitely amid the spread of Omicron. Meta is sticking to its planned January reopening, but has offered its employees the option of deferring their return by three to five months, in addition to the previously announced option of requesting to go fully remote. Qualtrics is among the companies that had delayed their return indefinitely, promising to give employees at least 30-days notice before requiring them to return.
  • After seeing nearly 40 Covid cases among its staff this month, Jefferies is asking all employees to work from home through the end of the year and requiring all eligible workers to get a booster by the end of January.
  • TJX, the parent company of retailers TJMaxx and Marshalls, has set a February deadline for all eligible office employees to receive a Covid booster. Molson Coors Beverage is requiring corporate staff to get a booster.
  • New York City mayor Bill De Blasio has announced a vaccine mandate for all in-person employees of private companies. The requirement, set to go into effect later this month, will apply to an estimated 184,000 businesses and doesn’t include a testing opt-out. Meanwhile, a hearing set for this coming week will determine the fate of the city’s vaccine requirement for public workers.
  • Companies continue to introduce new workplace amenities in the hopes of drawing employees back to the office: Salesforce has added more TVs and couches to its San Francisco headquarters, while Accenture’s recently opened Manhattan space features tech-free “reflection zones” and an interfaith prayer room.
  • Executives at the UK offices of Deloitte and BDO reported that a flexible model hasn’t affected the quality of their accountants’ work.
  • Allstate’s now-defunct Illinois campus is just one of several office spaces now being converted into warehouses and apartments as their former tenants go mostly or fully remote.
  • Gallup analysts predict that in the eventual “new normal,” 37% of office desks that were occupied on a given workday pre-pandemic will sit empty.
  • The greater availability of hybrid and remote work doesn’t appear to have diminished college students’ interest in working for some of the least flexible companies.

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

  • Cultivate a reflection habit. Negatives stick out in our brains more than positives, so rebalance yourself by focusing on the good: Each day, carve out time to reflect on what went well and what you can celebrate.
  • Don’t force a hire. Bringing on an unreliable team member can be more disruptive to existing employees than leaving an open role unfilled. If it’s taking a while to find the right person, focus on how you can support your team in the meantime, rather than hastily hiring someone who’s not right for the job.
  • Avoid framing questions in terms of “why,” which can come across as judgmental and make people feel defensive about their choices. Instead, lead with “what” or “how”—as in, “How did you come to that decision?”
  • Be strategic about when you tackle difficult tasks. Research has shown that we’re more inclined to take on hard things when we’re feeling cheerful, so jump on a good mood as an opportunity to knock something onerous off your to-do list.

Coda

The United Arab Emirates is knocking a half day off its workweek. Federal employees will now kick off the weekend at noon on Fridays, as the UAE government tries to “boost productivity and improve work/life balance.”

Gen Zers are eyeing early retirement. In a recent survey, a quarter of Gen Z respondents (who were born between roughly 1997 and 2012) said they planned to leave the workforce by age 55.

  • One third of people under 40 said they expected to live on 60% of their pre-retirement income at most, well below the established guideline of 80%.

The quiet resignation letter is out. The QuitTok is in. Emboldened by the tight labor market, workers are taking to social media to proudly broadcast how and why they left their jobs, often airing their frustrations with their former employers in the process.

  • “I have just been miserable,” one teacher recounts in the video she posted publicly about resigning.
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