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December 20, 2021 10:22 AM EST

The Virus

The latest virus forecast: The US had a 20% increase from two weeks earlier, with about 126,000 new cases on Friday. Infections are rising throughout most of the country, with roughly 150% increases in reported cases in Connecticut and Maine over the past two weeks and 7.5% of tests in New York coming back positive. About 61% of the US population is fully vaccinated and about 18% has received a booster dose. Boosters appear to provide significant additional—but not full—protection against the Omicron variant, and many questions remain. Testing shortages are now widespread.

What Else You Need to Know

The Omicron shutdowns are here. Amid skyrocketing cases, many companies have given up (at least for now) on setting a firm return-to-office date, as teams continue to grapple with the question of holiday parties and universities once again go virtual.

  • Return-to-office dates “are now history,” Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor who studies remote work, told CNBC. “Everything is completely off.”
  • Apple, originally slated to call workers back in February, has joined Google in delaying its return indefinitely. In the meantime, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees this week that each would be receiving a $1,000 stipend to put toward their work-from-home setup.
  • After Jefferies asked employees last week to work from home following a spate of Covid cases, other financial firms are following suit, backpedaling on their office returns and in-person events: Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have both relaxed their stance on in-person work; Goldman Sachs has pushed back its holiday parties; and JPMorgan has moved its January healthcare conference online and told unvaccinated employees to work from home.
  • Cornell, whose undergraduate population is almost entirely vaccinated, abruptly shut down its campus earlier this week amid more than 1,100 new Covid cases. Since then, multiple schools across the country, including Princeton, NYU, Harvard, and George Washington University, have announced that they were going partially or fully remote. Stanford additionally is requiring students to get a booster by the end of January.
  • In recent days, employers from Buzzfeed to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office have held holiday parties that were linked to multiple cases.
  • The outlook for international travel is getting less certain, as European restrictions tighten, including a full lockdown of the Netherlands through mid-January.
  • The World Economic Forum is planning to go ahead with its big mid-January event in Davos, Switzerland—but said it would make a final decision by Jan. 6.

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

Vaccinated childcare workers are in high demand, making it harder for some parents to secure the care that would enable them to return to office work.

  • Currently, only a handful of states mandate vaccines for daycare employees or other childcare providers. In a survey of childcare workers earlier this year, 78% reported that they were vaccinated.
  • The number of US childcare workers is down to begin with, as many have opted to switch into better paying jobs. Childcare has been one of the lowest-paid occupations, with compensation below a living wage in most states.
  • The babysitting site UrbanSitter reported that rates have increased 11% since 2020, and that fully vaccinated providers make an average of $2 more per hour than unvaccinated ones.
  • “If you’re making under $80,000 [a year] right now as a mom, you’re going to end up giving your nanny your salary, ” Ruka Curate, founder of the childcare staffing agency Tiny Treasures, told Bloomberg.

Return to workplace speed round:

  • The Department of Labor said it would delay until Feb. 9 to enforce the mandate that employers with 100 or more workers require vaccination or regular testing. A federal appeals court Friday had allowed the rule to go forward.
  • After lifting the requirement last month, Apple is reinstating its mask policy for customers at its stores.
  • In lieu of holiday parties, some employers are showing end-of-year appreciation in the form of more extravagant presents, like fancy swag and Google Nest products.
  • One downside of coming back into an office: the rampant audio faux pas. Some frustrated employees are struggling to work around colleagues dialing into virtual meetings sans headphones, taking calls on speaker, or playing music out loud.
  • The booster mandate is gaining steam: The NFL now requires them for coaches and any other staffers working with players, and the Washington Post is requiring both boosters and weekly testing, provided on-site, for all employees, who are expected to be back at the office part-time by February. Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that the definition of “fully vaccinated” changing to include a booster is “a matter of when, not if.”
  • “For the young people, I have one message, which is ‘Get back to work,’” former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told The Information in an interview published this week. “If you’re under 30 years old, you might be missing out on the largest career-learning cycle because the stuff you learn in your 20s gets multiplied in your 30s and 40s. And you’re also probably missing your network.” Armstrong suggested that “even if your company doesn’t let you come back, create your own working environment and invite some people over.”
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Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:

  • Think like a designer. At its core, the design process is about observing constraints and then applying solutions. Use that same mentality to identify constraints that make your workplace less equitable, like overlong blocks of Zoom meetings that make it harder for caregivers to fully participate.
  • Reach back out to former employees to fill empty positions. A growing number of “boomerangs” are now returning to previous jobs. Hiring managers can capitalize on this trend by sharing job postings within the organization’s alumni network, or directly contacting their former reports to check in. Research suggests “boomerang” workers perform better than other hires.
  • Un-blur your background. Giving your colleagues a view into your environment is a low-lift way to create “embodied connection”—the feeling of sharing space—with colleagues, which can go a long way toward fostering connection during remote work.
  • Re-think your Fridays. Start early and front-load your day to protect your Friday afternoons so that you can end your work week early. Consider banning internal meetings on Fridays. And take your work outdoors or somewhere scenic.

Coda

The walk from their bed to a desk in their home now legally qualifies as a commute, for workers in Germany.

  • A court recently ruled that a man who fell down his stairs en route to his home office should be covered by company insurance because the injury was sustained on an “insured work route.”

The careers of the future will be long. Young children today may well live to be 100 years old—and work for at least 60 of those years, according to a recent report from the Stanford Center for Longevity.

The Great Resignation showed up in Google. In keeping with the growing numbers of workers opting for self-employment, the search giant reported that “how to start a business” was a more popular query in 2021 than “how to get a job.”

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