Remote work is having a moment amid COVID-19 fears
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With the rapid spread of COVID-19, companies are scrambling to figure out how to keep business up and running during a local outbreak should employees need to stay away from the office. Remote work has been increasing in the United States, and the outbreak could be a turning point in making such arrangements permanent.
Remote work allows companies to pull from a broader talent pool, lower real estate costs and boost employee productivity, but does require additional training to make sure employees effectively communicate.
As cases of COVID-19 illness began to mount in the U.S. last week, New York commercial real estate brokerage SquareFoot started making emergency plans.
“We just wanted to be prepared should the alarm bell really go off,” said Eugenie Fanning, vice president of people. The company has asked employees to hold off booking business trips, stay home for two weeks if they’ve traveled through affected areas and take home their laptops at the end of each day.
“A lot of what we do can be done online using Slack and video conferencing,” she said.
JPMorgan Chase announced similar plans, while Nike temporarily shut its Oregon headquarters for cleaning over the weekend and asked employees with links to a COVID-19 case at a nearby school to stay home.
Remote work has increased dramatically over the decade, said Sara Sutton, the founder of job listing site FlexJobs, but fully remote work still makes up less than 5% of full time jobs in the U.S.
“A lot of organizations are doing remote work right now in a very ad hoc manner,” Sutton said. “They don’t have a formal plan in place.” That leaves many remote workers feeling isolated and unsupported.
Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Flex Strategy Group, which helps companies implement flexible work arrangements, said COVID-19 could be a turning point.
“I think this is an opportunity to become more intentional and strategic about making flexibility in the way work is done part of the cultural DNA,” she said.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?
The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.
What’s the latest on evictions?
For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.
Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?
Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.
You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.
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