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COVID-19

Reopening could mean redesigning schedules as well as floor plans

Meghan McCarty Carino May 1, 2020
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A worker disinfects workspaces in an office. Fewer workdays could reduce the number of people in one place at one time. Rob Carr/Getty Images
COVID-19

Reopening could mean redesigning schedules as well as floor plans

Meghan McCarty Carino May 1, 2020
A worker disinfects workspaces in an office. Fewer workdays could reduce the number of people in one place at one time. Rob Carr/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

As businesses start to think about reopening, it’s becoming clear that work as we knew it is going to look a lot different: more empty space between people, more dividers and fewer shared touch points like door handles and elevator buttons. But it’s not just work spaces that might need to be redesigned. It’s work schedules too.

Think about the typical open office — those long tables crammed with workers practically on top of one another. Simply adding some plexiglass and masks is not going cut it. Many workplaces will need to find ways to reduce the number of workers in one place at one time. 

“I do think the one-size-fits-all 9-to-5 is probably gone,” said Cali Williams Yost, a business consultant specializing in flexible work.

She said companies could stagger starting times or have fewer, longer shifts, perhaps on alternate days. “So you split people up. ‘A’ teams come in on certain days, and ‘B’ teams come in on certain days, and never do they overlap.”

The sudden shift to remote work has already forced many companies to become more flexible, so blowing up the schedule is just the natural next step, said Alex Pang, author of the book, “Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less —Here’s How.”

“This opens up a recognition that there are changes in the way that we work that maybe are closer to hand, are more accessible than we thought before,” he said, like working fewer hours altogether.

Pang said a four-day workweek with employees taking different days of the week off could help solve the short-term issue of staggering shifts. Research has found it can benefit business too.

“You can actually be just as productive or more productive. People are happier, work-life balance is better and recruitment and retention go way up,” he said.

Philadelphia software company Wildbit has been working a four-day week for years.

“The hypothesis was that we are spending a lot of our days on things that aren’t really valuable — just meetings, procrastination, inefficiencies, things like that,” said CEO Natalie Nagele.

She found productivity improved after the first year, with employees able to do better, more focused work when there was less of it.

With many schools closed, persistent uncertainty about child care and companies still figuring out how to retrofit their physical space, shorter workweeks and flexible schedules could become less of a perk and more of a necessity.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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