COVID-19

What if working from home becomes permanent?

Marielle Segarra Oct 22, 2020
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A real estate agent works from home in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 1. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

What if working from home becomes permanent?

Marielle Segarra Oct 22, 2020
Heard on:
A real estate agent works from home in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 1. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images
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Richard Fine began our Zoom call with a warning about the hammering sound I was about to hear. His downstairs neighbor has recently undertaken some construction.

“That’s just the joys of working from home,” he said.

Fine talked to me from the bedroom of his Manhattan apartment because his wife and son were working and learning remotely in the other rooms. He’s an executive at Zocdoc, the doctor appointment booking site.

“We have committed to the full company that we will not mandate people to come back until Labor Day of 2021,” Fine said.

Fine doesn’t love working from home.

“I think it’s a pretty inferior form of work,” he said.

The longer the pandemic lasts, the likelier it seems that many of us will be working from home forever. A new S&P Global survey finds that nearly two-thirds of organizations say a significant increase in remote working will be permanent. Granted, there are many people who like remote work — there’s no commute and more flexibility. But I heard from a lot of people who have found it very challenging.

Nyala Khan is the head of talent at the health care company Eden Health and a single mom, living in a small apartment in Queens with her 6-year-old daughter who’s doing school online.

“I feel like I’m a meaner mom to her because my patience is immediately low now compared to before, and my stress is incredibly high,” Khan said. “And she claps back pretty hard. She’ll be like mommy, you just yelled at me, that was not nice.”

She is grateful that she gets to spend more time with her daughter. At the same time, she misses interacting with her colleagues in person.

So does Kate Adams in Milton, Massachusetts. She’s a marketing executive at a tech company called Drift. She has friends at the office.

“You know, on Fridays at 4 o’clock, we’d send up the bat signal, and go join each other in the kitchen and grab a glass of wine and hang out and just like decompress,” she said. “I miss that desperately.”

Last she heard, the office probably won’t reopen until June. So for now, she and her coworker have come up with this game.

“We have a contest sometimes when we’re on Zooms, like if we can make each other laugh,” she said.

They even keep score.

It’s not the same. But it’s the best they’ve got.  

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

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

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues 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.

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