COVID-19

More employers are expected to shift to hybrid workplaces

Amy Scott Dec 15, 2020
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Google will test a flexible workweek when employees return to the office in September. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

More employers are expected to shift to hybrid workplaces

Amy Scott Dec 15, 2020
Heard on:
Google will test a flexible workweek when employees return to the office in September. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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Google informed its workers this week that when they return to the office in September, the company will be testing a “flexible” workweek. According to an email obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by Marketplace, staff will be expected to come into the office at least three days a week and work from home the rest of the time.

Microsoft, Dropbox and Nationwide are among other employers shifting to a hybrid setup, which is expected to change the way offices look and feel, according to workplace experts.

Before the pandemic, Janet Pogue McLaurin worked full time in the Washington, D.C., office of Gensler, an architectural and design firm. Now that she works at home, she doesn’t miss the hourlong commute, but she does miss the self-serve coffee bar.

“It’s the place to run into employees from all three of our floors and just casually catch up,” she said.

It’s McLaurin’s job to understand how important those interactions are. She’s head of global workplace research at Gensler. And for a lot of workers, she said, a hybrid model is the future.

“They’re going to be doing some of their focus work at home,” she said. “And they’re going to be coming into the office to do more of that group work to meet with their teams and connect with each other.”

That’s going to change office design, said Cali Williams Yost, founder of the Flex Strategy Group. Goodbye personal workstation with your Post-its and bobbleheads and family photos; hello “hotel desks” you have to book in advance — and leave clean for the next user.

“There’s some very creative ways for people to be able to have their own space — rollable lockers and things that they can keep their personal items on site,” Yost said.

On the other hand, “will you need that as much if you’re only spending two or three days in the workplace?” asked Dan Schawbel, managing partner with Workplace Intelligence. “Once you start removing time spent in office, the need to make your office more a part of your life is being slowly diminished,” he said.

Something else that’s being diminished? The line between home and work.

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 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.

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