While cities and states across the nation continue maintaining their own bubbles of restrictions or a lockdown, companies are also making their own calls for how much longer they should allow or require their employees to work from home.
As of early September 2020, major companies have extended their work from home policies: until January 2021 – Amazon, Reuters news; until July 2021 – Google, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook; some are even now switching to permanent remote work options – Slack, Zillow, Twitter, Square, REI. Verizon is going to hire 1,000 positions to work remotely. Outside of tech and large commercial companies, it also seems like anyone who is working a job that can be accomplished remotely is continuing to do so “for the foreseeable future.”
It makes sense doesn’t it? It’s a no brainer. If the most valuable asset in your company or organization are your people, having them stay at home maximizes social distancing and virtually (pun intended) guarantees your office spaces won’t be a vector for the further spread of the novel coronavirus. As of the date of this posting, the U.S. has exceeded 6.15 million cases and has lost over 186,000 people to the coronavirus disease.
Big or tech-centric companies were the most ready and resourced to support company-wide remote work and could also be the most proactive in pivoting their workforce to staying at home. So perhaps they can act as our benchmark. If most of them have extended allowing employees to work from home through summer 2021, should we be following their lead in our workplace reopening efforts and expect to do the same?
Dr. Fauci has been reported saying there’s no high level of confidence that a rushed vaccine will be ready by November. It’s “unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine will be ready by October, according to Dr. Fauci. Instead there is more confidence in something viable being ready by December and distributed in 2021.
When asking friends on Facebook what their predictions are, two responses said they believe a vaccine will be available by “Spring 2021″ and both expressed doubt or skepticism around the matter of public trust in a rushed vaccination. Vox reports nearly a third of Americans wouldn’t get the vaccine. And part of a vaccine’s effectiveness hinges entirely on public trust in the safety around taking it.
One person from my Facebook responded “Depends who wins (the U.S. election)this November,” which reminds me of what the New York Times has reported: “the possibility of a rollout in late October or early November has heightened concerns that the Trump administration is seeking to rush the distribution of a vaccine — or simply to hype that one is possible — before Election Day on Nov. 3.”
Meanwhile, at home in New York City, we see signs of reopening or returning to a “new normal.” Since NYC entered Phase 3 of reopening on July 8th, the case numbers in the city have not increased at any alarming rate. In fact the current rate of positive Covid19 infections in the metropolitan area has stayed less than 1%. Gyms have started to open this week (early September). City leaders are contemplating or advocating for indoor dining to reopen and we see people continue to wear masks in the grocery store (although not always properly, at least it’s something). A continuing complicated matter is that our mayor has pushed for in person classes for public schools and although the reopening has been pushed to the end of September, there still doesn’t seem to be a plan for how our teachers and kids will be kept safe. From what I hear from friends in medicine, our nurses, doctors and other hospital workers are continuing to be provided enough PPE for everyday use. And our essential workers in the US Postal Service, grocery chains, nursing homes and daycares continue to face the risks they must to perform their duties.
There are a lot of moving parts to what may happen next: the well-planned and not-so-planned-at-all reopening efforts, the timing of vaccine development and the upcoming Presidential elections. I’ll be keeping an eye on what companies like Google and Twitter or REI are choosing to do. At a minimum, they may provide some indication for when we can mark the beginning of a post-covid era.