Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Work Transformed newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
When will I get called back to work? What will I have to do once I get there? What the heck is my workspace going to look like?
There’s still a lot to figure out when it comes to our return to work.
The truth is, heading back to the workplace is going to look different at every company. It might even vary within a company.
On my quest to find out what we can expect as we brace for the Great Return, I’ve been asking company leaders about their plans.
I recently spoke with Dr. Lydia Campbell, vice president and chief medical officer for IBM Corporate Health & Safety.
Campbell is leading IBM’s workplace reintegration strategy, which for a long time involved daily meetings with her team (including on weekends), and figuring out how to make sure employees are comfortable with and aware of all the changes and expectations they will face when they return to work.
Here’s what she had to say:
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
What are some of the biggest changes at IBM when offices reopen?
In many of our places today where employees are coming into the office, it starts before they even leave their home with a self screening that asks them about their Covid risk: Have they been around anyone who is either a confirmed or suspected case of Covid? Have they had some of the cardinal symptoms of Covid – breathlessness, fever and other things?
We’re providing our employees with masks, hand sanitizer and other things that are recommended by the CDC and the WHO.
At some work sites, where required by law or because of the working situation in the office, it makes sense to do onsite screening. Meaning after their self-check, some employees are checked at the point of entry to the workplace.
In our workplaces today, there are demarcated social distancing much like you might see at the mall. On our monitors and videos, employees can see reminders of how they should social distance in elevators and capacity limits and things like that.
With our cafeterias, we’ve changed the way in which employees are serviced so there are fewer touch points, in addition to having enhanced cleaning regimens in common areas and cafeterias, restrooms, etc.
Do you foresee bringing back everybody or will some people remain remote?
I don’t think there has been any definitive decision made on that. Right now, we are assessing that.
We’ll look at, as we come back in waves – who needs to be at work first based on need to access workplace equipment, need to work in groups, need to have better access to internet, etc. – then slowly enlarging the number of people who are here. We will get to some number that is probably less than 100%, probably in the next several months.
But I do think what will change from now on, is we will think about the need for social distancing, the need for enhanced sanitation and cleaning, and I think that in some ways we may arrive at a situation in the future where in our new ways of working, not everyone is required to be at work or where people have more of a rotational work schedule where they are in the office on certain days and, on other days, they work from home.
Click here to read the full interview.
Big Tech cries foul over new visa rules
The tech industry is pushing back on the White House’s latest immigration policies.
President Trump signed an executive order on Monday that expanded restrictions on the issuance of certain visas that allow foreign workers to work in the US.
The new visas included in Trump’s order are L-1 visas for employees transferring within a company from overseas, H-1Bs for foreign workers hired in specialty occupations as well as H-4 visas for spouses, H-2Bs for temporary non-agricultural workers and most J-1 visas for exchange visitors such as au pairs, reports CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez.
L-1 and H-1B visas are popular among tech companies and many prominent tech executives have spoken out against the freeze.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted he was “disappointed” by the proclamation. “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.”
The White House said that the suspension will ensure American workers take priority as the economy and job market try to recover from the coronavirus.
The new restrictions expire at the end of the year, but could be extended.
Here’s a look at who could be affected by the new restrictions.
A new paid holiday for Twitter workers
Twitter employees are going to have an easier time voting in November.
Starting this year, US workers will get the day off to vote on Election Day, the company said in a staff-wide email, a copy of which was provided to CNN Business.
Global employees will also get paid time off to vote in their national elections.
Other companies have also made Election Day a day off, with some taking it a bit further.
Meal kit company Blue Apron is also helping its workers with voter registration, absentee and early voting and with transportation to and from polls.
“It’s not just about giving the day off, which I think is critical, but it’s more about removing all the barriers to people actually voting and having a voice,” CEO Linda Kozlowski recently told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
Coping with burnout
For many workers, it’s been around three months since we’ve last been in the office.
And whether you’ve been working at home alone, with a partner, roommates or a house full of kids, the demands can pile up.
Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about work-from-home burnout and strategies for coping with it on his podcast (featuring yours truly).
A big part of warding off burnout is setting boundaries, communicating effectively and keeping social connections intact.
What’s with all the waving?
I admit I wave at the end of video calls. Heck, even my baby girl waved for the first time at the end of a video call last month.
But why are we doing this?
CNN Business’ Kaya Yurieff got to the bottom of it.
Apparently, we’re all craving a little more personal connection and need a new way to signal a meeting is over.
There are no subtle cues like backing up your chair from the table or closing your notebook to indicate a virtual meeting is over.
Our options are now closing the videoconferencing window, which can be a little abrupt, or lingering when no one really has anything left, which can get awkward.
So, we wave.