It’s the week after Labor Day. If you’re an American white-collar worker, you know what that means: This is the time of year when your boss is most likely to order you back into the office.

Whether you follow the rules or not — millions of workers have been ordered back to work, but many are still fighting — the timing is pretty bad.

That’s because the epidemic is not over yet. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have reached (another) peak, with community transmission at the same level as late last winter, wealth Erin Platt reports. The culprit? A “new, highly mutated variant of the new coronavirus” called Pirola BA.2.86.Fortunately, most experts say that given the

While this latest variant, triggered by vaccines, has not caused panic, the advice remains the same as always: People at high risk (the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with pre-existing medical conditions) should avoid crowded indoor settings, or respond in a good way. Fit the mask. Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Platt last week.

But that’s just today. Ten years from now, it’s not unreasonable to expect another harmful epidemic. Just a few months ago, Bill Gates, who was a Covid Nostradamus in the years leading up to 2020, called for a “pandemic fire department” as the next few weeks There will certainly be more epidemics this year.

To avoid the worst possible scenario of the pandemic, it is vital that leaders remember the key lessons of 2020, especially when it comes to flexibility, experts say. In fact, even non-experts in the field of public health believe that despite the big push for in-office work, some level of remote work is non-negotiable in the context of the pandemic.

“If You Want to Prevent Future Infections and Pandemics: Be More Flexible,” Flexibility Expert, Stanford University Economist, Home Office Research Nick Bloom said during a panel discussion last month. “You need some (remote work), at least (hybrid plans), because it means if someone gets sick, they can work from home.”

WFH Research, the research consortium Bloom leads, conducts the Survey of Work Arrangements and Attitudes (SWAA) every month, asking 10,000 people a steady stream of questions and touching on hot topics, he explained in a webinar he moderates Developed by Scoop, a remote working technology platform.

In July, Bloom and his team asked workers if they had been sick or injured in the previous month. Six hundred and thirty-three said yes — mostly because they were sick. more than three quarters76% of respondents said they would walk into the office anyway. “Maybe some of them are your colleagues,” Bloom said. “It’s not good — it’s far from good.”

Bloom’s data underscores a “very critical” problem for companies that focus too much on returns from physical offices, often at the expense of sensible COVID-19 policies.

As things stand, Bloom understands why people go to work even if they have an underlying infectious disease. “They’ll have a performance review at the end of the week or next week. They’re stressed and worried (working from home) won’t look good,” he said. “Working from home is a very useful option in this situation. I can tell my manager that I’m not feeling well and maybe I won’t be working a full day. But I can at least do some key things and this flexibility Sex should greatly reduce infection rates.”

This seems obviously sensible. But ironically, this time last year, workers, bosses and public health experts were all having the exact same conversations, heralding another iconic return-to-the-office week that never really materialized. In fact, any boss who asks employees to return must be assuming the pandemic is over.

Of course, that turned out to be a poor plan. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, told Pratt in September 2022: “Any modeling done three to four weeks in advance is nothing. Nonsensical.” “We have so little experience with this.” The coronavirus and how it plays out…we’re kind of stuck right now. “

Despite the scary new variants, for better or worse, this year’s pandemic fears may finally be coming to an end. By the end of 2023, 2.5 million workers will occupy at least 100 million square feet of office space and work at least a few days a week, John Gates, chief executive of JLL Americas, a real estate consultancy, recently said. Tell Yahoo Finance.

But then again, history shows that’s unlikely. Mark Ein, chairman of Kastle Systems, said last year that wealth Trey Williams said even 60% capacity could be a pipe dream. “It was on and off,” Ain said of office pay. “(Office occupancy) has been rising steadily since the beginning of (2022). But it will have a natural ceiling.”

New data provided to Fortune by Kastle, a security company that tracks key card swipes, found that offices in the top 10 U.S. metro areas were 47.3% underutilized for the week ended Aug. The situation is more or less the same. Office utilization (as tracked by Kastle) has never exceeded 50.4%. That number is unlikely to increase as flu season approaches. For anyone interested in avoiding disease (that is, everyone), perhaps this is good news after all.

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