Progressive Democrats call on Biden and the CDC to extend eviction moratorium which expires next week

ayanna pressley cori bush ilhan omar
Usher speaks with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., second from left, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., second from right, as they arrive for an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington.

  • A group of House Democrats called on Biden and the CDC to extend a federal eviction moratorium.
  • “It is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice,” they wrote in a letter.
  • Around 7 million people are still behind on their rent, according to the Census Bureau.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several progressive Democrats on Tuesday called on President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend a federal eviction moratorium that is set to expire on June 30.

In a letter signed by 41 members of Congress and led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Jimmy Gomez of California, the lawmakers urged the White House and CDC to “take action to prevent a historic wave of evictions and keep renters safely in their homes.” The letter was first reported by ABC News.

The group of House Democrats cited Census Bureau data that showed minority households, including Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous, are more likely to be behind on their rent payments, arguing in support of the extension “to protect vulnerable renters” and “curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color.”

Around 7 million people are still behind on their rent, according to the Census Bureau.

The lawmakers also pointed to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that found that communities with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates and higher cases happen to be more at risk of facing eviction.

“Allowing the moratorium to expire before vaccination rates increase in marginalized communities could lead to increased spread of, and deaths from, COVID-19,” they said in the letter.

“Evictions take lives and push households deeper into poverty, impacting everything from health outcomes to educational attainment,” they added. “The impact of the federal moratorium cannot be overstated, and the need to strengthen and extend it is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice.”

Tenants struggling to pay their rent during the COVID-19 economic crisis were handed a lifeline in March 2020, when Congress first passed a federal eviction moratorium. The CDC then issued its own moratorium in September, which has since been extended twice. The current moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.

Biden has previously expressed support to halt evictions until September 30. In his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March, the president allotted nearly $22 billion toward emergency rental assistance.

The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘We’ll all be dead by June!’: Jared Kushner screamed at a health official after hearing about delayed mask shipments, according to new book

GettyImages jared kushner
Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner.

  • Kushner reportedly grew so frustrated at news over mask shipments last year that he threw his pen at the wall.
  • “You f—ing moron,” Kushner reportedly yelled at a health official. “We’ll all be dead by June!”
  • The scene was detailed in a forthcoming book by two Washington Post reporters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jared Kushner lashed out at a public health official when he learned in late March 2020 that millions of masks wouldn’t arrive in the US until June, according to an excerpt of a forthcoming book reported by The Washington Post on Monday.

“You f—ing moron,” Kushner reportedly yelled at then-assistant secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, Robert Kadlec, who purchased 600 million masks as coronavirus infections had spiked across the country. “We’ll all be dead by June!”

The scene was revealed in the new book, “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” by Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta.

Kushner grew so frustrated that he threw his pen at the wall, the book reports. At the time, he had taken on greater responsibilities as senior advisor to former President Donald Trump, playing an influential role in the White House’s COVID-19 response.

The book details many more chaotic moments of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, including another time when a Trump aide blew up at Kadlec.

“I’m going to fire your a– if you can’t fix this!” then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, upset at the administration’s rollout of the new antiviral treatment remdesivir, reportedly shouted at Kadlec in a phone call.

The Washington Post reporters write that the handling of the pandemic had turned the Trump administration into “a toxic environment in which no matter where you turned, someone was ready to rip your head off or threatening to fire you.”

The book also reported an instance in February last year when Trump questioned whether COVID-19 patients in the US could be sent to Guantánamo Bay.

“Don’t we have an island that we own? What about Guantánamo?” Trump reportedly asked officials assembled in the Situation Room, who were shocked at the idea and dismissed it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US sent 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan – more than triple it initially pledged – as it deals with an unexpected outbreak

Taiwanese officials receive a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines
In this photo released by the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, third from left, and Brent Christensen, the top U.S. official in Taiwan, fourth from left, hold up thank you cards as they welcome a China Airlines cargo plane carrying COVID-19 vaccines from Memphis.

  • The US on Sunday sent Taiwan 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the AP reported.
  • Previously, the US said it would send 750,000 vaccine doses to the island.
  • Taiwan has been dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 since May.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US sent 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan this weekend, more than triple the country promised to deliver earlier this month as it deals with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

As the Associated Press reported Sunday, Taiwan had been relatively successful in staving off COVID-19 until May. Prior to May, just about a dozen people had died from the virus in Taiwan, but the death toll now sits at 538, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University.

The current outbreak has begun to subside as the outbreak forced an increase in mitigation measures, like testing and vaccinations, according to the AP report.

Reuters was first to report the shipment.

The vaccines was sent from Memphis on Saturday and arrived in Taiwan via a China Airlines cargo plane on Sunday, according to the report. Japan previously shipped the country 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the AP reported.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Chris Coons, and Dan Sullivan visited Taiwan earlier in June and pledged US support. The US said it would send 750,000 vaccines to Taiwan.

“This is about standing up with friends when they are in need,” Duckworth said, according to Nikkei Asia.

The vaccine shipment also signals US support for Taiwan amid its continued tensions with China, which views Taiwan as its territory, the AP noted.

“When I saw these vaccines coming down the plane, I was really touched,” said Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Warren Buffett’s deputy has scored a 300% gain on Dillard’s in 9 months – and now boasts a $170 million stake

Warren Buffet Ted Weschler
Warren Buffett and Ted Weschler.

  • Warren Buffett’s deputy has quadrupled his money on Dillard’s in nine months.
  • Ted Weschler’s personal stake has surged from under $40 million to about $170 million today.
  • Dillard’s stock is popular among retail investors, and its financials have rebounded.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Warren Buffett made his fortune by investing in unloved, undervalued businesses. Ted Weschler, one of the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s deputies, appears to share that talent – he’s quadrupled his money on Dillard’s over the past nine months.

Weschler disclosed a personal stake of 6% in Dillard’s last October, when the department store’s stock price was below $40. Dillard’s shares now trade around $160, meaning Weschler’s 1.1 million shares have surged in value by more than 300% to north of $170 million.

Dillard’s stock has rocketed to record highs this year for several reasons. Retail investors have targeted it and other heavily shorted stocks as they look to squeeze hedge funds and score a quick profit.

The retailer also grew its net sales by 69% year-on-year in the three months to May 1, swinging it from a net loss of $162 million to a net income of $158 million. Moreover, it finished reopening all of its stores at the start of this month, paving the way for further gains.

Weschler helps Buffett and another deputy, Todd Combs, manage Berkshire’s roughly $270 billion stock portfolio. The former hedge fund manager secured a job at Berkshire in 2012, after he shelled out more than $5 million in total to win Buffett’s annual charity-lunch auction in both 2010 and 2011.

It’s not always clear who’s behind a particular Berkshire investment, but Weschler took responsibility for the $300 million deal with EW Scripps last year. Clearly, his Berkshire duties haven’t stopped him from pouncing when smaller opportunities such as Dillard’s arise.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon burns through workers so quickly that executives are worried they’ll run out of people to employ, according to new report

Amazon fulfillment center
Inside an Amazon warehouse.

Amazon has been hiring hundreds of thousands of workers for roles in its warehouses, which it calls “fulfillment centers,” but those employees have been quitting almost as fast as they can be hired, according to a huge new report from The New York Times.

Of the over 350,000 new workers it hired between July and October 2020, the report said, many only stayed with the company “just days or weeks.”

Hourly employees had a turnover rate of approximately 150% every year, data reviewed by the Times demonstrated, reportedly leading some Amazon executives to worry about running out of hirable employees in the US.

Amazon went on an extended hiring spree throughout 2020 as it attempted to keep up with a massive spike in demand during coronavirus lockdowns. As Americans increasingly turned to Amazon for everything from toiletries to groceries, the company repeatedly touted major hiring pushes.

By May 2021, Amazon was even offering $1,000 signing bonuses to new employees – partially a symptom of hiring issues employers are facing in a variety of industries, but potentially also a result of Amazon’s remarkably high turnover rate.

One former Amazon manager who oversaw human resources efforts focused on warehouse workers compared the situation with worker churn at Amazon warehouses to the ongoing use of fossil fuels. “We keep using them, even though we know we’re slowly cooking ourselves,” he told the Times.

Amazon representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

NYC rent is still pretty cheap, and it’s luring New Yorkers back to the city

New York City
Returning New Yorkers are taking advantage of affordable city rent.

It’s a fine time to be in New York City right now.

Covid cases are dropping as vaccination rates are rising, New Yorkers are staying out past midnight again, and rent is, by NYC standards, actually affordable. It’s proved the perfect recipe for the return of those who left the city as the pandemic raged.

The number of new Manhattan lease signings hit a record high since the Great Recession at 9,941 in May, per a report by appraiser Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman. That’s four times what it was a year ago, and nearly 60% of these renters signed two-year leases.

As Bloomberg’s Oshriat Carmel wrote, New Yorkers are taking advantage of the city’s downtrodden rental market to plan their return, snagging concessions and discounts while they can at a long-term rate.

The pandemic saw the largest year-over-year declines on record for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, dropping 15.5% in Manhattan and 8.6% in the outer boroughs, per StreetEasy’s January Rental Report. The median asking rent in Manhattan was $2,750 – its lowest since March 2010, when rents dropped during the great recession.

“The pressures COVID placed on the marketplace created a unique opportunity to secure leases in prime locations and great buildings for significant discounts,” agent Ryan Kaplan, of Douglas Elliman, previously told Insider.

Many young professionals turned the plunging rents to their favor, upgrading to luxury apartments for $1,000-plus discounts that finally fit their budgets. Now, returning New Yorkers are catching on to the savings game.

Read more: New York City is back

New Yorkers are making their comeback

New Yorkers are returning in droves, Insider’s Avery Hartmans reported. She cited data from location-data firm Unacast, which found that migration to New York is growing twice as fast as in 2019.

Mansion Global previously reported the number of outward migrants from the NYC metro area ticked upward from 2019 to 2020 – a loss of 6.6 per 1,000 residents grew to 10.9 – but those who left for the suburbs were already returning.

“It’s preparation for a return to school, return to work, escape from your parents’ homes,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, told Bloomberg’s Carmel. “We’re undergoing a return back to normal life and this is part of it.”

As part of the return to normalcy, rent in the city has since begun to rebound. In April, it was no longer at the bottom of the market for the first time since the pandemic began, according to a follow-up StreetEasy report. But the same report says that the rebound will be slow.

Libertina Brandt reported for Insider in March that rents could stay widely cheap for the rest of the year.

As Nancy Wu, a StreetEasy economist, told Brandt, “Prices will continue to fall until the inventory settles a bit, more people come back to the city, more jobs are recreated from the loss of small businesses, and the city returns, somewhat, back to where it was before the pandemic started.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Just because you’ve been vaccinated doesn’t mean you can stop caring about America’s vaccine campaign

vaccine selfie
  • Things are getting back to normal, but vaccine rates continue to lag in some parts of the country.
  • Areas of low vaccine coverage will see surges, especially as new variants enter the mix.
  • The government must engage in door-to-door outreach to get vaccine rates up, or risk COVID surges in under-vaccinated areas.
  • Abdullah Shihipar is a writer who covers public health, class, and race.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Things are finally beginning to return to normal for fully vaccinated people. Those that have received their shot(s) are seeing friends again, meeting up in bars and restaurants, and engaging in activities they’ve been putting off for more than a year. Some states are even reaching upwards of 70% of their population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all on the decline and the US seems to finally be rounding the curve. With all this good news, it can be tempting to think that the pandemic is over.

Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

Globally, thousands of people continue to die from the virus each day and many countries remain in lockdown, unable to vaccinate their populations due to a lack of vaccine supply. Here at home, practically everybody who is being hospitalized and dying of the virus — a number that is still in the hundreds per dayhave not been vaccinated yet. Vaccination rates are also not consistent throughout the country, while states like Vermont have vaccinated over 70% of their population with at least one dose, states in the deep south like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have vaccinated less than 40% of their population. In fact, the New York Times predicts it will take Alabama and Mississippi over a year to reach 70% of adults with one dose. At the county level, there are still many counties that have less than 30% of their residents fully vaccinated, compared to over 50%nationally.

Disparities persist as well – as of late May, only 22% of Black people in the US have received at least one dose, and vaccination rates for Black people are lower than that of white people in every state. According to the CDC, vaccine coverage tends to be lower in counties that had lower socioeconomic status and a higher number of households that had single parents, children, and disabled people.

The government needs to step in with resources and support to get more people vaccinated.

So why should you, as a vaccinated person, care?

While we may be able to return to our lives safely, pandemics do not end through individual actions alone. None of this occurs in a vacuum and until we get to a point where few people are dying of COVID, it will continue to be everybody’s problem. For one thing, this mixed vaccination coverage will create surges and hotspots in communities where vaccine coverage is low. This is especially a concern in the south as people head indoors because of rising temperatures. In these places, social distancing and masking should be reinstated. Unfortunately, now that the honor system for wearing a mask is all but gone, this seems unlikely.

Then, there are the variants. More transmissible and deadlier variants are spreading throughout the world. Britain and other countries are dealing with the Delta variant, whereas Brazil is struggling with the Gamma variant. In the UK, despite having a higher percentage of people with one shot, the Delta variant is now the dominant strain and threatens to delay reopening. The Delta variant will soon spread throughout the US, making the surges we see amongst unvaccinated people more severe. While there is thankfully no case of a variant completely rendering a vaccine useless, there are instances of it reducing a vaccine’s effectiveness. The vaccines are doing amazingly well against the novel coronavirus, but we still cannot remain complacent against the risk of those mutations.

So, why aren’t people getting vaccinated? Some people are worried about side effects and can’t take time off work, others think the vaccine isn’t free, and some are undocumented and are worried about immigration enforcement. Meanwhile, a recent poll taken by YouGov shows a third of Black and Hispanic respondents and more than a third of those who make less than $50k have not been encouraged to get the vaccine at all.

It’s time for the government to go all out

All levels of government in the US have been united in their message that it is up to individuals to get vaccinated if they want to. The federal and some state governments have set up incentives from free beer and sports tickets to lotteries. But these programs assume the problem is merely hesitancy and don’t actually address the reasons why people are hesitant. What we need is to bring the vaccines to the people.

Imagine a vaccination campaign where the federal government uses its resources to go door-to-door with multilingual information about vaccines. People can ask questions, get registered to get vaccinated, and request transportation or a home visit, which also allows the government to do follow up visits. In addition to this, the government could ensure “vaccine sick leave” and allow workers to take paid time off work to get vaccinated and recover.

The government already has the resources – FEMA, the Postal Service, and the Census Bureau – to reach as many communities as possible. We know from the census that when a proactive effort is made to reach people, participation goes up – this is what happened in New York City, which saw a historic response rate in a year where other places struggled. Already, some communities are utilizing the door-to-door approach, but we still need a coordinated effort led by the federal government to enact this on a national scale.

All of this creates an atmosphere of understandable fear and discomfort; which will create strains amongst some social circles as some of us are ready to go out and others are not. For disabled and immunocompromised people especially, these fears are not irrational. We won’t exit this pandemic as individuals. Either we do it together, or we remain stuck in it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Under pressure, G7 leaders vow to deliver at least 1 billion extra COVID-19 vaccine doses in the next year

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden during G7
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden at the G7 summit in Britain on Sunday.

  • During the G7 summit, world leaders said they aimed to end the pandemic next year.
  • Leaders laid out a plan to deliver at least 1 billion additional COVID-19 vaccine doses.
  • Rich nations have faced criticism for hoarding vaccines and leaving developing nations behind.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Influential world leaders who met for the annual Group of Seven summit in the United Kingdom this week committed to delivering at least 1 billion additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to lower-income countries over the next year in a coordinated effort to end the pandemic in 2022.

“Our international priority is to accelerate the rollout of safe and effective, accessible and affordable vaccines for the poorest countries, noting the role of extensive immunization as a global public good,” the leaders said in a statement published on Sunday.

The seven leaders, including President Joe Biden in the first overseas trip of his term, said they would also take steps to improve defenses against threats to global health, including supporting endeavors in science to shorten the cycle for developing vaccines, treatments, and tests from 300 days to 100 days.

Before the G7 released its official statement and news reports of the vaccine donations surfaced, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that plan does not go far enough. While he said the plan was “very much welcomed,” he said more efforts were needed.

“We would need more than, I would say, bilateral forms of support and individual countries’ initiatives,” Guterres said, according to a transcript of his remarks on Friday. “We need a concerted effort.”

He wants to see countries most involved in producing vaccines to form a global vaccination plan and an emergency task force “to guarantee the design and then the implementation” of such a plan.

“If not, the risk is that there will be, still, large areas of the developing world where the virus will spread like wildfire,” he said, noting the risk of new variants could undermine developed countries’ efforts to inoculate their populations.

While a steady pace of vaccinations in countries like the US and the UK has resulted in a sharp drop in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, some other nations are experiencing soaring numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In India, faced with a devastating surge this spring, 23,625 new deaths and 630,650 new cases have been recorded in the last week alone, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Brazil meanwhile has logged more than 78,700 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, with just over 11% of its population against the virus.

Biden at G7 meeting on Sunday, June 13
Biden speaks during a news conference at the end of the G7 summit.

Wealthy nations have faced criticism for hoarding vaccines during the pandemic and leaving developing nations behind. At one point, in mid-February, just 10 countries accounted for three-quarters of COVID-19 vaccinations given through that point, according to the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health at Duke’s Global Health Institute.

“If the rich world continues to hoard vaccines, the pandemic will drag on for perhaps as long as seven more years,” Dr. Gavin Yamey, the center’s director and a Duke professor, wrote in February, noting the vaccine deliveries up until that point were “a sign that the race to vaccinate the world is hardly on even footing.”

Ending the pandemic next year would require vaccinating at least 60% of the global population, the G7 leaders said.

The leaders from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Canada, Japan, and the US said they planned to use “the full spectrum of the capability and capacity we can each deploy” to support such an effort, including financing and “ensuring availability through exports, opening supply chains, and supporting final mile delivery.”

Some 2.34 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Sunday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The G7 leaders said they have supported Covax – the global vaccine-sharing program led by bodies including the World Health Organization – as the primary method of delivering vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.

At least 700 million doses have been exported or are set to be exported this year, nearly half of which are for non-G7 countries.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The dream of the techno-utopian workplace is dead. Remote work proved that digitizing the workplace isn’t liberating, it’s a company-controlled nightmare.

laptop screen showing video meeting with pixelated blue participants with crossed out eyes and frowns
  • When the pandemic hit, companies embraced remote work, especially as productivity began to increase.
  • Instead of investing in luxury office spaces, companies are investing in employee monitoring software to maintain a sense of control.
  • As companies put profit over workers, it is clear that technology in the workplace was never going to be liberating.
  • Katya Schwenk is a journalist writing about tech and surveillance.
  • This is an opinion article. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey abruptly announced last year that his employees could work remotely “forever,” the move was hailed as no less than “the end of the office as we know it.”

A year later, the mythos of the digital workplace persists. Companies now insist that the pandemic has heralded in a new, if inevitable, age of work – one in which technology is enabling “workforce liberation,” as one CEO wrote in March. “Once a futuristic vision,” Boston Consulting Group has pronounced, “the bionic company is here.”

The new cyborg workplace promised by corporate America is placeless; perfectly digitized and perfectly efficient. Its workers have been freed from the old shackles of the office. For years, business executives have pushed to better integrate technologies like artificial intelligence in the workplace, arguing that greater employee autonomy will follow. The pandemic, they claim, has proved this to be true. “We are seeing a human transformation right before our eyes,” Dell’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke told investors last year. Under this model, worker productivity has reached “an all-time high,” he said.

Don’t fall for this charade. A year into the pandemic, it is more clear than ever that Zoom calls and “people analytics” are no antidote to the woes of the office. Automation and new technologies have never liberated the workplace; they aren’t doing so now, either.

Instead, companies are deploying tech to cement their control over employees. This sort of control is certainly not new. In the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor pioneered a strategy of “scientific management,” which placed workers under close surveillance in a ruthless pursuit of efficiency. But the age-old trend accelerated rapidly when the pandemic forced more than a third of the US labor force to work virtually.

The ideal of a digitized, “flexible” workplace is a familiar one. It draws from techno-utopian thought birthed in Silicon Valley, which in the early days of the internet imagined technology as a democratizing force, a means to secure personal freedom.

“There was a strong sense back then … that wiring the world was good in and of itself,” Chris Hughes, a now-defected Facebook co-founder, told The New Yorker in 2019. It did not take long for this ethos to reach the workplace.

For years, gig platforms like Uber and Instacart have touted their “new model” for work – using the language of liberation to describe a labor model that, in reality, quite closely resembles exploitative practices of prior decades. Uber’s tech might be innovative, but its vision for labor is not.

An example of in-app messages sent by Uber in recent weeks
An example of in-app messages sent by Uber as part of their Prop. 22 campaign.

Uber’s lobbying campaign for Proposition 22 in California, which exempted app-based drivers from being classified as employees, deployed this same techno-utopian language. “We believe a better way to work is possible,” the company wrote to its employees, urging them to vote for the legislation. Ultimately, the ballot item passed, greenlighting an independent contractor system that takes advantage of drivers and is likely to be replicated across the country. The erosion of employee benefits is being dressed up in the language of innovation.

But the behemoth companies that have recently joined in to claim a liberated, office-free workforce were – just a year or so ago – fixated on the physical office.

From luxury offices to digital offices

In 2018, cloud-computing behemoth Salesforce unveiled its new corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco: a 1,070-foot skyscraper that, to date, stands as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. The building is decked out with the usual luxuries of tech campuses: lounges, meditation rooms, and a “media center.”

Then, in February, the company bluntly announced that its 9-5 workday was “dead.” Salesforce did not plan to wholly abandon its offices, president Brent Hyder assured employees, but instead hoped to “create the office of the future” – one that hinged on remote work, significantly reducing office use. Its skyscraper, which has indelibly changed the San Francisco skyline, quickly went from crown jewel to disposable commodity.

Salesforce tower
The Salesforce tower dominates the San Francisco skyline.

This about-face is less confounding if workplace technologies are understood to function in much the same way as meticulous office design. As Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey writes, the utopian office – whether Salesforce’s skyscraper or Epic Systems’ bizarre, fairy-tale headquarters – entices workers to extend their hours, blurring the lines between work and leisure.

A virtual workplace, it turns out, does this better – or, at least, companies like Salesforce are banking on it. Studies have indeed demonstrated that “productivity” increases when employees work remotely, but attribute this effect, in large part, to longer working hours. Perhaps as a result, some studies have found that remote workers report burnout at higher rates than their in-person colleagues.

Companies, of course, could take measures to improve remote conditions by better regulating workers’ hours or easing expectations around productivity. But this is unlikely. For the most part, companies that have decided to adopt a remote or hybrid model have cited increased efficiency as a key reason for doing so.

A new form of employee surveillance

As companies invest in their virtual workplaces, they are at the same time investing in new technologies for worker surveillance. Employee monitoring has a storied history, particularly in the US, but its newfound popularity casts doubt on the “liberation” of employees in the virtual workplace.

One recent survey of 2,000 companies using remote work found a “rapid” uptick in use of such tools. More than three-quarters reported that they conducted employee surveillance. A stunning 57% of those companies said that they had implemented the tools within the last six months.

Driving the trend, the survey found, was fear held by company executives that they had “a lack of control” over their remote business. A majority reported that they “don’t trust” their employees to work without such digital supervision – an anxiety that will likely drive autocratic management practices in the virtual office.

Companies that peddle employee monitoring tools have happily capitalized on that fear, branding themselves as a cornerstone of the future of work. “With more and more employees working outside the office,” writes monitoring company InterGuard, “digital employee monitoring is more important than ever.”

Their tools are far-reaching. Teramind’s live demo of its monitoring platform demonstrates a sophisticated system, one that records keystrokes, sends live “alerts” when employees spend above-average time on social media sites, and ranks workers by their calculated “productivity.” This is our supposedly emancipated workplace.

Accidental accessibility

Yet, remote work – despite all of this – remains popular among workers. And for good reason: The fight for greater flexibility in the workplace, led by people with disabilities and working parents, dates back decades. If there is a grain of truth to companies’ claims of a liberated workforce, it is here. For many, remote work is an important accommodation. It is, maybe, a liberating one.

The issue is that the pivot to the virtual office was not intended as such. The change was forced by the pandemic and, subsequently, driven by the interests of employers – after years of companies refusing to make such changes. As StaffCop Enterprise, another employee monitoring vendor, explains it: “Gone are the days when remote work was only appealing to employees.”

As Marianne Eloise writes, disabled people still need accommodations, within a remote workplace or not. Unsurprisingly, there has been no new rush to provide greater accessibility. And many jobs, while increasingly digitized, cannot be done remotely – a reminder that the companies that claim to provide ubiquitous flexibility are generally doing so only for highly-paid, white-collar employees, widening the cracks of the fissured workplace.

A year of heightened virtual surveillance, amid false claims of freedom, has shattered the ideal of the techno-utopian office. Still, the status quo of the workplace is always under threat. Sometimes, this disruption does come in the form of technology: A ride-hailing app co-op that hopes to topple Uber and Lyft’s empire in New York City, for instance, or a company developing technologies that would aid worker unionization. But this is not innovation on its natural course; it is something we must fight for.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Confessions of caregiver burnout: 5 women dealing with childcare and family needs reveal how the pandemic pushed them to a breaking point

Collage of Myka Harris, Shara Ruffin, Susan Foosness, Lidia Bonilla, and Jolene Delisle
Jolene Delisle, Lidia Bonilla, Shara Ruffin, Myka Harris, and Susan Foosness.

One morning in fall 2020, Myka Harris reached a breaking point.

As a small-business owner and single mom of a 5-year-old, she’d spent the first six months of the pandemic dedicating all her time to childcare and work needs. From staying on top of her son’s schooling to doing everything to buoy her business – a wellness center called Highbrow Hippie in Venice, California – she found herself exhausted and running on empty.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” Harris said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone.”

Like Harris, many Americans have taken on extra caregiving responsibilities while balancing their work in the pandemic, adding stress during an unprecedented situation. A new Insider survey of roughly 1,000 Americans found that this extra care was leading some of them, especially women, to feel stressed out and exhausted.

Women were more likely than men to report feeling at least somewhat burned out during the pandemic: 68% of women compared with 55% of men. So were parents who’d had to adapt to virtual schooling, care for a sick relative, or take on extra childcare duties.

These added responsibilities during a time of crisis have affected the mental health of working Americans and led some to leave their jobs.

An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the National Women’s Law Center found that 863,000 women 20 and over left the labor force in September, the second-biggest decline during the pandemic after April 2020. By the end of the year, almost 2.1 million fewer women were working than before the pandemic, the analysis found.

Women gained 314,000 jobs in May. If the US continues to add this many jobs for women a month, it would take about 13 months to reach the pre-pandemic level, the NWLC said.

The Census Bureau found in August that working moms were more likely to take on most childcare and homeschooling duties during school closures. In its Household Pulse Survey in mid-July, 32.1% of women ages 25 to 44 said they were not working because of childcare needs, compared with 12.1% of men.

Though caregiver burnout is not new, Paula Davis, the founder of the Stress & Resilience Institute, told Insider that there’s no doubt that remote work, added care, or homeschooling had “contributed to a higher sense of burnout among people.”

“You’re talking about somebody having to almost try and do two full-time roles at the same time, and it’s virtually impossible to do both of those roles well,” Davis said. “So it’s going to be very, very exhausting for people.”

Insider spoke with Davis and five caregivers to learn more about how added care responsibilities during the pandemic had contributed to feelings of burnout.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted.”

Shara Ruffin
Shara Ruffin.

Shara Ruffin, 35, is a licensed clinical social worker in Philadelphia who has a 6-year-old son and two soon-to-be stepdaughters. She helps others in social work pass their master’s, bachelor’s, and clinical licensing exams. Before creating her business, Journey to Licensure, she was studying for her own exam to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Ruffin was preparing to take the exam for the second time at the end of March 2020. As Philadelphia closed businesses, her contractual job at a long-term structured residential facility ended, and exam centers closed.

She began to worry more about her career and her three children who were now doing remote learning.

“My son had sometimes between 10 to 14 assignments to do,” Ruffin said. “Sometimes I would get so burned out that I just couldn’t do them. So they would pile up for, like, a day or two, and then we would knock them out.”

Ruffin said she felt as if she were “drowning in responsibilities.” She shared duties with her partner, but being at home led her to take on more of the care responsibilities. Both Ruffin and her fiancé were feeling exhausted.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted,” Ruffin said.

When she needed a break, she would sometimes go next door to her son’s godmother’s house or to her mom’s place just for a moment alone.

Life now is completely different from 2020, Ruffin said. While balancing caregiving duties and studying “in a small, cramped apartment,” she passed her exam in November.

She said she wasn’t really feeling burned out now. Her children aren’t always at home, as her soon-to-be stepdaughters are with their mothers. Her son was recently doing remote learning at his godmother’s house or Ruffin’s mother’s place.

Ruffin, who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at 21, was able to get a therapist to help with her mental health after applying for state health insurance last June. She finished therapy in December.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year.”

Susan Foosness and her son.
Susan Foosness and her son.

Susan Foosness, 40, is the associate vice president of value-based care at Quartet Health. She and her husband took their 4-year-old son out of childcare in Durham, North Carolina, in part to make spots available for children of essential workers who might not be able to take time off work.

Balancing work with caregiving duties and concerns about her family and her mom’s health during a pandemic began to affect her. She said that multitasking made her feel as if she couldn’t produce the best-quality work.

“I end up just not doing great at work, not being a great mom, feeling guilty about that, and that all just kind of spiraled into this sense of burnout,” Foosness said.

For months she felt a sense of dread about the future and thought to herself that this way of living was not sustainable. These multiple roles took a toll on her last summer when she realized that the US wasn’t really opening up and that her son wouldn’t be going back to childcare in the fall.

Sometimes in between work Foosness would drive half an hour to visit her mom in an assisted-living facility during visitation hours — only 30 minutes, outside, with masks and social distancing.

To help with childcare, Foosness’ mother-in-law has for over a year watched Foosness’ son for 2 1/2 days a week. Foosness and her husband each take one day to be “on call” for watching their son. Her son is going back to daycare later this month.

Now with vaccines rolling out and more things open, she feels that she and her family can do more to help with burnout, such as spending time with friends and other family members, she said.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year,” she said, “and now there is sort of light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night.”

Burnout   Business Insider   Lidia Bonilla
Lidia Bonilla.

Lidia Bonilla, 42, is an entrepreneur and relationship coach who spent the early months of the pandemic in her Brooklyn apartment. She stayed in close touch with her 81-year-old father, who was living in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and experiencing health issues.

After doctors told Bonilla that her father shouldn’t be living alone anymore, she moved to Santo Domingo in January to be his caretaker. Less than a month later, he was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, Bonilla has been by his side at home and at the hospital, all while trying to run her business remotely.

Bonilla said that navigating the medical system during the pandemic had been “nerve-wracking” and “emotionally exhausting.” For two weeks while her father was hospitalized with sepsis, Bonilla spent each night by his bedside. The day before speaking with Insider, she’d spent nine hours with her father, who’d been in the emergency room for dehydration.

As her parents are divorced and other close relatives aren’t available to help, Bonilla struggled with the duty of being her father’s caretaker, she said.

“For a while, I was resentful that I was here by myself doing this — why is this all my responsibility?” she said. “I don’t feel rested, even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night, distracted and longing to cope.”

She recently hired a nurse to help take care of her dad, and on Saturdays she takes time for herself to go to the beach or meet up with friends. Still, she said she felt frustrated about being unable to do more for her father, while feeling as if she’s not doing enough for herself and her work.

Bonilla told Insider that though her father’s health was slowly stabilizing, she didn’t think she’d be able to leave his side anytime soon. She said she planned to stay in Santo Domingo, running her business remotely for the foreseeable future and keeping her life in New York on hold.

“I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Myka Harris and her son.
Myka Harris and her son.

Myka Harris, 46, is the cofounder of Highbrow Hippie, a lifestyle brand and wellness center in Venice, California. Harris’ business, a hair salon and community space, was closed quickly in March 2020. Her 5-year-old son’s school also closed suddenly, and Harris spent the next three months with him at home.

“Trying to navigate your own stress and uncertainty while also managing a young child’s is challenging,” Harris told Insider. “I had to entertain, feed, and be with a child all day, where there’s no room for where he can entertain himself because he’s so young.”

Harris said she’d start her days early to work and research grants and loans for her business, enter “mom mode” during the day, and work again in the evening after her son went to bed.

Assuming the role of her son’s teacher was also time-consuming.

“Asking him to be focused and engaged was challenging. Mine is not one of those — he’s a very body-active child,” Harris said. “It became a battle every morning.”

After wrestling with virtual school, Harris transitioned her son to homeschooling and, later, a backyard pod with a few other families. In addition to her work, it was tough to stay on top of California’s ever-changing rules about whether her business could reopen; she said it made her feel constantly tired, sad, and uninspired.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” she said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Harris said she’d strengthened her self-care routine with regular morning yoga and meditation and hired a nanny for a few hours several days a week to have her own time for reading, going to the park, and hiking.

“As we’ve reopened and more is happening, I’m more thoughtful about what I do and don’t want to do with my time,” Harris told Insider. “The pandemic showed me that self-care is not a luxury that we want to do, but it’s something we need to do.”

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically.”

Jolene Delisle_28
Jolene Delisle.

Jolene Delisle (who preferred not to share her age) is the founder of The Working Assembly, a brand agency. She said the past year had been a series of highs and lows.

When her 25-person New York office was forced to close in March 2020, Delisle had to initiate layoffs, furloughs, and hiring and pay-raise freezes. Her 3-year-old’s preschool closed, and the babysitter for her 1-year-old contracted COVID-19.

“It felt like the world was crashing down,” Delisle told Insider.

Delisle and her husband, who also works at the agency, spent the next six months balancing caregiving duties for their kids while working from home.

“We’d wake up at 6 a.m. to work for two hours, trade off childcare during the day, then after they went to sleep at 7:30 I worked until 2 in the morning,” she said.

Even in the fall when business picked back up and they began hiring again, Delisle was still very stressed, she said.

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically,” she said. “I couldn’t even see any light at the end of the tunnel. It felt like every good thing, even little milestones of my kids turning 2 and 4, felt like more of an emotional burden for me. I couldn’t even register or process what was happening.”

At the start of the new year, Delisle said, she made an effort to prioritize herself by going to therapy, working out with a virtual trainer, and going offline one day a week. “Those things have really brought me back into being a normal person,” she told Insider.

After getting vaccinated in late April, Delisle finally had “a moment where I actually breathed for the first time,” she said.

Caregivers should keep an eye on the balance between their resources and their demands.

paula davis
Paula Davis is the founder and CEO of the Stress & Resilience Institute.

Paula Davis described an equation with demands (including work or caregiving, or things that require energy) and resources (things like spending time with people or traveling).

“Burnout is more likely when your demands exceed your resources,” Davis said.

She added that a lot of the resources people used to balance these demands weren’t available during the pandemic.

Several of the caregivers told Insider they’d explored self-care practices such as exercise and meditation. Davis said that while these activities could be great mental-health and well-being strategies, “when we’re talking about burnout, we’re talking about something that is a workplace-culture issue.”

“And so frontline strategies like that are a really good first step,” Davis said, “but they’re not nearly enough to prevent burnout.”

Have you had your own experience with burnout that you’d like to speak about with Insider? Email Madison Hoff at mhoff@insider.com and Laura Casado at lcasado@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider