Thursday, March 19, 2020
The United States takes pride in its work culture, and one major aspect is spending long hours at the office. Suddenly and dramatically, the coronavirus is forcing us to reconsider.
Large tech companies known for flexible work environments were among the first to allow their employees to work from home: Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon currently at least recommend, if not require, their employees to do so.
But the same is encouraged locally, as Dr. Mandy Cohen of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said employers should "use teleworking to the greatest extent possible." Panthers employees are working from home, UNC Charlotte is currently moving classes online and encouraging employees to work remotely, and all non-essential staff here at WFAE are expected to do the same.
Before the coronavirus outbreak 7% of workers in Charlotte would work from home, compared to 5% nationally. Even still, many service workers do not have the option to work from home, which might only further the spread of the disease and put themselves at risk.
Legislation itself may force work culture to transform. The house passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on Saturday, but on Monday the bill was tweaked to give paid sick leave only to parents who are caring for children whose schools have closed. It also has a loophole to allow companies to avoid providing two weeks of paid sick leave, and small businesses can now also be exempted from paying sick leave.
Pressure is mounting on employers to offer flexibility for their employees, as more restrictions are placed around the country and the infection rate continues to rise. Is this a temporary reaction, or could this alter American work culture indefinitely? As the whole world moves in response to the coronavirus, we consider work in America in the face of pandemic.
Kenny Colbert, president and CEO of The Employer's Association in Charlotte