Posts tagged with "COVID-19 pandemic"

Old Navy will pay employees to work at polling places on Election Day

September 3, 2020

Tuesday, September. 1, was  National Poll Worker Recruitment Day in the United States—and, the level of response among Americans nationwide will determine just how many of the 250,000 poll workers positions that remain open for the 2020 election will be filled, Fortune reports.

Poll workers will be desperately needed this year, as many at-risk individuals are opting out of serving because of health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To engage field employees across the country in the voting process and ensure that polling sites operate efficiently this year, Old Navy announced it will pay its store employees who wish to work the polls on Election Day in November.

The retailer is working with the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition of businesses encouraging voter turnout; and Power the Polls, a nonpartisan initiative to recruit poll workers for the 2020 U.S. presidential election to ensure a safe and fair election for all voters. The Civic Alliance is leading all corporate partnerships for Power the Polls in a national effort to enlist a new wave of poll workers.

“Voting is for everyone, regardless of beliefs or affiliations, and we believe we are all better when we engage in the process,” an Old Navy spokesperson recently told Fortune. “We felt this opportunity was a new and unique way to provide the opportunity and encouragement to our employees in stores across the country to become more involved in the democratic process without worrying about sacrificing a shift at work. This election has the potential for a[n] historic turnout, and our teams can help make a difference in our communities.”

The initiative is completely voluntary, and it is the first time the company has conducted an event like this. Old Navy field employees will be able to apply to join Power the Polls through internal communication channels. Upon completing the application, Power the Polls will connect individuals with their local counties to continue the process. Poll workers are ultimately selected by the election commissioner of each county, depending on the needs of the jurisdiction.

Old Navy says it will compensate associates who serve as poll workers with a day of pay, regardless of whether they are scheduled to work on Tuesday, November 3. Employees who serve at voting sites can also be paid by their county election commission, and it won’t conflict with wages paid out by Old Navy. (Local jurisdictions often pay poll workers a stipend via check for participation. In some cases, poll working may be voluntary and unpaid.)

Old Navy says all employees are welcome to apply to serve as poll workers in their communities, but pay coverage is available only for in-store, hourly employees, not employees on the corporate side of the company. The retailer is also offering shift coverage on Election Day for store employees who cannot or do not want to work at polling sites, but still need time to vote. Store managers will be directed to work with their teams to provide up to three hours of paid time off on Election Day to allow employees to cast their ballots in person.

And the company says November 3 will be designated as a “no meetings day” for employees who work in corporate functions to provide flexibility to vote in person and/or to serve locally, as best fits their schedules.

“As a company, we believe that participating in the democratic process is a vital right, and we are committed to removing roadblocks so employees don’t have to choose between serving or voting and work,” says a spokesperson for Old Navy.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

The runners’ cramps will be real, but the New York City Marathon is going virtual this year

September 1, 2020

Even in the midst of thousands of pounding feet and sweating bodies, every marathon runner completes the 26-mile course alone—at his or her own speed; and on his or her own steam. So, in a sense, this year’s New York City Marathon—since 1970, the largest such event worldwide—will be the same as those preceding it, Runner’s World reports.

However, there will be one big change:  This year’s marathon will be held virtually rather than in-person; due to the threat of a coronavirus surge in the city as a result of the competition, itself, which attracts 500,000 of the world’s best runners; as well as crowds of cheering onlookers at every roadside throughout the course.

Runners started signing up for the virtual race on July 28, entering the event  in four pricing tiers with varying benefits and amenities—and entry to the event still is open.

In the top registration tier, runners get entry to the virtual event, receive virtual marathon training via the New York Road Runners Coaching Lab, race swag, a 60-day Strava subscription, and a non-complimentary entry into the 2021, 2022, or 2023 in-person NYC Marathon. There are 1,000 available entries for this top tier, and it is the priciest, going for $150 for NYRR members and $175 for non-members.

Slightly below that on the tier system, and for the same prices, are 200 first-come, first-served spots for those who will raise $500 or more for NYRR’s Team for Kids, the organization’s youth charity team and running program. Runners will receive the same benefits as above as well as a Team for Kids backpack and singlet, according to the Runner’s World report..

Below these two options are two tiers of unlimited virtual entries. The first is $50 for members and $60 for non-members and includes a race medal, a running buff, 50 percent off the NYRR Coaching Lab training, and a 60-day Strava subscription.

The last option is a free registration. As you can imagine, this offers the least benefits, which are 10 percent off the NYRR Coaching Lab and a 30-day Strava subscription. Race swag not included.

All entrants for the virtual race will have between October 17 and November 1 to complete their 26.2 miles, which can be done anywhere in the world.

“Our Virtual New York City Marathon will connect the global running community at a time when more and more people are running as way to stay healthy during these difficult times,” Michael Capiraso, NYRR president and CEO, said in a NYRR press release. “Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced a cancellation of this year’s in-person race through the five boroughs of New York City, we’re excited to continue taking the marathon journey with runners who will be challenging themselves on 26.2-mile courses around the world.”

New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organization that organizes the NYC Marathon, is no stranger to virtual races. After debuting its first virtual event in 2018 with Strava, it has hosted 29 since, including several during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has canceled most races this year.

Research contact: @runnersworld

Top pandemic employee perks: Grocery stipends, mental health hours, and pet pawternity leave

September 1, 2020

Whether or not they already have announced publicly that employees can work remotely—until year-end, for the next year, or even forever—businesses that shifted to remote work in the spring seem to have settled in for the long haul, Inc. magazine reports.

Such companies are saving money on rent, travel, and office amenities. But many aren’t keeping all of that found money: They are reallocating some of those funds to help their employees settle in comfortably, too—providing home-office stipends or discounts on ergonomic chairs, monitors, lighting, and Internet upgrades.

In addition, Inc. notes, companies also are introducing perks to meet new needs, such as those related to mental health pressures and child care obligations.

Indeed, the news outlet suggests, there are four areas in which extra employee benefits can generate satisfaction and loyalty among staff members—among them:

  1. Create options for parents. Child care benefits don’t have to be limited to subsidized daycare or babysitting—especially during a pandemic, when many parents aren’t comfortable sending kids to school or using in-home sitters. “What parents need is things taken off their plate so that they can help their kids themselves,” says Jordan Peace, co-founder and CEO of Fringe, a Richmond, Virginia-based benefits startup. That could mean offering flexible work hours, chipping in for virtual babysitting or tutoring, sending kid-focused subscription boxes with meals or activities, or simply giving employees a stipend to use for child care-related expenses.
  2. Replace office snacks with home delivery. Businesses accustomed to lunch meetings and well-stocked office pantries are redirecting that budget to feeding remote employees. Companies like SnackNation and SnackMagic will deliver packaged treats to workers’ homes; while Fringe’s platform, which allows employers to allocate points to individual workers that can be redeemed for a wide variety of benefits and discounts, offers food-delivery services, grocery boxes, and even coffee and tea subscriptions.

Alternatively, you can let employees expense meals or groceries. Wilbur Labs, a “startup studio” in San Francisco that launches and invests in tech companies, ordinarily provides at least one meal per day in its office, co-founder and CEO Phil Santoro tells Inc. Now, each remote employee instead receives a $35 daily food stipend. The company encourages staff to use it at local small businesses, especially Black-owned restaurants and grocery stores, Santoro says.

  1. Go the extra mile on health and wellness. While mental health care was already a growing trend in workplace benefits, the added stress of the pandemic and remote work have led many businesses to formalize their approach, Inc. reports.. Beyond subsidizing therapy and offering subscriptions to apps for meditation, yoga, and fitness, companies are more willing to give employees something that might have seemed unfeasible before: time away from work. Fearing rampant burnout, more businesses are experimenting with a four-day workweek, more generous vacation policies, and flexible scheduling.

Austin-based public-relations agency Kickstand Communications allows employees to step away from their screens for up to three “mental health hours” per week. The company already provided a monthly wellness stipend of $50 per person, and decided not to cut that benefit despite other belt-tightening measures earlier this year, says co-founder and CEO Molly George. She expects the company will continue to prioritize this kind of support. “There’s a kind of trap of feeling like mental health is not as urgent of a situation as it was in the beginning of the pandemic, when things were so scary and so bad,” she says. “But just because it doesn’t feel as urgent doesn’t mean that it’s not just as important as it was five months ago.”

  1. Let employees choose. One easy way to determine which perks are best-suited to your team’s needs in the current climate is to ask your employees. That could yield unexpected results: With pet adoptions on the rise, some companies have opted to pay adoption fees or grant “pet paternity leave.” Others have paid for Netflix subscriptions, matched employee donations to racial-justice organizations or COVID-related charities, or even given out stock options.

Research contact: @Inc

The Happiness Museum in Denmark documents when and why life is good

August 28, 2020

If you have been having a little trouble “finding your happy place” during the last few months, just buy a ticket to Copenhagen and visit the Happiness Museum.

Indeed, many of us would admit that “guilty pleasures” are the closest we have come to true happiness during 2020—a time of global pandemic, cutthroat politics, unemployment, economic turmoil, and social unrest.

Which is why the opening of a new Happiness Museum in (where else?) Denmark feels like the most optimistic story of the year, CNN reports.

The world’s first museum dedicated explicitly to the concept of happiness had a quiet debut on July 14 in a cozy 2,585-square- foot space in Copenhagen’s historic center.It features interactive exhibits and displays exploring what generates happiness.

The new attraction is the brainchild of the Happiness Research Institute, an independent think tank that explores the science behind why some societies are happier than others with the end goal of encouraging global policymakers to include wellbeing as an integral part of the public policy debate.

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, recently told CNN that the idea to open a museum came after years of fielding requests from the public about visits to their drab office space.

“I think people imagine that the institute is like a magical place—a room full of puppies or ice cream,” he said, “but we are just eight people sitting in front of computers looking at data.”

“So we thought, why don’t we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?”

But, more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Wiking had to decide whether or not to go ahead with the opening. “We thought, there might not be a lot of guests these days, but the world does need a little bit more happiness,” he told CNN.

They set in place strict COVID-19 protocols— including a one-way traffic system and a cap of 50 guests—and opened their doors to the public.

Ever since, the museum has given visitors a tour of global happiness, showing how perceptions of it have changed throughout history, what it looks like in different regions, and why some countries report more of it than others.

Along the way, there are also questionnaires and interactive experiences that aim to give guests “aha” moments, as well as enhance the Institute’s ongoing research.

For example, Wiking says trust toward fellow citizens and political institutions is a major factor in global happiness, which is why some visitors may come across a wallet filled with cash. Museum staff have periodically placed this wallet on the floor for more than a month now, and it’s been returned to reception (with all items inside) every time.

People from around the world also have sent in artifacts of happiness—things that represent joy to them—which have been curated to form a large part of the display. These items are meant to help visitors contextualize what happiness looks like for others in different parts of the globe.

“We might be Danish or Mexican or American or Chinese, but we are first and foremost people,” Wiking says. “It’s the same things that drive happiness no matter where we’re from, and I hope that people will see that in the exhibition.

One guest told him that he had always known he was a happy guy, but he had never before understood the reasons why.

“That, for us, was the best review we could get,” he says.

One of the other main focal points of the museum is why Nordic countries tend to report some of the highest levels of happiness on earth.

Denmark, for example, frequently lands near the top of surveys ranking the world’s happiest nations, including the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report. In its 2020 list, Denmark comes in at number two,  just behind neighboring Finland, while Copenhagen ranks as the fifth happiest city in the world, behind Helsinki, Aarhus (also in Denmark), Wellington, and Zurich.

Danish psychologist Marie Helweg-Larsen, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, says that “it boggles peoples’ minds how you can, just by thinking thoughtfully and strategically about the role of government in life, create happy people.”

Plus, the countries that report the highest levels of happiness tend to contain many elements that, at least on the surface, would seem to hinder it.

“I think foreigners find the Nordic countries to be kind of a conundrum,” Helweg-Larsen explains. “They seem to do things that others have decided couldn’t possibly be associated with happiness, like pay high taxes, live with cold weather and experience long periods of darkness.”

So, what might the rest of the world learn from the Danes in these trying times?

“Trust is a factor in happiness,” Helweg-Larsen says. “We could all do more to talk to people who are not like us and see how we can establish more trust in our own communities.”

She also thinks the Danish concepts of pyt (an “oh well” attitude for accepting a problem and resetting) and hygge (the pursuit of intentional intimacy within interactions and environments) are great for relieving stress.

Wiking tells CNN that, if his studies at the Happiness Research Institute have shown him anything, it’s that humans are incredibly resilient.

“When we follow people over time, we can see that they are remarkable at overcoming the challenges that happen to them,” he says. “Of course, it’s necessary to be optimistic in my profession, but I think we can overcome these times as well.”

Research contact: @CNN

‘The flee market’: Are city dwellers decamping for the suburbs? Not so much, a recent survey finds

August 17, 2020

If you were preparing to plant a “for sale” sign in front of your suburban home in anticipation of all those city dwellers fleeing the coronavirus pandemic, you might need to push pause, based on results of a survey fielded recently by Yahoo Finance and The Harris Poll. .

With lockdowns and restrictions easing up in some cities, 74% of city based respondents to the poll  say that they are likely to stay put, the pollsters say—despite the ongoing health crisis—while just 26% say they are somewhat or very likely to relocate.

“As the risk of catching COVID-19 subsides, city dwellers are reminded of why they love city living,” Will Johnson, CEO of The Harris Poll said according to Yahoo Finance.

The apparent change of heart comes as restaurants and some other businesses reopen after many shuttered their doors in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In May, 60% of those living in cities said they wanted to remain where they were—significantly fewer than the number saying they’d likely stay put in the latest poll taken from July 31 through Aug. 3.

Generations Y and Z, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, were the group that most wanted to pack up for the suburbs, with 44% of them thinking about such a move. That’s compared to nearly 30% of Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 who said they would probably leave the city, and roughly 10% of those 45 and older who were considering the same.

Income also played a key role in who was contemplating a move to the suburbs. Roughly 35% of city residents who earned an annual salary of $100,000 or more said they wanted to leave, compared to 19% of their neighbors who earned less than $50,000 a year. And a third of those surveyed who were working said they would probably head to the suburbs, while 16% of those who were unemployed planned to do the same.

“Wealthier households have greater mobility within the housing market due to higher ownership rates and access to lower mortgage rates,” Johnson said.

Children also proved to be a dividing line between those who wanted to leave cities, with nearly 40% of those who had kids saying they were at least somewhat likely to head to the suburbs, possibly in search of more space and stronger schools. Among those without children, 16% said they might leave the city.

But residents of the suburbs also preferred where they were, with 86% saying they were not likely to leave because of the COVID-19 crisis, up from 70% in May.

As economic uncertainty lingers and the coronavirus surges in hot spots across the U.S., it remains to be seen how moving patterns will ultimately shake out.

“It’s too early to predict the macro changes to housing in urban, suburban and rural communities,’’ Johnson said. “Although intentions to leave the city have dropped over (the) last three months, sentiment is different from behavior.”

Research contact: @HarrisPoll

Popcorn amid pandemic: AMC to reopen theaters on August 20 with one-day-only 15-cent movie tickets

August 14, 2020

Would you be tempted enough by cheap thrills to chance getting exposed to COVID-19 ills? AMC Theatres, literally, is banking on its ability to entice patrons to sit for several hours in air-conditioned, semi-packed movie houses just by offering one-day-only 15-cent tickets, Yahoo reports.

One day after the United States reported the highest number of deaths in a single day (August 12) from the novel coronavirus since mid-May, AMC Theatres has announced plans to start the first phase of reopening theaters with a “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices” plan that will see more than 100 American-based cinemas offering 15-cent movie tickets for patrons.

The promotion is a one-day-only affair on August 20, Yahoo notes. It’s inspired by the founding of AMC Theatres in 1920, when the Dubinsky Brothers established a single movie screen in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We are thrilled to once again open our doors to American moviegoers who are looking for an opportunity to get out of their houses and apartments and escape into the magic of the movies,” Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres, said in a statement. “As our guests return on our first day of resumed operations …, we invite them to join us in celebrating a return to the movies, and in celebrating 100 years of AMC making smiles happen with movies at 1920 prices of only 15 cents each.”

The AMC promotion is just part of the first phase of reopening plans. The company expects to reopen as many as two-thirds of its more than 600 theater locations in the United States by September 3.

What will be on the screens? Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet, which was delayed multiple times to hold out for a theatrical release.

Research contact: @YahooNews

Target will extend ‘hazard pay’ to frontline workers through July 4

May 19, 2020

Target, the eighth-largest U.S. retailer, has announced plans to extend its temporary $2-an-hour pay hike for frontline workers through July 4 as the company continues to deal with higher demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

The company also is extending policies that give employees who are 65 or older, pregnant. or with medical conditions paid leave for up to 30 days. In addition, workers will get access to backup care for children or family members.

Bloomberg notes that the way in which the store is stepping up for its employees “contrasts with recent moves by retailers such as Amazon and Kroger, which are winding down higher hourly pay initiatives as the coronavirus lockdown persists.”

This will be the second extension of higher pay for Target, which initially announced wage increases in March. The Minneapolis-based retailer has seen a big boost from selling essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic, but investors are bracing for lower margins due to the higher costs and the possibility it will write off slow-selling merchandise like clothing, according to the business news outlet.

Companies allowed to operate through the pandemic, such as supermarkets, warehouses, and transportation firms, have benefited from a boost in demand and a labor market swollen with newly unemployed workers. However, their treatment of workers has drawn regulatory scrutiny; as well as protests from employees worried about catching COVID-19 at work and bringing it home to their families.

Research contact: @business

Kushner says he ‘cannot commit’ to holding 2020 election on November 3

May 14, 2020

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, refused on Tuesday, May 12, to rule out postponing the presidential election in November—a comment that fed directly into Democratic fears that Donald Trump might use the COVID-19 crisis to delay or de-legitimize the contest The New York Times reports.

“I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” Kushner told Time magazine in response to a question about whether the election could be postponed because of the pandemic.

The opinion of a White House staff member has no bearing on when the election is held. Even the president himself does not have the authority to unilaterally postpone Election Day, which by law takes place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the Times notes.

But Kushner’s comment raised alarms both because of the expansive power Trump has conferred on members of his family who serve in his administration and because it played into the worst anxieties of Trump’s detractors—that the president would begin to question the validity of the election if he feared he was going to lose.

It also plays into the fears of Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s popular live show, Real Time with Bill Maher, who has repeatedly suggested that Trump will not leave the White House if he loses the election.

And already, the president is suggesting that the election will be “rigged.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden gave voice to those concerns at a virtual fund-raiser last month. “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow— come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” he said.

Doubts about a smooth voting process in November have increased as states have canceled or postponed presidential primary elections to avoid the spread of the virus.

What’s more, the news outlet pointed out, Kushner’s remarks undercut the president’s own publicly stated position on the issue.

“The general election will happen on November 3,” the president said last month at a news conference when asked about Biden’s comment. But he also appeared to raise the specter of election fraud, noting that “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.” He added, “It should be, you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself.”

Despite his victory in 2016, the Times reports, “Trump has consistently and without any evidence claimed that there was widespread voter fraud in the last presidential election.” He even briefly formed a commission to examine it, but the group never found evidence and disbanded.

On Tuesday night, Kushner sought to clarify his earlier interview. “I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions about trying to change the date of the presidential election,” he said. A White House official said Kushner was fully aware that the date was set by federal law.

But his original remark on the election quickly drew fierce criticism from Trump critics. “Kushner’s statement reveals amazing ignorance of the Constitution and law,” William Kristol, a conservative columnist and prominent “Never Trump” Republican, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “It reveals startling arrogance in taking for granted he gets to have some say about when the election is held. It also reveals an utter lack of understanding of his very subordinate role in our democracy.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Stretching a point: Photo of Mitch McConnell social distancing goes viral

April 14, 2020

Reporters stayed within shouting distance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—but remained the recommended six feet away or more from him and each other—as he left the Senate chamber on April 9, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The result was a photo seen around the world, and tweeted about endlessly, The Huffington Post reports.

A tweet from Doris Morgan Rueda said, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force

Walter Shaub (perhaps the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, although we have not confirmed it) commented, “… at 1:40 PM at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, ten people witnessed a free floating, full torso, vaporous apparition. It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks off some poor librarian!”

Rachel Dzanashville said, “I’d like to commission this as a baroque painting.”

Ian Millhister contributed, “DEAR GOD! Who is that idiot in the mask who broke the circle? Now The Mitch will escape and exact tenfold revenge on his captors

And, among many others, Melissa Murray captioned the photo, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force reports.”

Research contact: @HuffPost