Posts tagged with "COVID-19 pandemic"

Zoom, Peacock, and TikTok lead the fastest-growing brands of 2020

December11, 2020

While the pandemic has been anything but good for most U.S. businesses (think: restaurants, bars, air carriers, movie theaters, and gyms), some brand names actually saw rapid growth during the shutdown; as Americans relied on digital and vehicular delivery of food, prescriptions, cleaning products and masks, pet products, entertainment, and even business and casual meetings.

Now, Morning Consult has published its annual “Fastest Growing Brands” list, which it describes as “the definitive measure of brand growth for both emerging and established brands, showcasing a wide range of companies and products that have accelerated their consumer appeal and awareness in 2020.”

On this year’s list, the top spot was claimed by digital meetings provider  Zoom, Fast Company reports. No need to guess why, right? Surprisingly NBCUniversal’s fledgling video streaming service took the number-two spot. Less of a surprise was the brand that claimed the number-three honors: TikTok, a leading destination for short-form mobile video.

Morning Consult says that all the brands on this year’s list were shaped by changing consumer behavior resulting from the pandemic: “Nearly every brand that occupies a spot on the Fastest Growing Brands list is meaningfully connected to pandemic-related behavior, from at-home entertainment to cleaning products to pharmaceutical companies.”

The top 10 on Morning Consult’s fastest-growing brands of 2020 are:

  1. Zoom
  2. Peacock
  3. TikTok
  4. Instacart
  5. DoorDash
  6. HBO Max
  7. WhatsApp
  8. Microsoft Teams
  9. T Mobile
  10. Pfizer

You can check out the full list of brands here.

Research contact: @FastCompanyTop b

Matzoball to launch ‘largest Jewish virtual speed dating event in the world’ on Christmas Eve

December 1, 2020

The original Matzoball—founded by Andrew Rudnick in 1987 as a Christmas Eve party for single Jewish Americans—has reinvented itself for the pandemic: Although the company usually throws as many 20 parties in cities nationwide and worldwide, this year, the fun will go virtual.

In a press release, Rudnick explains, “This year we needed to think outside the box. Every year we give tens of thousands of single Jews the opportunity to meet in person at the hottest nightclubs all over the country. This year, we are inviting partygoers to attend online—and it will be a much bigger and better event than anyone can imagine. We are beyond thrilled to announce the launch of Matzoball Online!”

The parties start on Christmas Eve at 9 p.m. and will be broken down by region and age range. Each event will guarantee a minimum of 20 to 30, five-minute dates, and the participants will then have the opportunity to anonymously choose whom they felt they had a connection with. If the connection is mutual, they will be notified via email of their mutual connections 15 minutes after the event and will be given the opportunity to connect again.

The Matzoball Online is set to go online in the following regions/countries, but also anticipates adding more: Atlanta, Boca, Delray Beach, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angelese, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Montreal, Toronto, London, Sydney, and Tel Aviv.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting and cost $35, which includes entry into the 1st Matzoball Online event, and also will offer ticket purchasers exclusive discounts to the monthly speed dating events that will be hosted by Matzoball in 2021.

According to Guinness World Records, the largest known speed dating event, which drew 964 people, occurred on February 14, 2019, Valentine’s Day, in Dublin, Ireland. Matzoball anticipates five times as many people will participate in their event.

The Matzoball claims to have been responsible for thousands of marriages over the past 34 years—and having been named the #1 Holiday Party by USA Today..

Research contact: @MatzoBall24M

Moderna announces vaccine nearly 95% effective

November 17, 2020

The new vaccine from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna, the biotechnology company, is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to a release from the company on November 16—making it the second vaccine to look promising enough to hit the market soon in America, Yahoo reports in an article picked up from the blog, Eat This, Not That.

Last week, New York City-based Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters.”

Bancel emphasizes, “This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.”

On hearing the news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor commented to CNN, “These are obviously very exciting results …. It’s just as good as it gets—94.5% is truly outstanding.”

Regarding the timetable, Fauci said of the Pfizer vaccine the following, which could also apply to Moderna: “What will happen is that,” after the emergency authorization is approved, “at the end of November, the beginning of December, if that goes through—and again, I don’t want to get ahead of the FDA, if they’re going to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s—but I believe with the impressive nature of the data that that should go through smoothly, that by the time we get into December, we’ll be able to have doses available for people who are judged to be at the highest priority to get.”

As for logistics, “about getting the supply chain intact with the cold requirements”—the vaccine needs to be shipped at a certain low temperature—”that’s all been anticipated and part of Operation Warp Speed, particularly on the general, Gus Perna, the general from the army who has been responsible for making sure this goes smoothly. We anticipate, although they’re all logistic challenges that it will be done successfully.”

As for who gets these vaccines first, Fauci said: “What we have well-established in this country is that the ultimate decision of the distribution in priority, or it goes with the CDC, their advisory committee on immunization practices, traditionally over the years for other vaccines has been responsible for advising them as to the prioritization of the distribution.”

Regular folks with no underlying conditions might have theirs by April.

Research contact: @Yahoo

Supreme Court declines to diminish extended ballot deadlines in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

October30, 2020

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett, still getting up to speed, didn’t participate in either case—but, on October 28, the Supreme Court “declined to disturb” extended ballot deadlines in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania—leaving the states more time to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the North Carolina litigation, the justices denied Republican requests to block a decision by state elections officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots until November 12, a six-day extension of the date set by the legislature.

North Carolina elections officials said they extended their deadline “to keep voters from having their votes thrown out because of mail delays that the Postal Service had explicitly warned the state about.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the GOP state lawmakers, and others challenged the deadline extension and other changes—saying those officials improperly rewrote unambiguous rules set COVID -19 pandemic.

The high court didn’t explain its reasons for rejecting the requests, the Journal notes. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, registered objections and said they would have granted the challengers’ request to roll back the deadline. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the pandemic wasn’t the kind of natural disaster that gave the state board of elections a license to change voting rules.

The Supreme Court in the Pennsylvania matter refused to expedite a Republican challenge to a state court order providing three extra days for the state to accept absentee ballots mailed by Election Day.

The court’s order in that case included no noted dissents, although the same three conservative justices issued a statement indicating they were open to considering the case after Election Day.

On Friday, October 23, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, backed by the Trump campaign, asked the Supreme Court to hear and decide its challenge before Election Day, November 3. The motion was unusual in that, only days earlier, the Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, had refused to block the three-day extension.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended to 5 p.m., November 6, the deadline to accept absentee ballots, from 8 p.m., November 3. The court credited guidance from the Pennsylvania secretary of state that the three-day extension would adequately account for processing backlogs in elections offices and postal delivery delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who sued for public-health accommodations in accepting ballots, had asked for a weeklong extension, equivalent to the deadline federal law sets for accepting ballots mailed by military families and Americans overseas.

Although it leaves intact, for now, the Pennsylvania court order, Wednesday’s decision indicated that at least four justices are skeptical that state courts can alter election regulations adopted by state legislatures for presidential and congressional elections.

In its 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had likened the coronavirus pandemic to a natural disaster, which allows state courts to alter voting procedures should it occur on Election Day. The state justices invoked their power under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, which the state high court has found more protective of voting rights than corresponding provisions in the federal Constitution.

In last week’s decision, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted to block the Pennsylvania court’s three-day extension. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to leave the Pennsylvania order in

Justice Alito issued a statement saying “there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” but the proximity of Election Day made it impractical to decide the issue now. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined the statement; in a separate case from Wisconsin on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion expressing similar views.

The court indicated that the justices may issue additional opinions in the case. The Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case after the election, particularly if the outcome depends on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.i

Research contact: @WSJ

How to move to Canada: Fearing a Trump win, many Americans are hoping to pack their bags

October 2, 2020

Exactly four years ago, Stephen Shainbart made an important decision: If Donald Trump got elected president, he was going to leave the United States.

But while many Americans threatened to move away in the months leading up to the 2016 election, he actually followed through—swapping New York for Toronto, Fast Company reports.

The night Trump won his bid for the White House, the 56-year-old psychologist started seriously researching the land that begat Margaret AtwoodDan Levy, and Garrett Camp—and then spent so much money becoming a permanent resident that he doesn’t yet own property in the 416.

“I didn’t think his judgment was sound because of his personality and his narcissism, and I thought he’d probably put his own interests in front of the people’s. As a native New Yorker, I’ve known all about Trump my entire life,” Shainbart explains, adding that with a father who survived the Holocaust and a grandfather killed in Auschwitz, he had personal reasons, too.

In 2020, Americans whose exposure to Trump had been limited to The Celebrity Apprentice, juicy tabloid stories about his marriages and real estate, and The Art of the Deal now have a presidential track record of 3.5 years to examine.

And for those willing to leave in the wake of another Trump victory, Canada is once again emerging as the most attractive choice. Our northern neighbor has the advantage of language, proximity, and a similar culture; and professionals on the front lines of the relocation, like real estate agents and immigration lawyers, say they’re fielding more calls from Americans.

Daniel Dagenais of Sotheby’s International Realty in Quebec, for example, has had a 50% increase in queries from Americans, while Wayne Ellis, president of the Prince Edward Island Real Estate Association, reports a 300% jump.

People in California, New York, and Florida have been contacting Brenda Westbrook of the Sutton Group Admiral Realty in Toronto, looking for executive homes or cottages, Fast Company notes.

“People are afraid on both ends, both Democrats and Republicans,” she says. “You can buy as a foreign investor and come just to have a foot in the door. They usually rent them until they need them . . . They think it’s unbearable. It’s crazy.”

Traffic from American IP addresses to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website was up this summer over the same period in 2019, according to the government agency, which reports an estimated 135,000 additional visits in July and 180,000 more in August. However, traffic from the U.S. was down in the winter and spring, compared to 2019, and the IRCC website features information about not only permanent immigration to Canada, but also temporary visits and work, international study, and COVID-related border restrictions.

According to Fast Company, attorneys are contending with a similar spike. Evan Green, who’s practiced law in Toronto for 30 years, says he used to file one or two immigration applications for people in the U.S. per month, but now, he’s doing one or two per day. His clients are primarily what he calls “wayward Canadians,” citizens of his country who moved to America years ago, built lives in the States, and now want to go home; Americans in commuter marriages with Canadians; and Americans who simply want out.

They are “people who are somewhat disillusioned by the United States in its current form,” Green explains. “These are people who while certainly worried about results of the elections, are also worried about other things which they see as issues in the United States; like violence and divisions within society they feel are much stronger.”

The naïveté Americans once had about Canada has disappeared. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the historically porous—and even post-9/11, relatively easy to pass through—borders between the countries that have been friends since the end of the War of 1812. (The White House played a role in that, too. In 1814, troops from Britain, which at the time claimed parts of Canada as colonies, burned down the presidential home, then inhabited by James Madison and his wife, Dolley.)

“We’re a regular country with laws . . . I don’t live in perfect country, but I’m very happy where I live right now,” says Green, who saw an uptick in interest from Americans in 2016, but not as much as now. “COVID has added a level of uncertainty to people’s lives. ‘You know what? Things are so unsettled. I’m feeling so unstable. Let’s get some place more stable.’”

But, Fast Company warns: If you’re planning to make the move now, be prepared to wait. No paperwork will be ready by November 3. For that, you can blame Canada—in this case bureaucracy, and not enough people in the department and not enough case processing centers. Also, causing the slowdown are the delays caused by COVID-19, according to Véronique Malka, a Canadian attorney licensed to operate in the U.S.A., whose inquiries from Americans are up 30%.

People whose paperwork is expedited tend to be refugees (not applicable here), individuals running startups, and self-employed extraordinarily accomplished people, like musicians, she explains. Other shortcuts may be available for people who can qualify for citizenship, which in 2019 was limited to the children of ex-pats; students; the dozens of professions set aside under NAFTA, such as accountants, dentists, certain types of scientists, social workers, and urban planners; and individuals willing to live in rural or far-northern communities.

“They thought about it during first election in 2016 and now they’re serious about it. The Canadian immigration website shut down, because it crashed on the night of the election,” Malka says. “There’s almost nothing under a two-year wait. That’s a big piece of it. It’s a big burst of the bubble. People say, ‘I want to get out of here.’”

Unlike realtors and attorneys who wait for clients to contact them, Rob Calabrese is actively recruiting Americans to relocate to Canada. In 2016, he launched to promote an island off Nova Scotia called Cape Breton ( the CB in the URL). The D.J. turned apple cider maker has seen a steady increase in queries—now about a dozen a day, though he’s certain that’ll increase.

“People threaten to move to Canada every year you guys have an election. Usually, it’s Democrats, though I heard lots of Republicans threatened to move to Canada when Obama was elected, and I don’t think they really understood what we have going on here. My aim was to put Cape Breton in front of a large audience,” Calabrese explains. “Canada is a big place and we’re not just two big English cities and a French city.”

Cape Breton, which almost the size of the big island of Hawaii, has been losing about 1,000 people a year. The population drain concerns Calabrese.

“We have problems absolutely but nothing like yours,” he adds. “I love America and I love going to the United States. We would love for Americans to stay where they are and vote for someone other than Donald Trump. I’d much rather that. Canada and U.S.A, I thought we were best friends and now, we’re not.”

Shainbart says voting Trump out of office won’t change much, though. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election in November, he’s not heading back to America. When he immigrated to the Great White North, he knew he was there for good.

“All the Trump supporters are still going to be there,” he explains. “Trump is as much of a symptom of the problem in America as the cause . . . I think something’s very wrong with the U.S. that we elected such a person, and that will remain.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

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