T HE LOCKDOWNS of 2020 represented an unprecedented shock to office life. Overnight, companies the world over were forced into a giant experiment in working from home ( WFH ) that few firms would ever have dared try of their own volition. At the peak in the spring of 2020, some 60% of total working hours in America were conducted from people’s living rooms, kitchens and, for the lucky few, home offices. The results of this experiment are in, and they suggest that many of these novel working practices will endure. And for the better. For workers, the great WFH experiment has gone fairly well. Adjusting to the new regime was not easy for everyone—especially those living in small flats, or with children to home-school. Yet on average workers report higher levels of satisfaction and happiness. Respondents to surveys suggest that they would like to work from home nearly 50% of the time, up from 5% before the pandemic, with the remainder in the office. But people’s actual behaviour … [Read more...] about The fight over the hybrid future of work
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BACK IN 2019 it took a month for the warning to go up about a new respiratory disease in Wuhan; and another month for America to suspend flights from China. By then large amounts of the coronavirus had spread around the world. By contrast, the recent identification of a new and potentially dangerous variant of covid-19 in South Africa took place within days. Travel bans followed within hours. Indeed some were announced even before the World Health Organisation had dubbed the new variant Omicron (they tactfully missed out the Greek letter Xi, which might have caused offence in China). The admirable work of South Africa’s scientists and their exemplary openness, along with the rapid recognition that Omicron poses a genuine threat, show that the world has learnt a lot about dealing with pandemics in the past two years. However, the very fact that Omicron was spotted early, using sparse data, means that its true nature will remain unclear without further research. The real test of … [Read more...] about What to do about covid-19’s threatening new variant
M UTATED VIRUSES which survive and thrive are called variants. In the case of SARS - C o V -2, the virus that causes covid-19, these started to spread in earnest in November 2020, with the appearance of the Alpha variant, first spotted in Britain. The Delta variant, which is the dominant global strain, was first detected in India in late 2020. The latest, Omicron, was first identified in South Africa in November 2021. The Economist today Handpicked stories, in your inbox A daily newsletter with the best of our journalism Sign up There is much still to find out about Omicron. Although the early evidence suggests that this variant spreads very fast indeed, more work is needed before anyone knows whether it will displace Delta. Omicron has roughly 30 mutations on the spike protein, the structure that studs the surface of the virus and enables it to lock on to and insert its genome into human cells. Around 20 … [Read more...] about Why might new variants like Omicron spread more easily?
R odeo Van Bladel started getting that feeling again. The scrawny, balding clerk at window 7 of the California Department of Motor Vehicles ( DMV ) in Santa Rosa had punched Rodeo’s driver’s licence number into a computer, before telling him to wait while he went to check on something. Rodeo had taken two cross-town buses to get in line early for the office’s opening at 8am, an hour-plus commute that would have taken ten minutes by car. He had come hoping that somebody could tell him, finally, when he would be allowed to get back to driving. The delay was a bad sign. The clerk returned with a co-worker, who handed Rodeo a slip of paper with a phone number. Rodeo had to call the Mandatory Actions Unit, she said, a division of the DMV apparently reachable only by phone. The Economist today Handpicked stories, in your inbox A daily newsletter with the best of our journalism Sign up The driver’s-licence debacle had … [Read more...] about He stole a rug and a car. Why did he spend 25 years bouncing between prison and parole?
GOVERNMENTS’ RAPID responses to a new coronavirus strain were wise. But much is still to be learned about the Omicron variant before longer-term policies can be prescribed. Vietnam’s government wants to create internationally competitive firms, and a growing new class of billionaires suggests the plan is working. And research suggests that social distancing comes naturally to bees under pathogenic threat. Runtime: 21 min Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher | TuneIn Have your say about “The Intelligence” in our survey here: www.economist.com/intelligencesurvey . And for full access to print, digital and audio editions of The Economist , subscribe here: www.economist.com/intelligenceoffer Reuse this content The Trust Project … [Read more...] about “With the epidemiology we see in South Africa, things are looking a little scary”—the Omicron variant