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2020 has been the worst. But these work changes are sticking around

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Work Transformed newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free, here.

We might be ready to move past 2020 and never look back, but some parts of this pandemic year are going to stick with us — especially when it comes to how we work.

I spoke with experts to find out what changes will likely carry on into the new year. Here’s what they said:

The F word: Flexibility. Want to work a few days in the office and the rest of the week at home? Companies are going to continue to be a lot less strict about where employees work.

The office makeover. With more employees working remotely, many companies are going to revamp their offices with an eye toward creating more collaborative areas and less individual workspaces.

Going beyond medical benefits. Companies will focus more on benefits for the entire family — things like tutoring assistance, financial planning help and increased childcare benefits.

Read more here.

A shot in the arm

The government issued guidelines last week that said employers may require the Covid-19 vaccine, and some business leaders seem open to the idea.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers can mandate workers get the vaccine, but they must comply with workplace laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

A little more than 70% of current and recent CEOs of major companies signaled an openness to a vaccine mandate, according to a poll held last week at a virtual summit by the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute, reports CNN Business’ Matt Egan.

WFH Tip: Protect your time

You can spend your days in back-to-back meetings, rushing to meet deadlines and responding to the never-ending emails and still feel like you didn’t accomplish much. Here’s what Matt Martin, co-founder and CEO of smart calendar assistant Clockwise, recommends:

Every week, usually on Sunday night, I look at my calendar and block off hour-plus blocks of time for specific projects. Time-blocking my calendar has multiple benefits: (1) Pre-committing keeps me accountable to my most important tasks and projects, (2) Pre-deciding what to work on and when, forces me to make hard trade-offs on how I spend time, and (3) Scheduling these blocks on my calendar communicates to others that, no, they cannot book that one extra meeting with me.

The pandemic’s toll on women

The pandemic has wiped out millions of jobs. And women have been hit harder than men.

Women have lost more jobs in the pandemic, report my colleagues Anneken Tappe, Clare Duffy and Tal Yellin.

Here’s what they found: As of November, women held 5.3 million fewer jobs than they did before the pandemic began in February. That shortage was 4.6 million for men.

So what’s going on? Women tend to make up the majority in some of the hardest-hit industries: leisure and hospitality, education and health services.

Childcare has also been a big issue for working mothers. From February to September, the labor force participation rate of women with children under age 13 dropped by 3 percentage points, compared to a 1.8-point drop for women with no children.

Take a look at what’s going on in five charts.

Making history…

But there is some good news for women in the workplace.

There is now at least one woman sitting on every S&P 500 company board, reports CNN Business’ Jeanne Sahadi.

Of newly appointed directors this year, women made up 47% — the highest percentage to date, according to the 2020 Spencer Stuart Board Index.

But we still have some work to do: Women represent just 28% of all S&P 500 board directors.

What we’ve learned

2020 has been the worst. But we’ve all learned lessons about who we are and how we work. Here’s what some business leaders are taking away:

We were long overdue for reimagining the way people work, and this year Covid-19 proved that the future of work was never a binary choice between being fully remote and committing to a 9-5 office routine. Instead, business leaders have realized that adopting new and alternative workplace strategies can provide employees with the most valuable benefit of all: flexibility. If 2020 was the year that forced companies to work from home, 2021 will be the year that companies choose to embrace flexible office space as a means to successfully reignite productivity and innovation. Sandeep Mathrani, CEO at WeWork

This year, the lines between home- and work-life have blurred. Between juggling school for my children to the dog bursting into the room during a conference call, I’ve learned the power of humility and importance of boundaries. Whether that’s making the time for my new passion, running, after getting my daughter to school each morning, or only scheduling 45-minute meetings to ensure I have breaks throughout the day to catch up with my family and, most importantly, eat! Boundaries have been crucial to driving a sense of separation between the weekdays, weekends, home and work. –Louise Pentland, EVP, chief business affairs and legal officer, PayPal

When I was in medical school, we were taught to ‘do no harm.’ Keeping this principle in mind has helped me better take care of my patients and always put their well-being first by finding the perfect balance between what they need and what the science says…At times the measures we have to take to keep employees safe may be at odds with what our business or clients need. In situations like this, I have learned ‘doing no harm’ and standing firm to make decisions based on science and medical evidence are also what helps me make the best recommendations to our business leaders to take to keep our employees safe at IBM. –Dr. Lydia Campbell, vice president and chief medical officer for IBM Corporate Health & Safety

Coffee break

Even the fast food industry has been radically changed by the pandemic.

Major chains like Burger King and McDonald’s are paying more attention to the outside of their stores, making their drive-thru lanes more prominent and digital orders the norm, reports CNN Business’ Jordan Valinsky.

Read more here.

Article Topic Follows: Consumer

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