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COVID-19 Creates Lasting Changes In Work Culture

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from the WFIU WTIU your news team cohosting with Sara Wittmeyer, the news bureau chief of WFIU WTIU. We've been recording the show remotely since March to avoid the risk of spreading infection. We've definitely changed the way that we're working. And today we're talking about changes in the workplace in general brought on by October 19. We have three guests joining us on our Zoom call. Pat East is executive director of the Demension Mill in Bloomington. Stephanie Andel is the - IUPI department of psychology assistant professor. And Amy Carter is the Indiana Institute for Working Families community outreach and engagement coordinator. You can follow us on Twitter at Noon Edition. You can send us questions there. And you can also send us questions for the show at News Indiana Public Media dot org. Well thanks for being here with us today. Pat East, I'd like to start with you. Could you talk about the mill and how this - you know what's happening now in the world, how it may be related to what you were trying to do at the mill to begin with? 

>>PAT EAST: Yeah. So the mill is - well first thanks for having me on. The mill is nineteen thousand square feet of coworking and incubator space in downtown Bloomington. Our mission here is to launch and accelerate startups. And along with that we have a lot of remote workers, a lot of freelancers, graphic designers consultants who rent desks from us on a month to month basis. And so this is kind of the the future of how we think people are going to work where they don't necessarily go to an office every day. They may want to work from home a couple days a week. They may want to work from the mill a couple of days a week. Their co-workers are really at that point folks who work at other companies. They want to get ideas and inspiration from lots of - different lots of different points of views which may or may not include their actual co-workers and their company. And so we think this is going to be just the way the people work in the future, given that remote working is so ubiquitous now especially with COVID 19 but even before lots of information jobs and knowledge were very much the types of work that you're going to have to be tied to a desk in any given city. You weren't bound by the geographic location. And so we think this is definitely going to be the future of how folks work. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Stephanie, Pat and the people who are working at the mill were sort of experiencing this before they had to. How prepared do you think it was the rest of the state's workforce to make these changes in such a hurry? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: That's a great question. Yeah. This was quite an abrupt transition to remote work. And that's led to a series of different challenges. I mean just the other day, Zoom went down nationally. And so our - you know our dependence on technology was put to the test quite quickly. So that - there's definitely - we were not prepared. And I think that that's created a lot of challenges for employees themselves in terms of dealing with the technology, trying to understand what to use, coordinating with others from afar and then also challenges for organizations themselves in terms of you know logistically how to handle all their employees being - working remotely so suddenly quickly. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We'll talk about a lot of the stresses. I will say that the only way anybody who was listening to this show last week - they heard me take an early exit 10 minutes before the show was over. Not planned but my internet went down. So our producer had to step in and finish the show. I mean that's just the way things - the way we're operating these days. Amy Carter, what's this mean for working families for the Indiana Institute for Working Families? You're the community outreach and engagement coordinator. How is this affecting our families? 

>>AMY CARTER: It's a lot. We are a program of the Indiana Community Action Association. And so we are connected to our 22 community action agencies. And all of them had to go remote in March. And in some of those areas the Internet is unreliable or even unavailable. So that's just from the service provider perspective. But many people are out of work and not able to work from home. A lot of those work from home jobs are higher income. And more white people have those jobs. So it's exacerbating disparities that were there before. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. And the size those disparities. What about the fact that so many school kids are having to actually take their classes online? I mean that has to be having a big effect on families as well. 

>>AMY CARTER: It is huge. So we put out a survey asking women how they've been affected by COVID. And that answer came up a lot. I want to read a couple of the things they said because they're saying it better than I could. They said income changed because I resigned from my teaching position anticipating my staying at home to help my children with their education. Another person said, when we asked for further comments, my child is doing e-learning. So that sits with me as my husband is at another school. I wonder every day if I will ever be back to where I was financially. To be the breadwinner as a working mom is emotionally and psychologically draining in a way people don't always get. I used to think being a working mom was the best thing ever. Now I feel like a disappointment in everything. So I think in addition to being at home with kids and trying to work while kids are e-learning, the psychological toll is huge on families. This is hard. And we had several people come in that they had kids with special needs who were staying at home. And that is not working well for their learning. So the long term effects of this keep me up at night sometimes. But I trust that we have advocates that are doing good work and policy makers who will listen and make good choices. So I'm holding onto that hope. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Stephanie Andel from from IUPY's department of psychology. So how does that - how does that compare to the kind of things your hearing and the kind of stressors that you're hearing from people that you're working with? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Yeah. So the work family balance issue is huge. I'm consistently coming up right? A lot of folks are working from home. And so they've been suddenly put in this position where you know they're trying to figure out their new work technology and all these new changes at home for work while also trying to help their children and maybe even homeschooling their children as they're trying to deal with their own e-learning. So it creates a lot of challenges. And this - we are finding this is the case as you know especially for working moms who are taking - do tend to take a lot of the household and childcare tasks. So that's definitely a theme that I've been seeing as well in the research. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Pat East, when you think about the work that goes on at the mill, I mean it's a different kind of work style there because people weren't going into you know their big offices anymore. There was - it was a co workspace. It is a co workspace. Yet it was important, it seems to me, from all the conversations we've had that people be in the same place - that there be some people, there be some energy for - I think you talk about collisions people while walking down the hall and just talking with each other. I mean is that still happening at the mill? And how important do you think that's going to be as we transition to this A lot of people working from home situation? 

>>PAT EAST: Yeah. Those collisions that you talked about are certainly still happening at the mill. They're happening fewer because folks are working at the mill less. You know we lost about one third of our membership whenever we had to close the building first day in place in March. And while a good chunk of those folks came back folks are, I, think still reticent to come back on on a regular basis. I think part of that is covid obviously, even though we've made a lot of building changes and have a lot of safety precautions in place. But part of that is just child care. Right? It's really tough to be able to care for your child when you have to do that and work at the same time. And you're just physically not able to do that at the mill. And so there's - you know there's fewer people here. But there are still collisions happening on a regular basis. Lots of folks are still doing really good work and doing really important work is just happening probably on a slightly smaller scale in general. But only happening more from homes now than it is directly at the mill. Long term obviously we want folks to come back to the mill not only for selfish reasons because we need to generate revenue here. But also because the more members we have here it's you - know there's a network effect. The more members we have here the more everybody else benefits because of those collisions of, oh you're working on this. Well I can help you with this. Or I can connect you with that person or hear something I did a handful of weeks ago that helped me, or let me connect to this graphic designer that was really helpful. So some of those over the shoulder conversations don't take place now. And so I think a long term way, we'd all love to get back to that place where we're able to have more of those oh over their shoulder conversations and those serendipitous moments where we just run into folks. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I know that you've always kind of kept your eye on you know what's next and where things are going. And I know you've got some pretty strong ideas about what this all means and if we're ever going to get back to the way things were. I mean how do you see the future of the workplace? 

>>PAT EAST: So I think that the future of the workplace is going to be really revolving around a couple of things. One, I do think coworking spaces are going to continue to grow as more people realize that their jobs can be done remotely. They don't won't necessarily want to work from home. And all the one to work in a place where they can have a little bit better separation for that work life balance. And I think the other thing that we'll see in the future is that with you know places where folks go into the office on a regular basis I think instead of being, quote, unquote, office first, they will be a quote, unquote, Internet first, meaning that regardless of where you work whether it's at the office or you're working remotely or in a coworking space, you're going to connect to the Internet first and then that connects you to everybody else. It's gonna be unlike the current model the office where you connect to your co-workers through the main headquarters first. And so if you're a remote worker you probably felt this a little bit. Sometimes you're out of the loop about what happens because you're that remote worker. And folks don't think of Internet first. They think of office first. And I think the the covid 19 forcing everybody into this quick experiment of remote work is going to flip it - flip that on its head. And I think it's going to be a permanent flip. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sara. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: You know I'm curious a little bit more about that just in terms of, as employers, I wonder what they're doing right now. Maybe you can speak a little bit about this from Hanapin's perspective just in terms of long term strategy and in folks working from home, how that could benefit productivity or not? And also even financially the benefits of having people work from home. 

>>PAT EAST: Yes. So my my other hat before I started working at the mill was I was CEO of Hanapin marketing. And I sold that earlier this year to our largest U.K. competitor. And I still keep in touch with those folks. I kind of have an idea of how they're there working throughout this pandemic. Even before the pandemic, we were partially remote so about one third of our workforce worked full time remote. And everybody else worked a couple days remote. Even if they were here located in Bloomington. And the reason for that is because I think it's a you know we're seeing a lot of this happen right now where we're seeing kind of a short term productivity increases where folks can be heads down on work at home because nobody's bothering them. Nobody's doing those over their shoulder conversations. And I think in the short term that just allows you to figure - really put on some blinders and just crank out a bunch of work. I think long term though that's probably not a super healthy for us because we do need those person to person interactions. You know while it may not be helpful to find out how Bob's weekend when or what Mary is doing next weekend, overtime it does - it is helpful obviously to develop those relationships so that everything isn't so transactional. So I do think that in the short term you know we're getting some decent productivity boost but I do think in the long term it's probably healthier for us to either be in the office probably not full time because I think there is some benefit to to just kind of cranking out some work without interruptions at your home or at a coworking space. But I do think maybe having having a mix of those would be very helpful. And I think the other thing I might add is that you know a lot of companies are thinking about the office space differently, not just in terms of office first or Internet first. But quite literally I've heard offices talked about as, quote, unquote furniture storage. Do we want to just have desks and chairs there and people go in there periodically? Or is there a way where we can modify the workplace so that when folks do come in it is to deepen relationships? And so I think that's something that is kind of emerging. And as folks come out of the pandemic and as we're able to open up the economy a little bit more I think we'll see a little bit more evolution of exactly what that means in terms of deepening relationships at the office and how the office might physically change in order to support that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Amy? 

>>AMY CARTER: I would be remiss if I didn't add to this conversation and just draw our attention to so many of the low income workers who are not able to take advantage of this work at home. We have people who are home health aides, who are caregivers, who work at fast food or retail. And those are often lower income jobs. And I think it's great that we are finding that people can work from home well. I know that people in the disability community have been asking for those things for a long time. And this has revealed that the option is way more viable than they were given credit for. But I do want us to think about what the future looks like for people who don't have that option, especially as we're not providing the protections for workers, especially with the pandemic that we should. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Yeah I think certainly we'll talk about that more too, Bob. I know we both have a lot of questions. Amy, while you're up, I'd like to ask you a question we just got from John. And his question is how adequately is IOSHA responding to local complaints about lawyers who aren't all showing measures to protect their workers against covid 19 exposure? Think you can answer that one? 

>>AMY CARTER: I do not have experience with IOSHA. So I don't know how well they're responding. So I don't want to make any assumptions about any of that. I'm sorry. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: That's all right. Either of the other - either Stephanie or Pat, do you have any inexperience in this area or any anything to add? 

>>PAT EAST: Sorry. I don't have any experience in that. I can tell you we have had our own experience of the middle where we have had one person, one member, who contracted covid. He wasn't - he was only in the building for maybe five minutes who contracted it somewhere else. And so we you know we were able to kind of isolate him because it was only in the building for a short amount of time. And we took our normal precautions but we really don't have any experience with our members not following protocols. Everybody has been really really great about that. We've been very lucky in that respect. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. We're talking about changes in the workplace today on Noon Edition. If you want to join us on the program, you can send us your questions to at Noon Edition on Twitter or to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Stephanie we've talked about some stress on people who are working from home. But there are also heavy stressors on those people who are working on the front lines. Can you talk about that? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Absolutely, yes. So there are a wide array of stressors, as both Amy and Pat have alluded to. So of course one major stressor is fear of exposure, right? A lot of these folks are consistently working with the public or in close proximity to others. And so that fear is constantly in the back - has to constantly be in their back their minds even if there are safety protocols in place. Additionally what this does is it creates even more of this kind of work and family collisions right? So we have this fear of exposure. And we're also going to have fear of bringing - potentially bringing the virus back to the people that we love. So I've done some research for instance with health care professionals or specifically nurses who have talked about that fear quite a bit. They're very concerned about how this is impacting not only their own health but also the health of their family and loved ones. In addition, one thing I'd like to mention is a lot of these essential workers are customer facing. And they're the ones who are responsible for enforcing the policies of mask wearing and social distancing. And so, unfortunately, they're also experiencing quite a bit of customer mistreatment. Are there some reports of your customer maybe not being so nice. And so that's another stressor that is consistently showing up, especially within service occupations. And then one other thing I'd like to add is a lot of folks you know, as Amy mentioned, a lot of these folks don't have as many resources. Perhaps they don't have you know paid sick leave. So they're going to feel obligated to come to work whether it be pressure put on by their employers or maybe they don't have a choice because, like I said, they don't have paid sick leave and they of course need you know the paycheck. And sometimes there's just not enough coverage. So for these reasons you are feeling obligated to come to work especially in these situations and especially if there's not enough or insufficient safety protocols, that can be quite stressful as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Stephanie if I can follow up on that you know these interactions between customers and the - those frontline employees like people at a retail store or a restaurant that have to tell people you have to wear a mask - what about the stress - I mean I'm just trying to figure out why people have become so mean on the other side? You know they know they have to wear shoes into a business. They know they have to wear a shirt into a business. There's been a lot said about why you should wear a mask in this business. So why is it - you know why is it creating such a such a conflict among people? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: You know that is a great question. I really wish I had the answer I think that that's the result of a lot of miscommunications you know through various sources that have kind of created. It's been moved away from more - from a public health issue to more of a maybe a political issue for some other reason. So yeah. For whatever reason, customer service employees have been experiencing the brunt of this. And its definitely been quite a challenge for them. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Amy I think you had something you had to say. 

>>AMY CARTER: I did. I got so excited that Steph mentioned paid sick leave because that is something we do care so deeply about. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was actually the first time the U.S. had a national paid leave program just this year. And it's limited to two weeks emergency sick leave and up to 10 weeks in your child's school or daycare is closed because of covid. But I am so hopeful that we can see now the importance of having paid sick leave, paid family leave to care for family members who are sick because, as Steph said, people are making this horrible choice between caring for a kid or caring for someone who's sick or being sick themselves and going into work because they need the paycheck and they need to pay their rent and buy food and things like that. So we have been working in the Equality Pays Coalition and welcome anyone who wants to be part of that fight to join us because it's essential. It has been essential. But going forward, we have to make sure that we use this small bit of momentum to make that a priority at the national level and at the state level. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Amy could you just talk a little bit more about the childcare issue because that just seems like a huge issue here even as we're talking about the you know one of the reasons to send kids back to schools is so the economy can get going. 

>>AMY CARTER: It's overwhelming. I saw a tweet today that was looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job data that was just released. And it shows no recovery at all nationwide for childcare in August. Employment is still 20 percent since February. And this sector is virtually all women and disproportionately women of color. So when we are failing to pass economic recovery acts, when Congress is failing to make those decisions to support child care, not only can people not go to work because they can't take their children to childcare. But the people working in child care are not having jobs. And those are women and people of color. And we really have to pay attention to that disproportionate impact because it's going to increase already their inequalities from the systemic racism that we have built into a lot of our society. 

>>AMY CARTER: You all have a soapbox here today. So what other things do you want to see come out of state and the national government that might help workers in the long term? I'll ask Pat. OK. Go ahead. Amy just go ahead. 

>>AMY CARTER: I'm just so excited because this is what we do we work on policy and talking - We work for you know low income (unintelligible). And this is not often something that they get to talk about and that we get to promote. So I think now is the time to look at wages. We are working with some documentary filmmakers who made a movie called Waging Change because the tipped minimum wage is two dollars and 13 cents. And I think we're seeing just how important it is to have strong, like I said, paid leave but strong wages. Strong work sharing is something that really could have prevented some people from losing that income. This is a time when we can look at TANF, which is the cash where welfare program and SNAP which is food stamps because these programs are more essential now than ever. And I didn't mean to cut you off. But this is just the heart of what we do at the institute. And I would love any soapbox to talk more about these policy. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: That's OK. I love giving you the opportunity could you say a little more about the tipped minimum wage. I'm pretty sure that a lot of our listeners know what you mean by that but some may not. 

>>AMY CARTER: So if you are a tipped worker like a waitress, you only have to be paid two dollars and 13 cents an hour by your employer with the idea that tips will make up at least enough to get you to minimum wage which is still only seven twenty five an hour, woefully inadequate. And so if your tips don't get you up to that per hour, your employer has to pay that. But it just puts again a lot of servers or women puts them in the direct path of people who will take advantage of the fact that their income comes from those tips. You know they're often hit on when they can't turn it down because that's how they pay their bills. So it's kind of tangential to the pandemic but when we're talking about people losing jobs and wages that all of this we have to include that in there. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: What's the policy solution to that? Just higher minimum wage? 

>>AMY CARTER: Yes sir. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Ok. Stephanie do you want to grab the soapbox now? What are some public policy changes that you think would be helpful to workers? I think you're on mute so. Yeah go ahead. No. Now you're muted again. 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: I'm sorry. It cut out right when you were asking your question. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I was just asking - my question was about public policy changes that you would be in favor of to try to help distress workers or help workers during a time of a pandemic? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Yeah well I mean I would echo a lot of what Amy's already said, really you know providing those resources you know the increasing you know of course minimum wage would reduce a lot of the anxieties, also providing even paid sick leave for folks who are maybe not full time workers for - right now we're seeing a lot of people feel obligated to come to work even if they are experiencing symptoms right? So if they had the assurance that they would they could stay home and still at least get a paycheck for staying home when they feel sick, you know that would definitely have a lot of important implications for our public health and also for our psychological health as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Just a follow up to that real quick. I'm wondering just about the timing of putting sort of this paid sick leave on to employers when a lot of those are struggling to stay to keep their doors open. 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Yeah. I mean that's that's a great point. So this is all kind of thinking in an ideal world. But certainly we need to think of you know the the feasibility of some of these things. In terms of other opportunity or other options at least providing - if we can't always provide paid sick leave, ensuring that there is sufficient backups right and creating schedules so that when folks do need to take time off that there's enough coverage so that they have the - they feel like they have the option to to take the day off. So yeah. That would be some solutions I could think of. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Okay. Amy. 

>>AMY CARTER: This is something that we hear often as we are fighting for paid leave is, what will it do for businesses? And the Families First Coronavirus Act is reimbursed. So businesses are not being hit with that. And then for paid leave at the state level we've been looking into sort of like a pool that employees would pay. I think its a dollar something a paycheck. And then if they need to take leave employers can use money from that pool to hire a replacement or pay overtime for people. And that's something where we need it to be a full statewide policy so that that pool is big enough to make it work. So that's one of the solutions that we've looked at the state level. And there are only two countries in the world that don't offer people leave and it's us and one other. And so there's got to be a way we can figure out how to do it, if the rest of the world has. 

>>PAT EAST: I'd like to offer another perspective just as a CEO of a fast growing company. And that's that you know it may feel or seem difficult to implement some of these policies on a company by company basis but I guarantee you as somebody who's implemented them himself along with the help of a staff of course they're much easier to implement than maybe what it seems like it especially in the press. And so you know just as an example when we implemented paid parental leave a handful of years ago, we had resisted implementing it for a very long time because you know just the cost of paying somebody for 12 weeks is is an enormous cost for a business to bear. But once you started breaking that down, it's actually not as expensive as what it seems. So, you know, half of that can be paid with short term disability. And that's a very very short - or very very low expense for either the employee or the or the company. Part of that can be paid with paid time off which you know a lot of white collar jobs are already doing. And so you've probably got two thirds to three fourths of the cost right there. And then of course you know it would be up to the company to do the rest. So once we kind of started looking at it from a much more objective, analytical perspective and figured out how we can actually tackle it instead of just having kind of this knee jerk reaction of, oh, it's you know twelve weeks of paying somebody. That seems like a high cost. Once we actually dug into it was much easier to implement than than what we originally thought. And so I would really encourage other CEOs and other business owners out there to do the same thing. Now may not be a great time to raise wages. But think about how you could do that when your business is in a better financial position in the future. It's probably a bit easier than maybe what you think it is. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And I know when you were at Hanapin, when you were running Hanapin, it was - time after time it was listed as a great place to work. And all these you know - all these different publications and all these competitions or whatever. What are some other ways that you know looking forward that companies are going to be able to attract people to work for them if they're working from home or if they're working in an office or whatever. What are the kinds of benefits that you think need to be added to the portfolio by these businesses going forward? 

>>PAT EAST: So especially in the in these covid times where everybody is working remote is just to have as high end remote work equipment as possible. And so that means a really good laptop that runs when you wanted to run. It's a software that you need to be able to do your job. A lot of software isn't a one time purchase. It's a small monthly fee. And so we're really able to get a lot of access to really great software. It's having a headset. So if you're on the phone a lot you could more easily communicate with with your co-workers and customers. It's paying for furniture or desks for somebody to work from home, right? Rather than simply telling somebody or asking them to work from their kitchen table? Can you can you subsidize the cost of an actual workspace in their homes so that they're just kind of in a better mindset. And so I think maybe just doing some of those things, especially now that folks have really been forced into this remote work experience, I think those things are going to be table stakes in the future. But at least right now there's an opportunity for some companies to spend just a little bit more money but to be able to leapfrog other other companies who aren't providing those things. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And we have about 20 minutes to go. If you have questions or comments about how the workplace is changing and how the workforce is changing you can send them to us as questions or comments to news at Indiana Public Media dot org and you can also follow us on Twitter at Noon Edition. So are there other tips that - Pat, I guess I'd start with you again on this - tips that you can give for being productive when you're working from home? And also either you know Amy and Stephanie you might have ideas as well. 

>>PAT EAST: I think the first tip I would have for folks working from home is just to you know remind yourself that you're really not working from home. You happen to be working at home. But it's during a pandemic. And I think those two things are very different. I think even for the folks who were working from home before the pandemic. They're noticing - you know they're noticing that they're more fatigued now. And part of that is just because the conditions that we're working under are very different. We're in kind of this purgatory right now where we're not sure when we can go back to the office. So that's kind of hanging over us. If you are in the events industry you're wondering how far out you should push your next event. And so I think that's probably the first step is to just recognize that you're not working from home. You're working at home during a pandemic. You know I think the other things that folks can do to to be more productive at home - and I'll really kind of take the perspective of a CEO versus an employee - are you know - be - have extra empathy for your employees understand that they are that there's always something going on in people's lives even before the pandemic. But when you layer this on with you know with a pandemic a recession and racial issues, there's a lot happening in people's lives that you may not realize that they don't want to bring to the office or they don't want to bring to their co-workers. They don't want to burden them with that. And so just having extra empathy for folks in understanding that if somebody is having a rough day that that's OK every once in a while. We all have rough days before the pandemic. We'll have rough days during the pandemic. We'll all get through it. But I think right now we just need a little bit of extra care. And I think the other thing that maybe employers and CEOs can do is have kind of an extreme flexibility with day care options. Folks really don't have daycare options right now. You know folks - at least an MCCSE they're not able to go to school yet. And so you're having to figure out how to be the teacher the day care provider, the I.T. consultant to troubleshoot in addition to actually doing your job. And so you know the kids are going to have problems throughout the day. And they can't figure everything out on your own. And so there just needs to be a lot of flexibility with daycare. Even if you can hire somebody to handle some of those issues on a regular basis if you're in that position, you still need some flexibility because not all those folks are going to be 100 percent reliable. So I think that extreme flexibility with daycare, especially if you're a CEO, just giving that option to your employees it is super important right now for them to be just as productive as possible, knowing that they have that psychological safety of being able to say, OK, I tried my hardest. I was productive as I could be. I'll try again tomorrow. I wasn't able to control this but I'm not going to get dinged on my next review because of a pandemic, a recession, racial issues that are quite literally out of my control. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Amy. 

>>AMY CARTER: I'm so glad that you said that Pat. I mean childcare is huge for people right now, trying to manage e-learning and the different platforms and all of that. I wanted to highlight one of the responses we got from women in our survey. One of them said that her income changed because she was fired due to not meeting expectation caused by a lack of childcare directly related to COVID 19. So we cannot underscore the importance of childcare enough. People are trying to do their very best working from home if they have that opportunity and it's really hard. So I think that's something companies can do to going forward to entice employees to work for them as having daycare options or stipends or things that will help with that huge cost. 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: It's bouncing off of that. There's a lot of research on what we call family supportive super but supervisor behaviors that are simply behaviors that help employees manage their work and family roles. So for instance, you know, providing flexibility when needed, sharing ideas with employees about how to balance their work and family lives, providing accommodations as much as possible and being understanding when, you know, employees have their children in the background of Zoom calls. All of these things really helped to create a family supportive environment. And right now, that's more important than ever. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Stephanie, can you talk a little bit about how especially, you know, collaborative work spaces are they're being  - they have to do their work remotely. I'm just wondering about just the psychological effects on that when they're not, you know, Zoom is no replacement for being able to work collaboratively on a project. And if you have any suggestions of things that are good ways to improve that. 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Yeah. Well, you're absolutely correct that this experience, you know, communication and collaboration is very different now. And that's actually created a lot of other issues, for instance, feelings of isolation and loneliness. So that's been a major problem with, you know, everybody working remotely very quickly. And as you mentioned, it's also challenging in terms of - creative challenges in terms of working together. And so one issue in particular related to that is communication is much more difficult, right? Now we're finding that we're depending more on technology to communicate, whether it be through email or through chat. we when we have these mediated forms of communication, it provides more opportunities for miscommunications and unclear messages. So I would say one suggestion is, you know, whenever we have - if it's just a quick communications, something small, you know, it's fine. Just send it through chat or email. But if you are needing to convey a message that is critical, very important then, you know, you definitely want to try to create or use a less mediated form of communication, for instance, do it over a Zoom call if possible so that we have those - you know, you have those nonverbal cues to ensure that the message is, there's not, you know, the message is clear. Related to that, though, there is also what we call a Zoom fatigue, right? I think we've all felt it, especially if we're working from home. I know I've had many Zoom meetings every day for many weeks. So keep in mind that Zoom is not always the answer, right? I think it's important to kind of balance out the amount of video calls that we are scheduling each day as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Could follow up on that. And one of the things that I would say I've personally felt is it's really tough to be your own your own IT department, you know? So could you talk a little bit about that as a stressor during this time? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Absolutely. Yeah, the tech technology challenges is incredibly stressful. It creates a lot of anxiety. There's a lot of pressure. In addition and other issue related to technology or something that's adding to it is there are some reports of companies using, you know, electronic monitoring to ensure that their employees are remaining productive. For instance, requiring them to keep their cameras on while they're working throughout the day. All of this creates more opportunities for technology issues, of course. But then it also creates a lot of anxiety and stress when it's already a really difficult time, you know, dealing with the pandemic and all the other stresses that we've talked about. So yeah, the technology has definitely led to a lot of it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, thank you. And Amy, you know, I'm one of the lucky ones because I do have a lot of equipment at home that I don't know really how to use but I try. But there are a lot of people that don't have - this, again, sort of highlights the gap between different kinds of people, correct? 

>>AMY CARTER: Absolutely. I mean, even one of my co-workers just this week was talking about having to print assignments for some of her kids work and wondering how many people have a printer at home, how many people can absorb the cost of buying a printer so that their kid can do their e-learning. You know, the reliability of Internet. you know you got kicked off your meeting last week like you said. I mean, yeah, if people have trouble accessing those things, then as Steph said it's incredibly stressful and just a reason to look at. I've heard some people say Internet as not a privilege but, like, a public utility. We're seeing how much we need it to interact even at the most basic level. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And Pat, you addressed this a little bit when you talked about how it was really important for people, for companies, for a CEO to make sure that that his or her employees had all the right equipment. How - you know, how prevalent do you think that is? Do you think that's a something I know? People at the mill, do they talk about that? Is this one of the issues that you converse with folks there about? 

>>PAT EAST: Yeah, I think having the right tools is extremely important, and I think, you know, when you're going through a recession maybe it's, you know, in business it is tougher to come by it's maybe easier to say hey I'm not going to invest in X tool or Y piece of software. And I think now is the time when you need to double down on that because it's not just hey, I'm saving $10 a month by not buying the software it's you're saving 10 dollars a month but you're also decreasing productivity of an employee. And during a pandemic, you know, that's really going to compound itself quite a bit. You know, small things can start to become big things when you have these additional stressors of a pandemic and a recession and racial issues on top of that. And so I think now's the time for companies to double down on that. And I think now's a - you know, we've seen a really, really urgent and important need for communities to have widespread internet access, you know, with students not being able to go to school, not - literally not everyone has Internet access. And so these kids are having to figure out how to get their assignments done. They have to still go to school to pick them up and so forth. And they may have to go to Taco Bell to get Wi-Fi access. These things are - you know, these add additional stressors onto folks. And so I think now is a - you know, while it's still in front of us, it's a great time for communities to really take up the mantle of making sure everybody has widespread internet access. I love that Mayor Hamilton took this up a couple of years ago. And I think now would be another great time. On top of everything else they're trying to do, obviously, I think now would be an opportune time while everybody is literally feeling it who has kids in school to make sure everybody has that Internet access. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Amy, I know we don't have a lot of time left, but could you just talk a little bit about advice for people, how you manage up in situations like this if you don't feel safe, how you can top with your employer about some possible accommodations or if you're working from home and you don't have what you need? How can you have that sort of conversation? 

>>AMY CARTER: That's difficult because a lot of times people are afraid to ask for those accommodations. We've been working on trying to get pregnancy accommodations in the workforce, which I know isn't pandemic related. But we heard from women who needed a chair at their checkout counter or something and were afraid to ask because they were afraid they would get fired or lose hours. So I think it depends on the industry you're in and it depends on your workplace if that's going to be an option. And I think that's a deeper conversation about how we treat workers and how we protect workers. That goes beyond the worker taking the responsibility of that and really having employers recognize the worth of their employees. 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Yes, I completely agree. I would say that, you know, it's incredibly important for organizations to provide avenues, for employees to provide their feedback, right? It's important that they solicit the feedback from employees, you know? What do they need? What do they watch? Not only will this help provide them with the resources that they're lacking. And clearly there's many right now and we're in the midst of all this. But also this ability to provide this feedback is going to create more of a sense of community and help employees feel like they are being heard and they're a part of the organization and they're not being, you know, forgotten about during this time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Stephanie, in the last minute that we have, I know that you you've done some work on something called Cyber Loafing and searching about work, and can you sort of talk a little bit about how it's OK for people to take breaks and try to make sure they're taking care of themselves during this time? 

>>STEPHANIE ANDEL: Absolutely, yes. S breaks or what I like to call micro breaks are there's just a small breaks of a few minutes, you know, whether it be surfing the web, which should be cyber loafing, searching the web for non-work purposes, taking a quick break to step outside to grab a cup of coffee. You know, research shows that these micro breaks of just a few minutes are helpful in breaking up the groundhogs phenomena that a lot of us are experiencing in which we feel like we're living the same day every day. But it also helps to reduce some feelings of burnout, right? This is a lot. We're dealing with a lot as we've mentioned and so, you know, being kind to ourselves, providing those breaks is very helpful in terms of rejuvenating our mental energy and ensuring that we really, you know, are resilient and can keep moving forward. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right, thank you very much Stephanie Andel. And also Amy Carter and Pat East, thanks for being here with us today. I want to thank all three of those guests and I want to thank producers Bente Bouthier and John Bailey, engineers Matt Stonesifer and Mike Paskash and my co-host Sara Wittmeyer, and Bob Zaltsberg, thanks for listening. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition. 

>>: (MUSIC PLAYING) 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at WFIU.org/noonedition. Production support comes from Smithville, fiber internet, streaming TV home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at Smithville.com. And from Bloomington Health Foundation, this September hosting the virtual 21st running of Hoosiers Outrun Cancer, a 5k run slash walk supporting those in the community facing a cancer diagnosis. Registration and more at Hoosiersoutruncancer.org.

office

(Michael Coghlan, Creative Commons)

In March, the country saw major shifts in the work force because of COVID-19.

In Indiana, unemployment reached nearly 15 percent in May and has remained high since then.

Many people also began to work from home. A National Bureau of Economic Research study says 35 percent of people who were commuting to work started working from home. 

People whose jobs were deemed essential and continued to work through the pandemic have been at an increased risk of exposure to the virus and falling ill.

Work force changes caused by the pandemic have disproportionately affected vulnerable communities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanics say they have the ability to work from home, while 37 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of whites say they have that ability. The bureau also says people who have a college education or higher are much more likely to be able to work from home than someone who has less than a high school diploma.

And now, people who started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic are coming to terms with the fact their work environment may never return to normal.

Reviews on working from home are mixed. Some people new to remote working struggle to remain productive while balancing work and home life, but others report increased productivity due to more job flexibility.

People are saving money and time because they don’t have to commute to their work site, but one report says nearly a third of workers say communication with their co-workers has worsened.

This week, we’re talking about changes in the work culture and how people are adapting.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at news@indianapublicmedia.org.

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.

Guests

Pat East, Executive Director at The Dimension Mill

Stephanie Andel, IUPUI Department of Psychology assistant professor

Amy Carter, Indiana Institute for Working Families community outreach and engagement coordinator 

 

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