The array of interconnected forces and relentless uncertainty unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic has profoundly tested people’s physical and mental health over the last 19 months.
Now, as many Americans who adapted to remote work begin returning to pre-pandemic workplaces, the expected anxieties over what lies ahead are running headlong into the delta variant surge, reigniting panic about being indoors and in close contact with others. The U.S. recorded more than 911,000 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Aug. 15, according to Washington Post tracking data, a caseload is as high as it was in January, just after adult vaccinations began in earnest.
“I think all of us are realizing that there is no way that we are going back to the workplace the way it was before March 2020,” said Glorian Sorensen, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Chan Center for Work, Health and Well-Being, during a talk Tuesday about the social, psychological and organizational challenges with which workers and employers are contending.
For many, the pandemic laid bare economic and racial disparities, as well as the outsized share of childcare duties that women often bear in addition to their work. These are significant daily pressures that will continue to affect worker well-being even as the public health dangers of the virus recedes, while employers are balancing a complicated set of economic, legal, and ethical responsibilities amid political and social divisions over vaccination policies and mask-wearing.
One company at the forefront of handling these issues is the Walt Disney Co., which has a comprehensive approach to COVID, noted moderator John Quelch, a former Harvard Chan School and Harvard Business School professor and now dean of the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami.