Bracing for the COVID ‘long haul’

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A sore back and overstrained eyes prompted my first visit back to the office since March, when Arizent shuttered our New York headquarters in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

I came in search of my standing desk and screen shields to recreate my work station at home. My neck and back were in knots, as the long slog of daily commutes turned into a new routine of long hours in front of computer screens, back-to-back video conference sessions and the juggling of work and home schedules.

It was a surprise to walk through New York City’s empty streets, and an even more surreal experience to walk into such a stark office. Seeing the withered plants and abandoned work stations, it was hard not to think about how much has changed in six months.

Typically, our team would be busy at work, side-by-side, or on the road covering industry conferences. Instead, we’re now 100% virtual, and hustling to cover events from the comfort of home via video or our smart phones.

For this month’s issue, we asked experts like Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO of Cleo, a parenting benefits startup, to imagine how work will evolve in the post-COVID-19 world, and Spencer Williams, the CEO of Retirement Clearinghouse to weigh in on the state of retirement in America.

For Sacchetti, the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the working parent crisis, especially as parents try to get back to the office, just as students return to school.

“Early plans for child care have yet to materialize, and the continued slog is taking its toll on working parents,” Sacchetti writes. “As school districts announce their plans to continue with virtual learning this fall, it’s clear that we are on this roller coaster for the long haul.”

For Williams, the pandemic’s ripple effect may be catastrophic for employees’ retirement plans. With more than 50 million Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis, the country is facing another economic crisis that is sure to hurt financial security during retirement, he says.

“These alarming trends were uncovered long prior to the pandemic and lockdown,” Williams writes.

Employers now have a unique opportunity to help employees mitigate these trends by offering smart strategies to deal with financial hardship.

It’s clear from all the experts we spoke with that the coronavirus healthcare crisis is forcing all of us to ask new questions and to create new models of work and home life.

In our cover story, associate editor Evelina Nedlund showcases some of the inventors and innovators who may have some of the answers, in our annual Digital Innovators compilation.

Just in time for the back-to-school season, Helpr, a Los Angeles-based family support technology company, made this year’s list, with a service that allows working parents to manage scheduling and payment for their backup child care providers.

Pouria Mojabi and Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founders of Supportiv, offer mental wellness support, as their name implies, to employees who need 24/7 chat-base peer help for well- being needs, ranging from depression to loneliness or various life struggles such as parenting or relationship stress — challenges that all of us can relate to as the pandemic extends to a new season.

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Coronavirus Work from home Retirement income Healthcare innovations