Jabs for jobs and Fab Fridays: welcome to the future of work


Earlier this month, an Israeli CEO named Udi Ben Shimol hooked up to a video call with city bosses across Europe who all wanted to ask him one thing: what is it like when life gets back to normal. ?

In other words, how is it in the country that has become the global superstar of the Covid-19 vaccine?

“They said, ‘Udi, you are in Israel, you are at the end of the tunnel. What do you see? He told me last week. Alas, he had bad news. “I told them, ‘I see another tunnel’.”

I suspect that the European leaders were as disappointed as I was. More … than half of the population of Israel have received at least one vaccine and more than a third have had two. It has already started to reopen after another year of lockdown yet dogging parts of Europe.

Yet Ben Shimol is just one of many people I’ve spoken to recently who bring thought-provoking news on the fronts of the pandemic.

Their impressions are only snapshots, but they suggest the need to be prepared for anything, as even a successful deployment of a vaccine can have side effects.

Ben Shimol heads the Israeli division of Sodexo, the French catering group, and nearly 60% of his staff have already had two shots, which is just as good since customer demand increases. But it has a problem: 250 of its 1,800 employees are still on a government leave program that was extended last year until June 2021 and they don’t want to come back.

“No one thought the vaccination process would go so well,” he said. “I need the employees to come back to work, but they don’t want to come while they are making money without working.”

Those who are back had to respond to some unexpected customer requests.

Ben Shimol was surprised when a customer ordered buffet food for the staff canteen, along with less tempting packed lunches. It turned out that workers were only allowed to eat inside if they had one of the “green passports” that Israel introduced for people who were fully vaccinated, or those presumed to be immune after having self-reported. recovered from Covid. Those who were not vaccinated had to take their packed lunches outside.

Some employers have told non-jabless staff to stay away from the desk altogether. As a last resort, workers who refused a shot could be fired according to a legal opinion that Ron Tomer, president of the Israel Manufacturers Association, told me his association had ordered.

But what about Over 130 countries who had not given a single dose last month?

Unilever, the consumer goods group, operates in 100 of them, its director of human resources, Leena Nair, told an FT conference last week. And although about 36 of its 265 offices around the world have now reopened, many of them in Asia-Pacific, Nair says working life is often not what it used to be.

“Social jokes in the office have more or less stopped. There is no water cooler moment; there is no time for a coffee break, ”she said. “People are sitting two meters apart. It is not such a joyful experience to come to work. ”

Fortunately, working life is more encouraging for some in Australia, who last Wednesday reported no new local cases for the 12th consecutive day.

“We don’t wear masks, there is no 2m rule, there is a lot of talk about water coolers, that’s okay,” a friend said on the phone as she walked around to catch a train to work in Sydney last week.

The train was the only place she had to wear a mask, she said, adding that she had just come to a business conference, in person, with several hundred people.

But the lure of remote work remains a puzzle further south in Melbourne, where only 24% of workers have so far returned to the city center, according to the Property Council of Australia.

To bring them back, the council is pushing for the “Fab Fridays”: free public transport and 4pm cuts to work to bring back the buzz of the city.

I don’t know if this will spread, in Australia or elsewhere. But I doubt I’m the only one hoping that where Melbourne goes, the rest of the world will soon follow.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark





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