Simon Kadula/Shutterstock.com

When Americans Go Back to Work, Things Won’t Be the Same

Americans will have to change how they do business to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Here's what it could look like.

When the United States returns to work, things won’t be the same as they were, Jonathan Caulkins argues.

“I think it’s unrealistic to think that we will be able to re-open as we were before. In fact, I don’t want us to,” says Caulkins, professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “But society can, and should, make changes now to ease the transition and help the economy.”

In his opinion, the best way to boost the economy by getting some people back to work soon is to focus on manufacturing and construction.

In a recent op-ed he wrote for Politico, Caulkins notes that 20 million Americans work in those fields, which is more than those in leisure and hospitality. Many restaurants are open these days for take-out. Manufacturing plants, unless they produce health supplies, are mostly shuttered.

“Yet if you walked through both a typical restaurant kitchen and a manufacturing floor, you would see that many kitchen workers are forced to work much more closely to each other than on a factory floor,” Caulkins says.

“Modern manufacturing plants are very capital-intensive enterprises with a lower population density. And a typical factory is used to putting a premium on controlled work processes that are safety-driven. Many could open now.”

For the record, Caulkins thinks restaurants should stay open, too. But, with more creativity and flexibility from governments, he sees a pathway for millions of additional workers to soon join cooks and cashiers back at work with even greater safety than we have today. Even furniture and electronics stores are potential candidates.

“Target can stay open and sell TVs and lamps because they also sell groceries. But other big-box businesses, with equally large buildings that don’t sell food, can’t open their doors,” Caulkins says. “Perhaps we limit the number of customers at a time. Or allow sales people to use video technology to show items remotely and take orders on the phone.”

Caulkins sees three categories of businesses in this COVID era: those that are essential and must remain open, such as hospitals; less-essential businesses that should stay closed for now because they introduce more risk than value, such as concert venues and theme parks; and those in the middle that should be given leeway for getting their employees back to work.

“Some could open now, predicated on a plan the business develops that implements safe social distancing protocols. Government officials would visit and inspect the business in the days and weeks to come,” he says.

“Other businesses would have to first submit their plans for review before being approved to re-open. The people who know best about how to make their workplaces safe are those who work in them.

“Our country’s current mindset is very binary: companies are either life-sustaining or not,” Caulkins adds. “They can stay open or they must close. We can’t economically survive with that rigid outlook indefinitely in place until life eventually returns to whatever ‘normal’ awaits us.”

Caulkins has several ideas that could bring more Americans back to work, in addition to new ways to create revenue for businesses that aren’t currently open:

Keep Stores Open Longer 

“I see many stores shortening their hours in an attempt to minimize social contact. But it also forces the same number of customers into a smaller window of time. Keep the stores open later, even 24 hours, to disperse the crowds. It would also provide more shifts for employees,” Caulkins says.

Make Gas Stations Full-Service 

“Gas stations should remain open, but self-service involves scores of people touching the same pump handle every day. With so many people needing work, why not require gas to be pumped by gloved attendants with payments made online?”

Changes for Retail

“Limit the number of customers in the stores, or allow sales persons to use video technology to show items remotely and take orders on the phone. Pick-ups could be curbside or inside the store using social distancing guidelines.”

Open Gold Courses 

“It’s odd to me that golf courses are closed. When you’re playing, you’re more socially distant than walking down the sidewalk. But if a golf course can’t open, cities could rent the property for the next few months and turn it into a temporary park with walking trails. Parks are very busy these days, as people look for ways to get outside. Golf courses would increase available green spaces for the public.”

Create New Jobs 

“We have hundreds of thousands of people who are scared and lonely while self-isolating. They could be depressed and out of work, or too sick to have visitors,” Caulkins says.

“Thousands of people could be hired by the government to simply call them to provide comfort, entertainment, and interaction in order to address psycho-social needs that aren’t currently being met.”

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

This article was originally published in Futurity. Edits have been made to this republication. It has been republished under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.