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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Safety costs, digitization and flexibility — a top consultant outlines what American workplaces may look like in the age of coronavirus.

Why it matters: As states gradually reopen, businesses will need to decide how much work can continue remotely, how much needs to be done in a workplace — and how those workplaces will need to be adapted.

What's happening: This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released sweeping new guidelines for office buildings reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations include ubiquitous face coverings, keeping desks six feet apart (or separated by plastic shields) and limiting the use of elevators.

  • PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan had already been thinking about how work will change during and after the pandemic, both for his own company of more than 250,000 employees and for his clients. I spoke with him about how companies can prepare for the coming changes.

1. Focus on workers, not real estate bills: With companies like Twitter talking about going permanently remote, there will be a temptation for CEOs to cut costs by cutting real estate. But Ryan says that "while you can get good returns on cost savings, it's better to have happier employees. The biggest mistake anyone can make is assuming a one-size-fits-all response will work."

2. Safety will be a cost of doing business: Just as factories have had to build in the cost of keeping workers safe in dangerous occupations, now ordinary offices will need to budget for infection prevention. "The cost is absolutely going to go up," he says.

  • At the same time, companies that show they're willing to go the extra mile to protect their workers will benefit in the competition for talent.

3. The future of work won't resemble the past — or the present: Everyone is in a race to either return to normal or declare a new one. But Ryan cautions that major shifts in workplace policies shouldn't be made in the heat of a pandemic or during the temporary honeymoon of remote work.

  • "I know work won't look like it did 12 weeks ago, and it won't look like it does today," he says.

Go deeper: When going back to work isn't safe

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Sep 6, 2020 - Health

Poll: 65% of voters feel COVID vaccine available this year would be "rushed"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Voters are growing skeptical of a potential coronavirus vaccine, with the majority saying they would feel it was rushed without enough testing if one becomes available this year, according to a CBS News poll out Sunday.

By the numbers: About 21% of U.S. voters said they would get a vaccine as soon as possible if one became available at no cost, down from 32% in the same poll in July. 58% say they would consider it, but they'd wait to see what happens to others before getting one. 

Updated Oct 25, 2020 - Health

13 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week

Data: Compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

13 states set new highs last week for coronavirus infections recorded in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project (CTP) and state health departments. Kansas, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming surpassed records from the previous week.

The big picture: The pandemic is getting worse again across the country, and daily coronavirus cases have risen in the U.S. for six straight weeks, according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios. The U.S. reported over 80,000 new cases on both Friday and Saturday.