Almost a year into the COVID-19 crisis, employees are still crying out for more support. Diverse groups—including women, LGBTQ+ employees, people of color, but also working parents—are having the hardest time, both in the workplace and with balancing work and home life.
To understand the challenges diverse employees are grappling with in the COVID-19 environment, we recently conducted surveys and interviews and examined data across 11 developed and developing countries (see sidebar, “Our survey methodology”). 1 1. Countries covered by this research are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We discovered that workers across demographic groups and geographies reported a remarkably similar set of challenges related to mental health, work–life balance, workplace health and safety, a missing sense of connectivity and belonging with colleagues, and concerns about job opportunities.
However, there were also differences. The severity and prevalence of these challenges, such as with mental health, were far higher in developing countries than in developed nations. Among diverse groups, these concerns were both higher in number and felt with greater urgency. Women in particular are worried about the health and safety of on-site workplaces and mental-health issues. They are also more concerned than men about increased household responsibilities—suggesting that the stress of the “double shift” continues to be a gendered issue around the world. Women in emerging economies such as India and Brazil are two to three times more likely to report challenges as their peers in developed countries, suggesting that gender and local context may have a compounding effect.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption to our working lives in the short term, and is likely to change the way that we work in the long term. 1 1. This article complements the substantial body of research by the McKinsey Global Institute on the future of work. For instance, see The future of work in Europe: Automation, workforce transitions, and the shifting geography of employment, McKinsey Global Institute, June 2020, and The future of work in America: People and places, today and tomorrow, McKinsey Global Institute, July 2019. To understand these changes, McKinsey commissioned a survey of business executives around the world in June 2020. The results suggest that the crisis may accelerate some workforce trends already underway, such as the adoption of automation and digitization, increased demand for contractors and gig workers, and more remote work. Those changes in turn will create greater demand for workers to fill jobs in areas like health and hygiene, cybersecurity, and data analytics.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) and the MIT Press recently announced that Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy, will now be an open-access publication. The MIT Press has published Dædalus on behalf of the academy since 2003. Years of volumes and hundreds of essays previously behind a paywall have been ungated and made freely available.
“Open access to Dædalus is a meaningful way to support the best interests of authors and audiences, and increase the impact of the academy’s work,” says David W. Oxtoby, president of the AAAS. “With this investment, we are making scholarship more broadly accessible as part of our commitment to sharing knowledge, promoting the exchange of ideas, and increasing public trust in information and its sources.”
First published in 1955 and established as a quarterly journal in 1958, Dædalus has addressed a wide and multidisciplinary range of subjects over the years. Topics explored in recent issues include climate change, access to justice, and ethics, technology, and war; the current issue looks at the versatile literary form of the novel. Essays are written by leading scholars and practitioners sharing their expertise and insights across a range of disciplines.
Last fall, seniors in the MIT Department of Biological Engineering (BE) took on the most relevant of all possible design challenges — the Covid-19 pandemic. The capstone design class in the Course 20 major, class 20.380 (Biological Engineering Design) has a different theme every semester, and in September there was little doubt about this fall’s topic — Addressing the Pandemic with BE. “We weren't sure how students would respond. Would they be exhausted by Covid? Instead, students leapt at the chance to apply their skills to such an immediate problem,” says Professor Angela Koehler, a member of the teaching team.
“When the pandemic began, as Course 20s many of us felt helpless,” senior Afeefah Khazi-Syed observes. “This was supposed to be our area of expertise, and yet we were all stuck in quarantine. 20.380 helped us think about how the skills we’ve developed through the years can lead to much-needed innovation. It was rewarding to work on a project that is so directly relevant to the current situation.”