At a time filled with so much uncertainty, it is critical to remember the following mantra: DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC!

Say it with me, one more time. DO. NOT. PANIC.

The last few weeks have been nothing short of chaotic due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has swept the globe, infecting over 108,000 people with more than 3,400 deaths. Currently, with more than 500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths in the United States we have moved past containment and have been told to be prepared for disruption to our daily routine.

What does this mean?

It is possible you may have to work from home, and in the event you are exposed to the virus, feel sick or are near someone exhibiting signs of illness, be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days. This means having enough food and supplies on hand to cover every member of your household in the event you can't leave. Here is a short list of items to give you an idea of what you should have in case of an emergency or quarantine:

  1. Bottled Water (1 gallon per person for each day you plan to be quarantined)
  2. Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap
  3. Medical Supplies (contact lenses, contact solution, hearing aid batteries)
  4. First Aid Kit (bandages, disinfectant)
  5. Prescription Medication (30 day supply) plus any OTC (over the counter) meds you might need like Advil, Tylenol etc.
  6. Canned Foods (meat, vegetables, in liquid that can be used for cooking)
  7. Cereal, Rice, Beans, Oats (oatmeal, grains)
  8. Batteries
  9. Chocolate or some type of alternate sweet (studies show the importance on maintaining optimal mental health)
  10. Latex gloves, N95 face masks (respirators)
The New York State Department of Health has set up a toll free hotline to address all issues related to the novel Coronavirus and can be reached at (888) 364-3065.

You can also follow the latest news regarding Coronavirus in New York state here.

Why does this seem so bad?

Lack of preparation, transparency from the CDC, clear direction from the government, and a President who fails to inspire confidence in the American people has caused panic across the country in the form of unnecessary hoarding of household supplies like toilet paper and bottled water, xenophobic discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian descent. It has also rocked the global financial markets as traders desperately seek answers and a bottom to the rout.

By 10pm EST yesterday, it was clear that the world was in for another rough week. U.S. Stock market futures were down near 5% overnight which triggered a halt in trading. Over the years, certain measures were put in place designed to prevent panic from tanking equities markets and give investors time to digest the latest market news. Historically, it has worked exactly as intended and is a critical tool in times of great volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was down 1,200 points in pre-market trading and global markets were in a free-fall for the rest of the night.

And then the market opened......

For the first time since 1997 trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange this morning for 15 minutes following a 7% drop in the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was also down over 1,900 points when the 'circuit' was broken. Designed to prevent a free fall in equities, 3 "circuit breakers" were put in place in the event certain benchmarks were hit, the first of which occurred at 9:35am EST (only 4 minutes after the opening bell!). Trading resumed at 9:49am. If stocks continue to fall and hit a 13% drop for the day, another 15 minute pause will take place. In the event that stocks retreat more than 20%, the market would be closed for the rest of the day.

Oil War For the Ages??

More bad news originating from last week's failed OPEC+ alliance meeting sent oil prices plummeting as a price war broke out in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has announced a massive price cut for their oil, while sources claim they plan to simultaneously increase production to more than 10,000,000 barrels per day with the possibility of exceeding 12,000,000 barrels on some days. This "Shock & Awe" tactic is a desperate attempt by the Saudi's to increase marketshare worldwide. In response, Russia has indicated they will also increase their production to maximum levels. And the price war has begun.

The last time a price war this serious broke out was during the first Gulf War in 1991. As of the opening bell this morning, the price of a barrel of oil dropped more than 30% ($27).

What does this mean for the west?

Quite possibly the end of the U.S. Shale market, for starters. With the price of oil below $30 a barrel, oil wells in West Texas are now operating at a loss.

Since 2014 the price of oil has been subject to wild volatility as the west became one of the largest exporters of shale oil in the world and price manipulation out of Saudi Arabia saw the price of oil drop from $100/barrel to less than $40. Despite a few brief periods of upswings, it still has not returned to normal levels and is showing no signs of recovery.

Now What?

It is important to remind yourself that things will get better. Do not panic. Life will get better, the world will come to its senses and you just have to give it time.

Hang in there.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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