Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020. The Biden administration’s report undid those designations, citing insufficient evidence.
Instead, the department said it would continue “enhanced engagement” with Vietnam and Switzerland and begin such talks with Taiwan, which includes urging the trading partners to address undervaluation of their currencies.
“Treasury is working tirelessly to address efforts by foreign economies to artificially manipulate their currency values that put American workers at an unfair disadvantage,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement.
Taiwan is the United States’ 10th largest trading partner in 2019, according to the United States trade representative. Vietnam is the 13th largest, and Switzerland is 16th.
The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.
Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.
Millions of workers are wondering what the office will be like when they go back after a long stretch of remote work. Employers are trying to prepare them for it.
IBM has designed a “reorientation” program to help its employees adjust when they return to a familiar setting but face a host of unfamiliar new procedures, the DealBook newsletter writes.
“It’s sort of like the first day of school,” said Joanna Daly, the company’s vice president of talent. “A day early, kids go and get to see the classroom or see how things work.”
This is needed, she said, because it is “not simply returning to the workplace as it existed before or the ways of working as it existed before.”
IBM made a “day in the life” video to show employees what to expect. One version of the 11-minute-long video seen by DealBook starts with “Paul” going back to one of IBM’s offices in Britain. To start the day, he goes through a self-screening checklist to assess potential exposure. He enters the office through designated entrances and picks up his masks for the day (and disinfectant wipes if he needs them). Arrows guide him through the halls and up one-way staircases. Only one person is allowed in the bathroom at a time.
The cafeteria is closed, so Paul must bring his lunch. He can’t use the whiteboards or marker pens in conference rooms (and he shouldn’t linger there longer than necessary). If Paul sees other IBMers not following the safety protocols, “It is OK to politely remind them,” the narrator assures him.
Along with the video, IBM produced an 18-page presentation depicting “Sonia’s’’ return to the workplace, serving as a friendly, cartoon-filled back-to-work manual.
“We’re looking now at how might anxiety manifests itself differently for different employees around being back together and then how do we address that,” Ms. Daly said, “through practical understanding of health and safety and also through having enough flexibility in the environment that everyone can kind of get used to coming back.”
IBM, which has 346,000 employees, hasn’t set a timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. The company’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, has said he expects 80 percent of them will work in a hybrid fashion when they do.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled an electric counterpart to its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan on Thursday, the latest in a series of moves by German automakers to defend their dominance of the high end of the car market against Tesla.
The EQS, which will be available in the United States in August, is the first of four electric vehicles Mercedes will introduce this year, including two S.U.V.s that will be made at the company’s factory in Alabama and a lower-priced sedan. Mercedes did not announce a price for the EQS, but it is unlikely to be lower than the S-Class, which starts at $94,000 in the United States.
The cars could be decisive for Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, as it tries to adapt to new technology.
“It is important to us,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, said of the EQS during an interview. “In a way it is kind of day one of a new era.”
The EQS has a range of 770 kilometers or about 480 miles, according to Mercedes. If that figure is confirmed by independent testing, the EQS would dethrone the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus as the production electric car that can travel the farthest between charges. The Tesla currently occupies the No. 1 spot with a range of just over 400 miles, according to rankings by Kelley Blue Book.
The EQS owes its stamina to advances in battery technology and an exceptionally aerodynamic design, Mr. Källenius said. Some analysts question whether Mercedes can sell enough electric vehicles to justify the cost of development, but Mr. Källenius said, “We will make money with the EQS from the word ‘go.’”
The EQS is the latest attempt by German carmakers to show that they can apply their expertise in engineering and production efficiency to battery-powered cars. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, so the carmakers’ success or failure will have a significant impact on the country’s prosperity.
On Wednesday, Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, unveiled the Q4 E-Tron, an electric SUV. The Q4 shares many components with the Volkswagen ID.4, an electric SUV that the company began delivering to customers in the United States in March. Though priced to compete with internal combustion models, neither vehicle offers as much range as comparable Tesla cars.
In the S-Class tradition, the EQS offers over-the-top luxury features like software that can recognize when a driver might be feeling fatigued and can offer to turn on the massage function embedded in the seat.
“You’re going to get S-Class level refinement in a very, very high performing electric car,” Mr. Källenius said. “That’s your buying argument.”
China on Friday reported that its economy grew by a remarkable 18.3 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year.But the spike is as much a reflection of how bad matters were a year ago — when the China’s output shrank by 6.8 percent — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.
Global demand for the computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.
China’s recovery has also been powered by big infrastructure. Cranes dot city skylines. Construction projects for highways and railroads have provided short-term jobs. Property sales have also helped strengthen economic activity.
Exports and property investment can carry China’s growth only so far. Now China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic ways.
Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.
Travel restrictions over the Lunar New Year holiday dampened consumer appetite and slowed the momentum of Chinese shoppers. But retail data on Friday showed that March sales were better than expected, raising hopes that consumers might be starting to feel confident.
By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet
Global stocks rose on Friday after a string of strong economic reports and company earnings.
The S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent, set for its fourth straight week of gains and another record. The benchmark had gained 1 percent in the week through Thursday and is up nearly 5 percent so far this month.
The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent on Friday, also climbing to a record, while the FTSE 100 in Britain climbed above 7,000 points for the first time since February 2020. Stock indexes in Japan, Hong Kong and China all closed higher.
China reported on Friday that its economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year, when swathes of the country had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, data showed U.S. retail sales in March leapt past expectations, increasing by nearly 10 percent, and initial state jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic.
This week, banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported better-than-expected earnings, and their chief executives delivered upbeat economic forecasts.
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to 1.57 percent on Friday. Last month, concerns that government spending would overheat the economy and lead to higher inflation sent bond yields shooting higher, to 1.74 percent on March 31. But those worries appear to have been soothed by central bank officials, who have repeatedly said they expect increases in inflation to be temporary.
Earlier this week, data showed that prices in the United States rose2.6 percent in March from a year earlier, a larger-than-normal increase partly because prices of some items fell in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold.
Another reason yields have drifted lower is a “remarkable” demand for bonds, ING, a Dutch bank, said. Recent Treasury bond auctions have received more bids than normal, and JPMorgan Chase sold $13 billion of bonds on Thursday, the biggest sale ever by a bank, according to Bloomberg.
“Cash has to go somewhere, and it can’t all go into equities,” the ING analysts wrote in a note to clients.
Twitter said on Thursday that it had blocked the account of James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas.
Mr. O’Keefe’s account, @JamesOKeefeIII, was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam,” specifically that users cannot mislead others with fake accounts or “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations” through the use of multiple accounts, a Twitter spokesman said.
In a statement on his website, Mr. O’Keefe said he will file a defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday over its claim that he had operated fake accounts.
“This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay,” the statement said.
“Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me,” Mr. O’Keefe said, referring to a legal liability shield for social media. That shield, part of the federal Communications Decency Act, has become a favorite target of lawmakers in both parties.
In February, Twitter permanently suspended the Project Veritas account, saying it had posted private information. It also temporarily locked Mr. O’Keefe’s account.
To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.
Caolan Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.
Over more than two years, he helped produce and publish videos for right-wing Youtube personalities including Lauren Southern, Cade Metz reports for The New York Times.
Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Mr. Robertson said, he and Ms. Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. They attended a women’s march in London and, with Ms. Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”
They often received a confused, measured or polite response, according to Mr. Robertson. They continued to ask the question and sharpened it. Ms. Southern, for example, said it would be difficult for Muslim women to answer the question because their husbands wouldn’t let them attend the march. That caused anger to build in the crowd.
“It appears in the videos that we are just trying to figure out what is going on, gather information, understand people,” Mr. Robertson said. “But really, we were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad.”
Ms. Southern described the situation differently. “We asked the question because we knew it was going to force people to question their own political views and realize the contradiction in being a hard-core feminist but also supporting a religion that, quite frankly, has questionable practices around women,” she said. And, she added, they used video techniques that any media company would use.
A court has awarded attendees of the infamous Fyre Festival approximately $7,220 apiece, nearly four years after they were left scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach. The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.
CBS is turning to a pair of outsiders to restore the fortunes of a news operation that trails its rivals at ABC and NBC. CBS said on Thursday that Neeraj Khemlani, a vice president at the publishing powerhouse Hearst, and Wendy McMahon, a former ABC executive, would succeed Ms. Zirinsky. The two will serve as presidents and co-heads of CBS News, a division that will be expanded to include local stations owned by the network.
If 2020 was the summer of the pandemic-enforced road trip, many people seem to be hoping that 2021 will be the summer they can travel overseas. But that’s a big “if.” Roadblocks abound, among them, the rise of variant cases in popular destinations like Europe and confusion about the role that vaccine “passports” will play as people begin crossing borders. The recent pause on Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine adds a new wrinkle.
Still, there is reason for optimism. The number of vaccine doses administered each day in the United States has tripled in the last few months, and President Biden has said the United States is still on track to vaccinate every American adult who wants it by the end of May. Globally, the number of shots has been rising, with more than 840 million vaccines administered worldwide.
Currently, Americans are restricted from entering many countries for nonessential trips. Travelers can check the U.S. State Department website for specific country entry restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to view recommendations for international travelers (vaccinated and unvaccinated), and the C.D.C. COVID Data Tracker to monitor country conditions.
Iceland announced on March 16 that it would allow all vaccinated travelers into the country, Delta Air Lines followed soon after with an announcement that in May it would resume its Iceland routes from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, and offer a new route from Boston.
it’s been reported that the Biden administration may cancel existing travel restrictions for foreign nationals coming from Britain, Europe and Canada, around mid-May.
Still, the market is very much in flux, Mr. Grant said, so even though airlines may be increasing their flight schedules, they will continue to adjust to demand, possibly consolidating some of the flights.
United Airlines plans to increase international flights, but will still be operating just about half of its 2019 schedule. Among the flights it is eyeing are those between Chicago and Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Tel Aviv. The company also plans to increase service from Los Angeles to Sydney and Tokyo Narita.
Beach destinations that are open to Americans have seen an increase in demand and United is scheduling 90 more flights per week to or from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America than it had in May 2019.
Patrick Quayle, the vice president of the United Airlines’ international network, said the company had been adding more flights to countries that were open, but was uncertain when additional destinations like Canada — which is currently closed to American tourists and which has recently seen a rise in cases — would be added to that list. United is trying to be nimble, he said, so “if something were to open up, we can put our aircraft in the sky quickly.”
At American Airlines, new routes are planned this summer from New York to Athens and Tel Aviv, and from Miami to Suriname and Tel Aviv. (Israel has announced it would allow some vaccinated tourists into the country beginning May 23.) American also announced it was restarting a number of flights to Europe. Beyond that, the company won’t speculate on where air travel will open next.
Travel-Ready Center allows passengers with booked tickets to view country-specific entry requirements and schedule tests, and will soon allow customers to upload and store their vaccination records on the website before they travel. American’s online travel tool on the company’s website already allows passengers to store required documents like proof of negative coronavirus tests.
One airline that has been focusing on flights between the United States and international destinations is not a U.S. carrier, but a Middle Eastern one: Emirates. The United Arab Emirates opened up to leisure and business travelers last July and Emirates is already offering direct service to Dubai from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Passengers can also connect from there to other destinations in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia. The company recently announced it would resume its flight between Newark and Athens on June 1.
health and cleaning protocols they put in place during the pandemic. Some have been adding on-site virus testing. In addition, so-called “touchless technology,” like phone apps for ordering food, will continue to be rolled out. A report by Medallia Zingle, a communications software maker, found that 77 percent of consumers surveyed said the amount of in-person interaction required at a business will factor into their decision on whether or not they visit that business.
Marriott, one of the world’s largest international hotel companies, with some 7,600 hotels under 30 brands, has implemented a set of practices it calls Commitment to Clean that includes sanitizing properties with hospital-grade disinfectants, using air-purifying systems and spreading out lobby furniture to facilitate social distancing. Some properties offer free coronavirus testing.
Recently the company announced a pilot program introducing self-serve check-in kiosks that create room keys and allow guests to bypass the front desk. It is also adding more “grab and go” food options.
Hyatt, another major international brand, is also continuing to focus on cleanliness. Currently, it is working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council and Cleveland Clinic to create its Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. Those practices will “remain in place during the pandemic and beyond,” Amy Weinberg, Hyatt’s senior vice president of loyalty, brand marketing and consumer insights, wrote in an email.
its Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, France, one of its last remaining closed properties. Almost all Hyatt properties have been open since last December, and in February the company began arranging for guests staying at Hyatt resorts in Latin America who planned to travel back to the United States to get free on-site coronavirus testing.
IHG’s Kimpton brand with 73 hotels in 11 countries plans on modifying its protocols this summer where it feels they are safe and local ordinances allow — for example, bringing back the manager-hosted social hour, a guest favorite.
The four Kimpton hotels in Britain that closed because of the pandemic are currently scheduled to reopen by the end of May. A new Kimpton property in Bangkok that opened in October of 2020 to local guests will welcome international travelers this fall. The company also plans to open a new hotel in Bali and one in Paris later this year.
“Hoteliers are chafing at the bit” to reopen and are able to do so quickly, said Robin Rossman, the managing director of the hospitality analytics company STR. The global hotel sector, though, will likely take up to two years to make a full return, he said.
Geographic Expeditions, which did not run any trips last summer, reported that its bookings have picked up significantly in the past few months. It plans to run 20 international trips this summer, both to familiar destinations such as the Galápagos, and some off the beaten path, including Pakistan and Namibia. There are only about 25 percent fewer guests signed up now than there were for 2019 summer trips, according to the chief executive, Brady Binstadt, and they are “spending more than before — they’re splurging on that nicer hotel suite or charter flight or special experience.”
The company chose its first destinations based on entry requirements and client interest and then adjusted itineraries to avoid crowds, minimize internal flights and make sure guests had access to required testing. One expedition required flying a Covid-19 test into a safari lodge in Botswana via helicopter.
A guest recently moved a Geographic Expeditions trip planned for 2022 departure forward to 2021. The company hopes this will become a trend.
Abercrombie & Kent restarted its small-group and private trips last fall and early winter to places like Egypt, Costa Rica and Tanzania, and is continuing to expand choices as countries open up. “There’s been a noticeable spike in people calling who have had their first vaccine,” said Stefanie Schmudde, the vice-president of product development and operations. Bookings in March rose more than 50 percent over bookings in February, according to the company.
Ms. Schmudde monitors global travel conditions intently, and can rattle off names of countries that have been open to tourists for a few months and those she expects to open soon. She predicts Japan and China will open up this fall, but does not expect Europe to welcome many visitors any time soon.
Factories are whirring, new apartments are being snapped up and more jobs are up for grabs. When China releases its new economic figures on Friday, they are expected to show a remarkable post-pandemic surge.
The question is whether small businesses and Chinese consumers can fully share in the good times.
China is expected to report that its economy grew by a jaw-dropping double-digit figure in the first three months of the year compared with the same period the year before. The number is widely estimated by economists to be 18 percent to 19 percent. But the growth is as much a reflection of the past — the country’s output shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with a year earlier — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.
A year ago, entire cities were shut down, planes were grounded and highways were blocked to control the spread of a relentless virus. Today, global demand for computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.
in the corporate sector, where many firms have borrowed beyond their means. Many economists are looking for signs of a broader recovery that relies less on exports and the government and more on Chinese consumers to juice growth.
A slow vaccination rollout and fresh memories of lockdowns have left many consumers in the country skittish. Restaurants are still struggling to bounce back. Waiters, shopkeepers and students are not ready yet for the “revenge spending” that economists hope will power growth. When virus outbreaks occur, the Chinese authorities are quick to put new lockdowns in place, hurting small businesses and their customers.
To avoid a wave of outbreaks in February, the authorities canceled the travel plans of millions of migrant workers for the Lunar New Year holiday, the biggest holiday of the year in China.
“China’s Covid strategy has been to crush it when it reappears, but there seems to be a lot of voluntary social distancing and that’s affecting services,” said Shaun Roache, chief economist for Asia Pacific at S&P Global. “It’s holding back normalization.”
Wu Zhen runs a family business of 13 restaurants and dozens of banquet halls in Yingtan, a city in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province. When China began to bounce back last year, more people started coming to her restaurants for their favorite dishes, like braised pork. But just as she and her employees began preparing for the Lunar New Year, a new Covid-19 outbreak prompted the authorities to limit the number of people allowed to gather in one place to 50.
“It should have been the best time of the year for our business,” said Ms. Wu, 33.
This year, Ms. Wu decided that closing the entire business over the holiday would be cheaper. “If we want to serve Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner, the labor wage for one day is three times higher than the usual time. We save more money by just closing the doors and the business,” she said. It will be the second year in a row that the restaurants shut their doors over the holiday.
Ms. Wu inherited the business from her father two years ago and employs more than 800 people. Before the pandemic, three quarters of the business revenue came from big banquets for weddings and family reunions. She said business has yet to return to normal after months of crushing virus restrictions.
The setbacks facing small-business owners like Ms. Wu are also affecting regular consumers who are jittery about opening their wallets. According to Zhaopin, China’s biggest job recruitment platform, more jobs in hotels and restaurants, entertainment services and real estate are available than a year ago. But households are still being cautious about spending.
Families continue to save at a higher rate than they did before the pandemic, something that worries economists like Louis Kuijs, who is head of Asian economics at Oxford Economics. Mr. Kuijs is looking at household savings as an indication of whether Chinese consumers are ready to start splurging after months of being stuck at home.
“More people still seem to not go all the way in terms of carefree spending,” he said. “At times there are still some lingering Covid concerns, but there is perhaps also a concern about the general economic situation.”
Many families took on more debt last year as they borrowed to buy property and to cover expenses during the pandemic. China still largely lacks the kind of social safety net that many wealthy countries provide, and some families have to dip into savings for health care and other big costs.
Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.
Retail figures on Friday will give a better sense of where consumers are picking up their old spending habits. But data from the first two months of the year already show that consumers like Li Jinqiu are spending less and saving more.
Mr. Li, 25, who recently got married, has a one-month-old baby at home. He had planned to work for the family business, but it has been hit by the pandemic and he doesn’t think there is much opportunity for him if he stays.
“The whole family has some sense of crisis,” Mr. Li said. “Because of the pandemic and because of family business, I have a sense of crisis.”
Mr. Li said he had received a job offer in sales at a financial firm in Beijing but had delayed the start date to help take care of his newborn. He said he once borrowed to spend on items like his $150,000 Mercedes. Now he drives a $46,000 electric car and has put off buying new clothes.
United States Customs and Border Protection has ordered port officials to seize disposable gloves made by the world’s largest rubber glove maker, a Malaysian company that the agency says uses forced labor in its factories.
Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Monday that it had “sufficient information to believe” that the company, Top Glove, “uses forced labor in the production of disposable gloves.”
Last July, the agency issued an import ban on products from two Top Glove subsidiaries because they were suspected of using forced labor. On Monday, it said it had determined that rubber gloves produced by the company with forced, convict or indentured labor “are being, or are likely to be, imported into the United States.”
Based on that determination, the agency said in a notice, it had authorized U.S. port directors to seize the gloves and start forfeiture proceedings unless importers can produce evidence showing that the gloves were not produced with prohibited labor.
The notice was the result of a monthslong investigation “aimed at preventing goods made by modern slavery from entering U.S. commerce,” Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.
The agency, he said, “will not tolerate foreign companies’ exploitation of vulnerable workers to sell cheap, unethically made goods to American consumers.” He added that the agency had “taken steps to ensure” that the enforcement action would not significantly affect total imports of disposable gloves into the United States.
After the import ban on Top Glove subsidiaries last summer, officials at the company said they were upgrading their worker dormitories and paying restitution to affected workers.
The company said in a statement on Tuesday that it was in touch with the U.S. agency and hoped to “resolve any ongoing areas of concern immediately.”
Top Glove also said it had engaged a independent labor consultancy from Britain since last July. That consultancy, Impactt Limited, said in a statement this month that its latest investigations had not turned up any “systemic forced labor” among the company’s direct employees.
But Andy Hall, a labor rights campaigner based in Nepal, said on Tuesday that Top Glove “remains an unethical company whose factories and supply chain continue to utilize forced labor,” and one that prioritizes profits and production efficiency over its workers’ basic rights.
Mr. Hall said he welcomed the Customs and Border Protection notice, and that the next step would be holding the company’s owners and investors to account.
Top Glove controls roughly a quarter of the global rubber glove market and has 21,000 employees. Many of them come from some of Asia’s poorest countries — including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal — and live and work in crowded conditions.
The company has enjoyed record profits during the pandemic, even though thousands of its low-paid workers in Malaysia suffered from a large coronavirus outbreak last year.
As company heads are once again planning for a return to the office, it is not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements that are driving discussions about the post-pandemic workplace. More than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model whereby employees will be in the office three days a week, according to a new survey by KayoCloud, a real estate technology platform.
Workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects, Jane Margolies reports for The New York Times.
Common areas will be increased and equipped with furniture that can be moved as needs change. Steelcase and Knoll, suppliers of office furniture, report strong interest in mobile tables, carts and partitions.
As the amount of space devoted to gathering expands, the fate of one’s own personal turf at the office — a desk decorated with family photos, a couple of file cabinets — hangs in the balance. In some cases, personal desks are being replaced with “hoteling” workstations, also called hot desks, which can be used by whoever needs a place to touch down for a day.
Conference rooms, too, are getting a reboot. Companies are puzzling over how to give remote workers the same ability to participate as those who are physically present. There are even early discussions about using artificial intelligence to conjure up holographic representations of employees who are off-site but could still take a seat at the table. And digital whiteboards are likely to become more popular, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.
Retail and fast-food workers feel newly vulnerable in states like Mississippi and Texas, where governments have removed mask mandates before a majority of people have been vaccinated and while troubling new variants of the coronavirus are appearing.
It feels like a return to the early days of the pandemic, when businesses said customers must wear masks but there was no legal requirement and numerous shoppers simply refused, Sapna Maheshwari reports for The New York Times. Many workers say that their stores do not enforce the requirement, and that if they do approach customers, they risk verbal or physical altercations.
For many people who work in retail, especially grocery stores and big-box chains, the repeals of the mask mandates are another example of how little protection and appreciation they have received during the pandemic. They were praised as essential workers, but that rarely translated into extra pay on top of their low wages. Grocery employees were not initially given priority for vaccinations in most states, even as health experts cautioned the public to limit time in grocery stores because of the risk posed by new coronavirus variants. (Texas opened availability to everyone 16 and older on Monday.)
The differing state and business mandates have some workers worried about more confrontations. Refusing service to people without masks, or asking them to leave, has led to incidents in the past year like a cashier’s being punched in the face, a Target employee getting his arm broken and the fatal shooting of a Family Dollar security guard.
Emily Francois, a sales associate at a Walmart in Port Arthur, Texas, said that customers had been ignoring signs to wear masks and that Walmart had not been enforcing the policy.
“I see customers coming in without a mask and they’re coughing, sneezing, they’re not covering their mouths,” said Ms. Francois, who has worked at Walmart for 14 years and is a member of United for Respect, an advocacy group. “Customers coming in the store without masks make us feel like we aren’t worthy, we aren’t safe.”
Since the pandemic sent workers home last year, a slew of modifications have been made to office buildings to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Now, as companies prepare to bring workers back, experts say even more changes are on the way.
Expect expanded gathering spaces and fewer personal workstations, for instance, changes that are being fueled by the success of working from home. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Walmart have already announced proposals for hybrid work models that will allow employees to continue to work remotely at least a few days a week.
These new arrangements mean companies may need less office space, and some have already cut back on their real estate needs, according to a survey from the consulting firm PwC. Target said this month that it was giving up office space in downtown Minneapolis, and in September, the sporting goods retailer REI sold its newly built headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.
“We really are at an inflection point,” said Meena Krenek, an interior design director at Perkins+Will, an architecture firm that is revamping offices, including its own, for new modes of working.
a return to the office in the summer and fall. Desks were dragged six feet apart and Plexiglas barriers installed between them. One-way arrows were stenciled on corridor floors, chairs were removed from conference rooms, and an elaborate choreography was developed to determine how and when teams would return to avoid overcrowding.
Then many workers simply stayed home. As the pandemic dragged on and people got the hang of Zoom, many discovered it was possible to be productive while parked on living room sofas or in backyard lawn chairs.
Now, as company heads are again planning for a return to the office, not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements are driving discussions about the postpandemic workplace. More than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model whereby employees will be in the office three days a week, according to a new survey by KayoCloud, a real estate technology platform.
Workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects and employee training, as a way to promote a company’s culture and identity.
holographic representations of employees who are off site but could still take a seat at the table.
For now, some companies are having in-person attendees continue to use their laptops so that remote workers can see everyone on their Zoom screens, an effort to “help maintain a sense of equivalency that we’ve come to expect,” said Peter Knutson, chief strategy officer of A+I, a design firm.
Devices combining 360-degree cameras, microphones and speakers are being placed on a table or tripod to improve sound and visibility. In the future, these technologies are likely to be built into gathering places and the number of screens increased, transforming the conference room into a “Zoom room,” Ms. Krenek said.
Likewise, some phone booths — the closet-size pods deployed in open-plan offices to give workers a place to make private calls — may give way to videoconferencing booths, which some manufacturers have introduced with built-in screens.
Screens are destined to pop up elsewhere. One near the coffee bar or at a cafe table could allow those on the premises to meet virtually for a latte or lunch with colleagues working remotely.
And digital whiteboards are likely to become more popular, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.
foot pedals to activate elevators. Buttons on walls outside restrooms can be pressed with an elbow, averting the need to touch door handles. Some companies are adding foot-operated door openers.
The coronavirus has focused attention on air quality in what may be a lasting way. Outdoor spaces — roofs, terraces and courtyards — were popular before the pandemic and have become more so as fresh air has gone from being a nicety to being a necessity.
Landlords have in some cases adjusted HVAC systems to increase the amount of outdoor air being pumped in. They are also upgrading filters to trap smaller airborne particles.
Some measures are being enshrined in leases, said Geoffrey F. Fay, a real estate lawyer with Pullman & Comley. But landlords are doing such things proactively, he added, as they try to make offices as enticing as possible at a time when tenants may be wondering if they even need to rent space anymore.
“Landlords realize we are on the precipice of change,” he said. “They want to make employees feel comfortable to the extent they’re coming back to the office.”
HONG KONG—Rising raw-materials costs and unrelenting supply-chain constraints are prompting many Chinese exporters to increase prices for the goods they sell abroad, raising fears it may add to global inflationary pressures.
The fears have deepened in recent days, after a grounded container ship blocked the Suez Canal, further straining global supply lines stretched by the coronavirus pandemic and stronger-than-expected demand for computer chips and other goods.
Rene de Jong, director of Resysta AV, an outdoor furniture manufacturer based in the southern Chinese city of Foshan, said he plans to raise prices by around 7% on new orders this summer.
That’s largely because prices of chemicals and metals that are used to produce cushions, foams and frames in the company’s factories in China and Indonesia have climbed rapidly in recent months. Shipping freight rates have also climbed roughly 90% since last June, though they are often paid by clients.
“In my nearly 25 years in China, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen shipping costs like this before while steel and aluminum prices shot through the roof,” he said, adding that the company’s profit margins are under pressure.
The challenges of the past year gave designers every reason to recede into the shadows, but creativity won’t be denied.
If anything, they are finding inspiration in global upheaval. From hundreds of possibilities, here are just a few examples we selected of projects begun or realized despite closed borders, disrupted supply chains and economic collapse.
Designers are recycling the rubble from Mexico City’s streets, for example, creating play spaces so Beirut’s children can find comfort in a city ripped apart by an explosion and proposing textiles as a building material to replace environmentally cruel concrete. More than just surmounting challenges, many are looking ahead to a greener, healthier and more equitable world.
Dadaï, a Thai, Vietnamese and dim sum restaurant that opened in August in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, takes its inspiration from the avant-garde Dada art movement — or at least a 21st-century Japanese interpretation of it.
A chevron, or zigzag, pattern covers the walls, floor and ceiling. Arched bays are filled with classical-style nude statues that look as if they’ve been ensnared in webs of washi tape. And at the center of the dining room, angled vertiginously over the bar, is a giant photographic portrait of a woman interrupted by collaged smears of color.
Located in the new, fashion-centric Miyashita Park retail development, the restaurant’s design, by Yasumichi Morita of the aptly named Tokyo studio Glamorous, makes no obvious concessions to a post-pandemic world. (Japan’s self-described “state of emergency” ended on March 21.)
Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona designs a self-sufficient structure aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. But the class of 2019-2020 chose to take on another global crisis by imagining an architectural response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had two crises at the same time,” said Vicente Guallart, a director of the master’s program in advanced ecological buildings and biocities. “And the question was what we can learn about that.”
Over five months and under strict quarantine conditions, Mr. Guallart and his co-director Daniel Ibáñez led the group of 17 students in constructing an ecological wood cabin, known as the Voxel, a structure designed with everything one might need to quarantine for 14 days. The design was executed with just 40 pine trees, all harvested less than a mile from the construction site in Barcelona’s Collserola Natural Park. It also includes solar panels, independent battery storage and a rainwater collection and gray-water recycling system.
The roughly 130-square-foot cabin, which rises almost 14 feet, now stands nearly camouflaged among the same pines used to construct it. valldaura.net
17th-century home near Montpellier in southern France with a newly frescoed ceiling in his 250-square-foot bedroom.
The fresco’s single-named artist, Rochegaussen, had worked with Mr. Yovanovitch previously on a restaurant interior in London (he painted cutlery and cookware on a field of cobalt over the chef’s table). Given carte blanche for the bedroom, Rochegaussen arranged woodland animals in his signature energetic line — a motif Mr. Yovanovitch described as “a joyful Mediterranean dance.” The creatures were inspired by fauna from a Provençal forest and include boar, snakes and owls. The designer said that a refreshed environment helped him stay inspired, especially in a period of isolation. And, he added, “there’s something so special about looking up from bed and seeing a painting.” pierreyovanovitch.com, rochegaussen.com
branch institution in Tianjin welcomed its inaugural class of graduate students to a campus designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Located about an hour outside of Beijing, the new 350,000-square-foot complex began construction in 2017 and features performance halls, rehearsal rooms and teaching studios, connected by a ground-level lobby that is open to the public. Expansive windows offer visitors a view into the educational and creative processes.
In China, “there’s still a sense of fascination and curiosity with Western music,” said Charles Renfro, the partner in charge of the project, noting that the building was designed to be a teaching aid for both students and the community.
As the building neared completion in early 2020, Mr. Renfro said he spent many evenings viewing video walk-throughs, trusting that the firm’s partners in China were meeting the precise specifications.
HMC Architects, and his colleagues recently completed a speculative design for a mixed-used project on the Lekki peninsula near Lagos, Nigeria. This relatively sparsely populated area in a region of more than 21 million people is being readied to accommodate millions more in the coming years.
Approached by an environmentally minded local developer who is seeking to acquire 400 acres on the peninsula, the architects envisioned a “forest city” with abundant greenery cleansing the air and a narrow street grid that allows breezes to slip past and passively cool buildings. Rain in the monsoon season would fill basins in parks and gardens. Shaded houses would have communal courtyards and reclaim the climate-responsive earthen materials and decorative patterns of precolonial people like the Yoruba.
an estimated 6,000 buildings, including more than 150 schools. This left Etienne Bastormagi, Sandra Richani and Nada Borgi, local architects and urban planners, wondering how they could help their city as children prepare to return to class.
Their Let’s Play initiative, will rebuild playgrounds at six schools affected by the explosion, with help from other architects and volunteers. Construction on the first, at École Secondaire des Filles de la Charité school in the Achrafieh district, just began.
The public-private initiative also reconsiders what a playground can be, incorporating materials, large-scale objects and landscapes that can be experienced or manipulated in more than one way. Rather than jungle gyms, swing sets or slides, the spaces will have colorful platforms, canopies and pathways that encourage directionless play. Such ambiguities are meant to promote experimentation and social interaction outside of the classroom.
The team also hopes that these new ways to play will help children confront the traumas of 2020, blast and coronavirus pandemic alike, by allowing them to feel safe again in their city. “The therapy effect is not just for the kids,” Mr. Bastormagi added. “I think it starts with us.” instagram.com/lets_play_initiative
Safdie Architects, the hospital opened in January with its more than half a million square feet (and more to come) oriented toward courtyards, gardens and a bucolic lake.
According to Sean Scensor, the project’s lead architect, greenery even determines how visitors move through the building: The main pedestrian corridor parallels a bamboo garden, and five wings stretch perpendicularly from this spine to carve out lush courtyards that open onto a lake. A “healing garden” accessible from the oncology department offers sanctuary in a grove of Indian lilac, red and white frangipani trees and scarlet-blossomed royal poinciana.
Visitors also can steal away to a glass-walled chapel tucked into a bamboo enclosure. The goal, Mr. Scensor said, was to avoid “institutional anonymity” in favor of a “new kind of hospital: highly efficient but inherently humane.” chsm.com
Yinka Ilori, a British-Nigerian artist, has spent the last year designing and installing affirmation-laced murals throughout the city — like one in which bubblegum-pink letters announce “Love always wins” against a backdrop suggestive of ice cream cones.
Mr. Ilori recently extended this “theme of positivity,” as he has called it, to table linens, pillows, rugs and socks sold through his website and a few retailers. The latest designs include bone china mugs and plates emblazoned with his chirpy slogans. This venture compensates for “a loss of projects during the pandemic,” he said. And then some. The line has proved so successful that he has hired additional staff members to manage it into a post-Covid future. Mug 45 pounds, or about $62; plate £70, or about $97. yinkailori.com
Shark Tank”) with his first commercial product: a lamp called Lumio that opens like a book. In October, Mr. Gunawan introduced on Kickstarter a second object that similarly trades in the thrill of the unexpected. Teno is a bowl-shaped sculpture, five inches in diameter, with a jagged golden scar — a reference to the Japanese art of repair called kintsugi. Crack open the bowl, and light pours out (it can be increased or dimmed with a tap). Open the sculpture fully, and it becomes a portable Bluetooth speaker.
MT Objects is a ceramics studio that turns out singular pieces referencing local craft traditions and the architectural splendor and battered infrastructure of its home base, Mexico City, and beyond. Thanks to a masked and socially distant pair of artisans employed by the studio, operations have continued throughout the pandemic, said Tony Moxham, a co-founder with Mauricio Paniagua.
In one recent series, slip-cast vessels were drizzled with black glaze in imitation of the tar used by the Totonac people who occupied what is now the state of Veracruz to represent “the moisture, fertility and darkness of the underworld,” Mr. Moxham said. Another collection, described as “brutalist,” is cast from sidewalk rubble and streaked with traditional colonial lead-based glazes from the western state of Michoacán.
“We wanted to create something that was very different from what everyone else was doing,” Mr. Moxham said. “And in Mexico City, almost any sidewalk you walk down has bits of broken concrete.” Prices range from $1,000 to $5,000 per piece. ceramicalamejor.mx/mt-objects
Aïssa Dione’s 2020 collection of textiles carries the vibrant colors and traditional designs of Senegalese handweaving, though reimagined in various sizes and with fibers like raffia, cotton and viscose. The fabrics are produced in Ms. Dione’s workshop in Rufisque, a town outside of Dakar, where she employs nearly 100 Senegalese weavers who work on looms. They are then sold to luxury interior design companies to cover sofas, armchairs and windows in homes around the world.
Ms. Dione’s 2020 collection also continues the textile designer’s nearly 30-year commitment to revitalize the craft and her continued focus on cultivating raw materials from Senegal, rather than importing them. Working locally and small helped her during a year when the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the global supply chain.
It also gave Ms. Dione a chance to develop a client database, organize photos of past work and shoot a film that captures her weavers’ process. “We had time to sit down and develop things we had no time to do,” she said. aissadionetissus.com
DeMuro Das, an interior design studio near New Delhi, unusual materials are a calling card. It has topped a coffee table in unakite, a speckled, metamorphic rock, and lined a cabinet in koto, a West African hardwood. More recently, the founders, Brian DeMuro and Puru Das, tried wrapping a low cabinet with the parchmentlike substance Carta, lending the piece a pretty, mottled surface, like asphalt after a rainstorm.
Pirjo Haikola, a designer in Melbourne, has 3-D-printed coral reefs that are on view at the art and design triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Anna Aagaard Jensen, a Danish artist, and a wig-like lamp by Laurids Gallée, an Austrian-born designer. The lamp is part of a lighting collection, curated by the Brussels dealer Victor Hunt, titled, appropriately enough, “The Lights at the End of the Tunnel.” May 28 to 30. collectible.design
Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm and the curator of a show about the banquet that revels in bespoke table settings, secret menus, eye-popping floral arrangements and glossy evening wear. Timed to open with the — ultimately canceled — 2020 event, it is fully installed and ready for visitors whenever entry is deemed safe.
The show reveals the banquet as a stage for perfectionism — a chance to source the ultimate raspberry for a dessert or prepare the most challenging potato dish.
But it also highlights modest gestures, like the time in 2018 when Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden, recycled the Nina Ricci gown her mother, Queen Silvia, wore to the event in 1995.
“She looked fantastic in it,” Ms. Ahlvik said, though the princess is taller than her mother. “We were all wondering how she did it.” nobelprize.org