compete for recruits with technology companies — which are friendlier both to remote work and casual clothing — they are seeking to present a less stuffy image. Many banks are also trying to hire a more diverse cohort.

John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and an avowed sneakerhead, said the Fed wanted people to bring their “authentic self” to work because personal style was an important part of valuing all forms of individuality and diversity.

He said he was looking forward to wearing new pairs from his sneaker collection in the office. “When people can be themselves, they do their best work,” he said.

bring staff back to offices. Most of the industry was targeting Labor Day for a full-scale return, although that may be complicated by surging coronavirus cases. Some Wall Street employees have been working out of their offices for months, but many returned only recently for the first time since the outbreak began.

It felt like the first day of school, some bankers said. They wanted to look good in front of colleagues, yet couldn’t bear the thought of wearing dress shoes or heels. Before going in, some checked with friends to see if their choices were in line with the crowd.

One item that has been popular among Wall Street men is Lululemon’s ABC pant, which the athleisure company markets as a wrinkle-resistant, stretchy polyester garment suitable for “all-day comfort.” (The company put its highly recognizable logo on a tab near the pocket to make the pants look less like workout gear.)

Untuckit, the maker of short-hemmed button-downs, saw a jump in sales as vaccination rates across the United States rose in April and May, said Chris Riccobono, the company’s founder. Customers have flocked to its two stores in Manhattan, seeking still-sharp shirts made from breathable fabric.

“What’s amazing is these guys were wearing suits in the middle of summer, walking the streets of New York, coming off the train” before the pandemic, Mr. Riccobono said. “It took corona for the guys who never wore anything but suits to realize, ‘Wait a second.’”

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Return to Office Hits a Snag: Young Resisters

David Gross, an executive at a New York-based advertising agency, convened the troops over Zoom this month to deliver a message he and his fellow partners were eager to share: It was time to think about coming back to the office.

Mr. Gross, 40, wasn’t sure how employees, many in their 20s and early 30s, would take it. The initial response — dead silence — wasn’t encouraging. Then one young man signaled he had a question. “Is the policy mandatory?” he wanted to know.

Yes, it is mandatory, for three days a week, he was told.

Thus began a tricky conversation at Anchor Worldwide, Mr. Gross’s firm, that is being replicated this summer at businesses big and small across the country. While workers of all ages have become accustomed to dialing in and skipping the wearying commute, younger ones have grown especially attached to the new way of doing business.

And in many cases, the decision to return pits older managers who view working in the office as the natural order of things against younger employees who’ve come to see operating remotely as completely normal in the 16 months since the pandemic hit. Some new hires have never gone into their employers’ workplace at all.

banking and finance, are taking a harder line and insisting workers young and old return. The chief executives of Wall Street giants like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have signaled they expect employees to go back to their cubicles and offices in the months ahead.

Other companies, most notably those in technology and media, are being more flexible. As much as Mr. Gross wants people back at his ad agency, he is worried about retaining young talent at a time when churn is increasing, so he has been making clear there is room for accommodation.

“We’re in a really progressive industry, and some companies have gone fully remote,” he explained. “You have to frame it in terms of flexibility.”

In a recent survey by the Conference Board, 55 percent of millennials, defined as people born between 1981 and 1996, questioned the wisdom of returning to the office. Among members of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, 45 percent had doubts about going back, while only 36 percent of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, felt that way.

most concerned about their health and psychological well-being,” said Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president for human capital at the Conference Board. “Companies would be well served to be as flexible as possible.”

Matthew Yeager, 33, quit his job as a web developer at an insurance company in May after it told him he needed to return to the office as vaccination rates in his city, Columbus, Ohio, were rising. He limited his job hunting to opportunities that offered fully remote work and, in June, started at a hiring and human resources company based in New York.

“It was tough because I really liked my job and the people I worked with, but I didn’t want to lose that flexibility of being able to work remotely,” Mr. Yeager said. “The office has all these distractions that are removed when you’re working from home.”

Mr. Yeager said he would also like the option to work remotely in any positions he considered in the future. “More companies should give the opportunity for people to work and be productive in the best way that they can,” he said.

Even as the age split has managers looking for ways to persuade younger hires to venture back, there are other divides. Many parents and other caregivers are concerned about leaving home when school plans are still up in the air, a consideration that has disproportionately affected women during the pandemic.

At the same time, more than a few older workers welcome the flexibility of working from home after years in a cubicle, even as some in their 20s yearn for the camaraderie of the office or the dynamism of an urban setting.

I get to exercise in the morning, have breakfast with my kids, and coach little league in the evenings. Instead of sitting in an office building I get to wear shorts, walk our dog, and have lunch in my own kitchen.” Chad, Evanston, Ill.

  • V.A. issues vaccine mandate for health care workers: “I am a VA physician and strongly support this decision. Believe it or not, I know and work closely alongside several frontline healthcare workers who are not vaccinated for COVID-19, almost all of whom have chosen to avoid the vaccine as a result of misinformation and political rhetoric.” Katie, Portland.
  • As China boomed, it didn’t take climate change into account. Now it must.: “I think this article really highlights the fact that capitalism is, and always will be, completely incapable of addressing long term existential threats like climate change.” Shawn, N.C.
  • “With the leverage that employees have, and the proof that they can work from home, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube,” he said.

    Fearful of losing one more junior employee in what has become a tight job market, Mr. Singer has allowed a young colleague to work from home one day a week with an understanding that they would revisit the issue in the future.

    doctrinaire view that folks need to be in the office.”

    Amanda Diaz, 28, feels relieved she doesn’t have to go back to the office, at least for now. She works for the health insurance company Humana in San Juan, P.R., but has been getting the job done in her home in Trujillo Alto, which is about a 40-minute drive from the office.

    Humana offers its employees the option to work from the office or their home, and Ms. Diaz said she would continue to work remotely as long as she had the option.

    “Think about all the time you spend getting ready and commuting to work,” she said. “Instead I’m using those two or so hours to prepare a healthy lunch, exercising or rest.”

    Alexander Fleiss, 38, chief executive of the investment management firm Rebellion Research, said some employees had resisted going back into the office. He hopes peer pressure and the fear of missing out on a promotion for lack of face-to-face interactions entices people back.

    “Those people might lose their jobs because of natural selection,” Mr. Fleiss said. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if workers began suing companies because they felt they had been laid off for refusing to go back to the office.

    Mr. Fleiss also tries to persuade his staff members who are working on projects to come back by focusing on the benefits of face-to-face collaborations, but many employees would still rather stick to Zoom calls.

    “If that’s what they want, that’s what they want,” he said. “You can’t force anyone to do anything these days. You can only urge.”

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    1+1=4? Latin America Confronts a Pandemic Education Crisis.

    SOACHA, Colombia — Already, two of Gloria Vásquez’s children had dropped out of school during the pandemic, including her 8-year-old, Ximena, who had fallen so far behind that she struggled with the most basic arithmetic.

    “One plus one?” Ms. Vásquez quizzed her daughter one afternoon.

    “Four?” the little girl guessed helplessly.

    Now, Ms. Vásquez, a 33-year-old single mother and motel housekeeper who had never made it past the fifth grade, told herself she couldn’t let a third child leave school.

    “Where’s Maicol?” she asked her children, calling home one night during another long shift scrubbing floors. “Is he studying?”

    have returned to the classroom, 100 million children in Latin America are still in full or partial distance learning — or, as in Maicol’s case, some distant approximation of it.

    The consequences are alarming, officials and education experts say: With economies in the region pummeled by the pandemic and connections to the classroom so badly frayed, children in primary and secondary school are dropping out in large numbers, sometimes to work wherever they can.

    1.8 million children and young people abandoned their educations this school year because of the pandemic or economic hardship, according to the national statistics agency.

    Ecuador lost an estimated 90,000 primary and secondary school students. Peru says it lost 170,000. And officials worry that the real losses are far higher because countless children, like Maicol, are technically still enrolled but struggling to hang on. More than five million children in Brazil have had no access to education during the pandemic, a level not seen in more than 20 years, Unicef says.

    Increased access to education was one of the great accomplishments of the last half century in Latin America, with enrollment soaring for girls, poor students and members of ethnic and racial minorities, lifting many toward the middle class. Now, an onslaught of dropouts threatens to peel back years of hard-won progress, sharpening inequality and possibly shaping the region for decades to come.

    some of the world’s worst outbreaks, yet several South American nations are now experiencing their highest daily death tolls of the crisis, even after more than a year of relentless loss. For some governments, there is little end in sight.

    But unless lockdowns end and students get back into the classroom soon, “many children may never return,” the World Bank warns. And “those who do go back to school will have lost months or even years of education.” Some analysts fear the region could be facing a generation of lost children, not unlike places that suffer years of war.

    Even before the pandemic, graduating from high school in Ms. Vásquez’s neighborhood was no small feat.

    She and her children live at the end of a dirt road, just beyond Bogotá, Colombia’s sprawling, mountain-flanked capital, a deeply unequal city in one of the most unequal regions in the world. Violence and crime are as common here as the ice cream cart that circles the block each afternoon. For some children, the pandemic has been yet another trauma in a seemingly endless succession.

    Many parents in the neighborhood make their living as recyclers, traversing the city with wooden wheelbarrows hitched to their backs. And many of their children don’t have computers, internet or family members who can help with class work. Often there is one cellphone for the family, leaving students scrambling for any connection to school.

    Ms. Vásquez dropped out at 14 to help raise her siblings, and it has been her greatest regret. The motel she cleans is far from home, sometimes forcing her to leave her children for more than a day — 24 hours for her shift, with at least four hours of commuting. Even so, she rarely makes the country’s monthly minimum wage.

    She had hoped her children — Ximena, 8, Emanuel, 12, Maicol, 13, and Karen, 15 — whom she calls “the motor of my life,” would leave the neighborhood, if only they could get through this never-ending pandemic with their schooling intact.

    “I’ve always said that we have been dealt a difficult hand,” but “they have a lot of desire to learn,” she said.

    Before the virus arrived, her children attended public schools nearby, wearing the colorful uniforms typical for Colombian pupils. Karen wanted to be a doctor. Maicol, a performer. Emanuel, a police officer. Ximena was still deciding.

    By late May, the two boys were still officially enrolled in school, but barely keeping up, trying to fill out the work sheets their teachers sent via WhatsApp each week. They have no computer, and it costs Ms. Vásquez 15 cents a page to print the assignments, some of which are dozens of pages long. Sometimes, she has the money. Sometimes not.

    Both girls had dropped out altogether. Ximena lost her spot at school just before the pandemic last year because she had missed classes, a not-so uncommon occurrence in Colombia’s overburdened schools. Then, with administrators working from home, Ms. Vásquez said she couldn’t figure out how to get her daughter back in.

    Karen said she had lost contact with her instructors when the country went into lockdown in March 2020. Now, she wanted to return, but her family had accidentally broken a tablet lent to her by the school. She was terrified that if she tried to re-enroll, she would be hit with a fine her mother had no money to pay.

    The family was already reeling because Ms. Vásquez’s hours at the motel had been cut during the crisis. Now they were four months behind on rent.

    Ms. Vásquez was particularly worried about Maicol, who struggled to make sense of work sheets about periodic tables and literary devices, each day more frustrating than the last.

    Lately, when he wasn’t recycling, he’d go looking for scrap metal to sell. To him, the nights out with his uncle were a welcome reprieve, like a pirate’s adventure: meeting new people, searching for treasure — toys, shoes, food, money.

    But Ms. Vásquez, who had forbidden these jaunts, grew incensed when she heard he was working. The more time Maicol spent with the recycling cart, she feared, the smaller his world would become.

    She respected the people who gathered trash for a living. She’d done it when she was pregnant with Emanuel. But she didn’t want Maicol to be satisfied with that life. During her shifts at the motel, cleaning bathrooms, she imagined her children in the future, sitting behind computers, running businesses.

    “‘Look,’ people would say, ‘those are Gloria’s kids,’” she said. “They don’t have to bear the same destiny as their mother.”

    Over the last year, school began in earnest only after she came home from work. One afternoon, she pulled out a study guide from Emanuel’s teacher, and began dictating a spelling and grammar exercise.

    “Once upon a time,” she read.

    “Once upon a time,” wrote Emanuel, 12.

    “There was a white and gray duck —”

    “Gray?” he asked.

    When it came to Maicol’s more advanced lessons, Ms. Vásquez was often lost herself. She didn’t know how to use email, much less calculate the area of a square or teach her son about planetary rotations.

    “I try to help them with what I understand,” she said. “It’s not enough.”

    Lately, she’d become consumed by the question of how her children would catch up when — or if? — they ever returned to class.

    The full educational toll of the pandemic will not be known until governments bring children back to school, experts warn. Ms. Di Gropello, of the World Bank, said she feared that many more children, especially poorer ones without computers or internet connections, would abandon their educations once they realize how far behind they’ve fallen.

    By mid-June, Colombia’s education ministry announced that all schools would return to in-person courses after a July vacation. Though the country is enduring a record number of daily deaths from the virus, officials have determined that the cost of staying closed is too great.

    But as school principals scramble to prepare for the return, some wonder how many students and teachers will show up. At Carlos Albán Holguín, one of the schools in Ms. Vásquez’s neighborhood, the principal said some instructors were so afraid of infection that they had refused to come to the school to pick up the completed assignments their pupils had dropped off.

    One recent morning, Karen woke before dawn, as she often does, to help her mother get ready for her shift at the motel. Since leaving school last year, Karen had increasingly taken on the role of parent, cooking and cleaning for the family, and trying to protect her siblings while their mother was at work.

    At one point, the responsibility got to be so much that Karen ran away. Her flight lasted just a few hours, until Ms. Vásquez found her.

    “I told my mother that she had to support me more,” Karen said. “That she couldn’t leave me alone, that I was an adolescent and I needed her help.”

    In their shared bedroom, while Ms. Vásquez applied makeup, Karen packed her mother’s blue backpack, slipping in pink Crocs, a fanny pack, headphones and a change of clothes.

    Ms. Vásquez had gone out to march one day, too, blowing a plastic horn in the crowd and calling on the authorities to guarantee what she called a “dignified education.”

    But she hadn’t returned to the streets. If something happened to her at the marches, who would support her children?

    “Do you want me to braid your hair?” Karen asked her mother.

    At the door, she kissed Ms. Vásquez goodbye.

    Then, after months of hardship, came a victory.

    Ms. Vásquez received messages from Maicol’s and Emanuel’s teachers: Both schools would bring students back, in person, in just a few weeks. And she finally found a spot for Ximena, who had been out of school entirely for more than a year.

    “A new start,” Ms. Vásquez said, giddy with excitement.

    Karen’s future was less certain. She had worked up the courage to return the broken tablet. Administrators did not fine her — and she applied to a new school.

    Now, she was waiting to hear if there was space for her, trying to push away the worry that her education was over.

    “I’ve been told that education is everything, and without education there is nothing,” she said. “And, well, it’s true — I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

    Reporting was contributed by Sofía Villamil in Bogotá and Soacha, Colombia; José María León Cabrera in Quito, Ecuador; Miriam Castillo in Mexico City; Mitra Taj in Lima, Peru; and Ana Ionova in Rio de Janeiro.

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    Sundar Pichai Faces Internal Criticism at Google

    OAKLAND, Calif. — The seeds of a company’s downfall, it is often said in the business world, are sown when everything is going great.

    It is hard to argue that things aren’t going great for Google. Revenue and profits are charting new highs every three months. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is worth $1.6 trillion. Google has rooted itself deeper and deeper into the lives of everyday Americans.

    But a restive class of Google executives worry that the company is showing cracks. They say Google’s work force is increasingly outspoken. Personnel problems are spilling into the public. Decisive leadership and big ideas have given way to risk aversion and incrementalism. And some of those executives are leaving and letting everyone know exactly why.

    “I keep getting asked why did I leave now? I think the better question is why did I stay for so long?” Noam Bardin, who joined Google in 2013 when the company acquired mapping service Waze, wrote in a blog post two weeks after leaving the company in February.

    Sundar Pichai, the company’s affable, low-key chief executive.

    Fifteen current and former Google executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Google and Mr. Pichai, told The New York Times that Google was suffering from many of the pitfalls of a large, maturing company — a paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception.

    The executives, some of whom regularly interacted with Mr. Pichai, said Google did not move quickly on key business and personnel moves because he chewed over decisions and delayed action. They said that Google continued to be rocked by workplace culture fights, and that Mr. Pichai’s attempts to lower the temperature had the opposite effect — allowing problems to fester while avoiding tough and sometimes unpopular positions.

    A Google spokesman said internal surveys about Mr. Pichai’s leadership were positive. The company declined to make Mr. Pichai, 49, available for comment, but it arranged interviews with nine current and former executives to offer a different perspective on his leadership.

    “Would I be happier if he made decisions faster? Yes,” said Caesar Sengupta, a former vice president who worked closely with Mr. Pichai during his 15 years at Google. He left in March. “But am I happy that he gets nearly all of his decisions right? Yes.”

    a fixture at congressional hearings. Even his critics say he has so far managed to navigate those hearings without ruffling the feathers of lawmakers or providing more ammunition to his company’s foes.

    The Google executives complaining about Mr. Pichai’s leadership acknowledge that, and say he is a thoughtful and caring leader. They say Google is more disciplined and organized these days — a bigger, more professionally run company than the one Mr. Pichai inherited six years ago.

    challenge Amazon in online commerce a few years ago. Mr. Pichai rejected the idea because he thought Shopify was too expensive, two people familiar with the discussions said.

    to select Halimah DeLaine Prado, a longtime deputy in the company’s legal team.

    Ms. Prado was at the top of an initial list of candidates provided to Mr. Pichai, who asked to see more names, several people familiar with the search said. The exhaustive search took so long, they said, that it became a running joke among industry headhunters.

    Mr. Pichai’s reluctance to take decisive measures on Google’s volatile work force has been noticeable.

    vowing to restore lost trust, while continuing to push Google’s view that Dr. Gebru was not fired. But it fell short of an apology, she said, and came across as public-relations pandering to some employees.

    David Baker, a former director of engineering at Google’s trust and safety group who resigned in protest of Dr. Gebru’s dismissal, said Google should admit that it had made a mistake instead of trying to save face.

    “Google’s lack of courage with its diversity problem is ultimately what evaporated my passion for the job,” said Mr. Baker, who worked at the company for 16 years. “The more secure Google has become financially, the more risk averse it has become.”

    Some critiques of Mr. Pichai can be attributed to the challenge of maintaining Google’s outspoken culture among a work force that is far larger than it once was, said the Google executives whom the company asked to speak to The Times.

    “I don’t think anyone else could manage these issues as well as Sundar,” said Luiz Barroso, one of the company’s most senior technical executives.

    acquire the activity tracker Fitbit, which closed in January, took about a year as Mr. Pichai wrestled with aspects of the deal, including how to integrate the company, its product plans and how it intended to protect user data, said Sameer Samat, a Google vice president. Mr. Samat, who was pushing for the deal, said Mr. Pichai had identified potential problems that he had not fully considered.

    “I could see how those multiple discussions could make somebody feel like we’re slow to make decisions,” Mr. Samat said. “The reality is that these are very large decisions.”

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    As Vaccines Turn Pandemic’s Tide, U.S. and Europe Diverge on Path Forward

    LONDON — Over Memorial Day weekend, 135,000 people jammed the oval at the Indianapolis 500. Restaurants across the United States were thronged with customers as mask mandates were being discarded.

    The formula, which gained the Biden administration’s blessing, was succinct: In essence, if you are fully vaccinated, you can do as you please.

    But while the United States appears to be trying to close the curtain on the pandemic, across the ocean, in Britain and the European Union, it is quite a different story.

    Despite plunging infection levels and a surging vaccine program, parts of Europe are maintaining limits on gatherings, reimposing curbs on travel and weighing local lockdowns.

    Wellcome Sanger Institute, said of Delta. “It just means we have less certainty about what things will look like going forward.”

    estimated on Friday that the Delta variant was roughly 60 percent more contagious than the earlier one from Britain. Health officials also warned that cases caused by the Delta variant might lead to a higher risk of hospitalization, though it was too early to say for certain.

    The divergent strategies of European nations and the United States also reflect broader differences in how Western governments are thinking about their responsibility to unvaccinated people, scientists said.

    in unvaccinated pockets of the United States, where the virus continues to sicken and kill people at elevated rates. The Biden administration is still searching for ways to overcome that vaccine hesitancy.

    In Britain, even with more than 90 percent of people over 65 having been fully vaccinated, health officials have resisted as speedy a reopening as they seek to expand inoculation rates in lower-income and nonwhite areas.

    “We know the virus predominantly hits poorer communities and people of color hardest,” said James Naismith, a structural biologist and the director of Britain’s Rosalind Franklin Institute, a medical research center. “The U.S. strategy perhaps reflects a more deep-rooted commitment to individualism. The U.K.’s vaccination campaign is highly managed and mirrors more a sense of being our brother’s keeper.”

    Britain decided last year to delay second vaccine doses to give more people the partial protection of a single dose. That helped it weather the wintertime surge but also left it potentially exposed to the Delta variant. Health officials said this past week that there was strong evidence of “a reduction in vaccine effectiveness” for the new variant that was most pronounced after a single dose.

    Health officials have since changed the guidance to speed up second doses, but many scientists are urging the government not to commit to reopening until the impact of the variant becomes clearer.

    76 percent overall have gotten one shot. As a result, some scientists say, upticks in new infections are tolerable so long as the vast majority do not lead to serious illness or death.

    “This variant is going to find it hard to spread, because it’s limited to younger people and limited to certain parts of the country,” Professor Spector said.

    He said the government needed to help the neighborhoods where it was spreading and, beyond that, encourage people to keep working from home and socially distancing when possible. But delaying the easing of restrictions, he said, was not necessary.

    “We need to get used to the idea there will be a few thousand cases every day and that this is a part of our life,” Professor Spector said. “Those cases will be milder.”

    Germany, France and Austria all moved quickly to bar most visitors from Britain.

    Like Britain, the bloc was chastened by a surge of the variant from Britain this winter that contributed to one of the world’s highest death tolls. Governments were hammered for failing to cement the gains of last summer, when lockdowns were lifted across most of Europe.

    In the bloc, 47 percent of the adult population has received a first dose, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, but only 23 percent have full protection.

    For those reasons, European leaders have said that vigilance is needed, even though infections have fallen about 80 percent since mid-April.

    “This progress is fragile,” Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director in Europe, warned last month. “We have been here before. Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year.”

    Still, now that supply bottlenecks have eased, European officials are confident that 70 percent of adults will be fully vaccinated by July.

    The quandary that Europe faces over how to react to the Delta variant may recur as the virus continues to evolve, some scientists said. As long as it remains in wide circulation, even more transmissible variants could emerge, forcing countries to grapple with whether to hunker down yet again or risk the virus spreading through unprotected populations.

    Poorer nations are facing far more difficult choices, though. If the same sort of lockdowns that controlled the variant from Britain prove insufficient against this new one, those countries could have to choose between even more draconian and economically damaging shutdowns or even more devastating outbreaks. The Delta variant has already taken a horrifying toll on South Asia.

    “Globally, it’s a nightmare, because most of the world is still not vaccinated,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport. “It raises the stakes.”

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