Elissa Perry, an organisational psychologist and professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, believes that the rise in cases this fall will not bring the same level of disruption as we experienced in 2020 and 2021, particularly for businesses that can be flexible. She attributes this to business leaders being more attuned to their workers’ physical and psychological well-being. Initially focused on protecting employees from contracting the virus, employers are now trying to balance the physical and emotional risks.
However, the situation may be different for essential workers and those in frontline jobs, according to Piltch-Loeb. While the business and operational infrastructure may be equipped to handle a surge in cases, workers in these roles may not fare as well. Another lockdown could lead to burnout, as many workers have not fully recovered from the first lockdown. Additionally, essential services that operated throughout the peak of the pandemic have experienced workforce declines and continue to face hiring challenges. Another lockdown would place a burden on the same group of already burned-out and depleted individuals.
Perry also acknowledges that it is hard to predict how businesses in various sectors will fare in another wave, as workers are in different positions compared to the start of the pandemic. Some employees are dealing with long Covid and may have a different response to the situation than those who didn’t experience it. Mental health struggles among workers also persist, making it difficult to anticipate how another workplace shift would impact them.