Business

The End of a Controversial Era: Is the Open Office Dying?

Over the past decade, many modern offices have transitioned from private to open, with a floor plan free of cubicles or closed workspaces and lined with shared tables. According to research by Sage on open office plans, 80% of U.S. businesses implement this type of layout, including Apple, Google and Facebook.

Like any office structure, the open office has pros and cons. According to Flame SchoederICF-credentialed life coach, success in this layout depends on each employee’s personality.

“I’ve noticed that it is hardest on introverts, those with sensitive nervous systems and those who tie their self-worth to the status of a ‘corner office,'” she said.

On the other hand, Schoeder said, the open office breeds more collaboration and stronger bonds.

These are some of the pros of using an open office floor plan:

  • It makes a collaborative team setting. Open offices can be a great setup for many companies, depending on the structure of their team and the nature of their work. A highly collaborative workforce, for instance, is typically more successful in an open office environment than an independent one.
  • It fosters a tight-knit workplace. The open office strengthens co-worker bonds, Schoeder said. “This increases everyone’s innate sense of accountability in their culture, which can make it easier to solve problems and get work done. There can also be a more casual connection, and therefore more authentic[ity], between bosses and employees.”
  • It’s cost-effective. Given that fewer materials are necessary to create an open office space, the open office has become the norm in an effort to create more inclusive, affordable workspaces.
  • It’s more flexible. According to WeWork, open offices are ideal for businesses that employ creatives or prefer a nontraditional workspace. These layouts help many employees feel more creative and productive.
  • It has more space for employees. You’ll be able to fit more workers into open spaces than closed-off offices. This makes it easy to train and work with large groups of people at one time.
  • It’s more aesthetically pleasing. Another major benefit of working in open office spaces is that they tend to look more appealing. The cubicle model is been associated with boredom and mundane workdays. Many businesses with open floor plans give the impression of being much more exciting and inviting (see Google’s floor plans, for example).
  • It’s trendy. If you are looking to employ younger workers, an open floor plan is preferable. Based on appearance alone, an open office is more likely to attract young, vibrant talent.

Despite the many benefits of using an open office floor plan, there are also some cons:

  • Lower productivity: Depending on the employer and the nature of the work, this layout can actually decrease productivity. This layout has received backlash, with many workers feeling less productive and less valued – and more insecure and distracted. Sage reported that in open offices, productivity reduced by 15%, sick days increased by 62%, and distractions increased by 54%, impacting even the highest-performing employees. These findings show an alarming disconnect between the preferred office layout and employee efficiency and happiness.
  • Lack of privacy: Another major issue of the open office setting in that it can make employees feel less secure, due to the lack of privacy. “Ironically, some of the cons similarly related to camaraderie and transparency involve not having any privacy and feeling like you can’t concentrate – every conversation you have is fodder for public knowledge,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.
  • Lower job satisfaction: A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health found that “employees working in small or medium-sized open-plan offices consistently reported lower levels of job satisfaction, subjective well-being, and ease of interaction with co-workers than employees working in cellular or shared-room offices.”
  • Germs: According to WeWork, given the recent COVID-19 outbreak, open office companies are facing some issues. Individual cubicles and offices are much more effective against spreading germs and diseases.

 

Does that mean the open office is dead? Not necessarily.

Despite its downsides, the open office plan is still valued by many leaders. For instance, Salemi said the setup is appropriate from a financial perspective, which is a common reason employers choose it over others.

“Put as many people together as possible and see where organic conversations and brainstorming sessions occur,” Salemi said.

However, it certainly has its issues – and they’re worth factoring into your decision.

“Each organization … needs to think long and hard about whether [an open office] works with their culture and what they hope to achieve before committing to it,” said Schoeder. “It’s a commitment of more than just construction costs. Whatever is in your culture will be amplified by taking down the walls.”

There’s much controversy regarding the workplace of the future, with many workplace experts predicting an end to open offices, and others claiming it will remain the preferred (and most affordable) option. There’s no way to know for sure, but if the workforce does shift its preferred office plan, it will likely be for good reason.

8 Tech Security Tips for Creating a Safe Home Office

The ability to work from home is a prized employee perk that offers workers the chance to free themselves from the daily commute and complete their tasks. It’s an especially effective and convenient arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees can help prevent the spread of the virus simply by staying home, without compromising or sacrificing their performance.

Along with the freedom and flexibility of working from home comes the risk of cybersecurity issues that occur outside of a protected corporate network. Even if your company provides virtual private network (VPN) access, your computer (and the data it stores) – could be compromised if someone hacks into your home Wi-Fi network.

“Making sure that sensitive documents and files remain confidential is definitely an issue remote employees need to tackle right from the outset,” said Brian Stark, general manager of North America at smanos, a smart home and DIY security systems company. “Of course, ensuring that there is a secure connection to the server is extremely important, but this is ultimately placed in the hands of the homeowner.”

Andrew Hay, chief information security officer at LARES, warned that other connected devices in your home may have far fewer security controls than your work laptop, which may give cybercriminals easy access to your device.

“Home-based workers must be diligent about what types of systems are on their home network that might also provide additional attack vectors,” Hay said. “I once spoke with an NCIS agent who conducted an investigation where a naval officer’s laptop was compromised by way of infiltrating his daughter’s laptop.”

For remote employees especially, there are many security risks – three in particular – that pose a threat.

Many scammers send phishing emails with the intent to steal sensitive information from the recipient or the company. Especially in complicated times – like the novel coronavirus pandemic – phishers are hoping to take advantage of trusting victims. They’ll often pretend they’re someone within the company, like the CEO or a manager, to establish false trust. Remote workers are easy targets because they’re not in the office and, therefore, hackers are hoping they won’t check to see if the email is legitimate.

During this time, many remote employees are using their private home network, which can increase the risk of leaked data. Third parties might be able to intercept and access sensitive emails, passwords and messages. There is also the risk that others who live the employee’s home (who use the same internet connection) may see valuable company data.

Many remote workers admit to using their personal devices rather than their designated work tech. According to Cisco, 46% of employees report transferring files between their work and personal computers. If employees obtain sensitive data and store it on their personal devices, that puts many companies at risk – especially if said employee ends leaves the company.

Another source of vulnerability is that if you, as a remote employee, are using your personal computer and are not downloading the latest updates, you could be more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

What steps can employees take to protect themselves – and their employers – when working from home? Our expert sources recommend taking the following steps.

Does your company-issued laptop require multifactor authentication? Multifactor authentication grants access to the device and all software after the employee provides more than one form of identification.

Anyone can memorize a password or steal a physical device and unlock a computer. Multifactor authentication can prevent hackers from physically accessing your company device. If your company laptop doesn’t currently have multifactor authentication enabled, ask your employer about implementing one.

Physical devices aren’t your only concern. If a hacker tries to access any sensitive accounts, you want to make it as difficult as possible for them to log in. Using a password manager is a great precaution, as it ensures you are only using strong passwords, like those with special characters, numbers, upper and lowercase letters, etc.

Data encryption helps protect sensitive information by translating it into a code that only people within your company can access through a secret key or password. Even if scammers intercept your data, they won’t be able to interpret it properly. This goes for any messages or information you send, receive or store on your devices.

Your employer may provide a recommended application for a company-issued device, but if you use your personal laptop for work, you need to keep your system protected.

“Since many internet providers [offer] free antivirus software, we recommend that our employees use them on their personal laptops,” said Venu Gooty, founder of MyBusinessGenie, a provider of small business software solutions.

Gavin Silver, director of operations at Blue Fountain Media, reminded remote workers that the computer they do their work on is for employee use only – it’s not the family computer.

“Treat your work-issued laptop, mobile device and sensitive data as if you were sitting in a physical office location,” Hay added. “This will help you continuously associate your actions with a security-first and data-aware mentality in mind. For example, in a physical office location … your child [couldn’t] use your work-issued mobile device for games or movies. If you think of your laptop and mobile devices as work-only assets, it makes it far easier to control access to sensitive data and remain data-aware.”

While virtual security is important, it’s equally important to make sure that your home office is physically secure, said Stark.

“Home offices often contain expensive equipment or even physical files or documents that contain sensitive information, so it’s imperative to explore security options,” Stark told Business News Daily. “While it’s not possible for all home offices to have a scan-to-enter system or a security guard, it’s important to add whatever elements of traditional physical security you can.”

Depending on your needs, you can look into a DIY home security system or read our recommendations for business video surveillance systems.

Your company likely has clear policies for accessing the company network outside the office. Those guidelines and rules should always be followed, but it’s especially important when you’re working remotely, said Silver.

“Report any suspicious behavior to IT immediately and follow basic ‘computer hygiene’ standards such as up-to-date operating systems, antivirus/malware and regular scanning,” Silver added.

Adhering to company policies also includes using only the designated programs that your employer wants you to use, even if you prefer a different program.

“This is so the IT administrator doesn’t have various security configurations that may or may not comply with the company’s security requirements,” Stark said. “[It] establishes a set standard, which is much easier for the IT officer to support remotely in the field.”

This becomes especially important when you’re saving and backing up files. You should store all your work data in a secure location that’s both approved by and accessible to your company, like a cloud-based storage option.

“Ensuring that sensitive data is stored and protected centrally is always a good course of action,” Hay said. “This allows central management and control of all aspects of the data, such as ownership, access, availability, security, etc., with a reduced chance of duplicate copies residing in places beyond the reach of the organization, such as on a personal laptop, mobile device or cloud environment.”

Gooty said his company was able to accomplish this after switching to an Office 365 subscription.

“Not only does OneDrive for Business allow us to collaborate better with one another, but it also securely saves the files in the cloud. All employees can access files on different types of devices,” he said.

For small business owners, regardless of whether your company employs part- or full-time remote employees, Silver advised taking the following precautions to limit security risks while employees work from home.

  1. Require that employees use a non-stored password to connect to the network, especially for VPN access.
  2. Enforce reasonable session timeouts for sensitive programs or apps. A user should not have to reconnect after walking to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee, but at the same time, you cannot trust that every employee will always log out when they are done for the day.
  3. Limit program/file access to only those areas that are absolutely needed by that employee.
  4. Reserve the right to terminate employee access at any moment.
  5. Provide services for remote file storage and other tasks; don’t rely on individuals to use their personal programs and accounts to store your company’s data.

“Users will always take the easiest method when it comes to technology, and you can’t always enforce what software people use when they are remote, so it is better to give them the best software in the first place,” said Silver.

Above all, Hay reminded employers to outline policies, procedures and guidelines for workers who use company resources outside the office.

“This includes, but is not limited to, access to corporate data, acceptable use of websites, approved applications, etc.,” he said. “The best thing an employee can do is ensure that they adhere to the guidance.”

US Food Prices See Historic Jump and Are Likely to Stay High

As if trips to the grocery store weren’t nerve-wracking enough, U.S. shoppers lately have seen the costs of meat, eggs and even potatoes soar as the coronavirus has disrupted processing plants and distribution networks.

Overall, the cost of food bought to eat at home skyrocketed by the most in 46 years, and analysts caution that meat prices in particular could remain high as slaughterhouses struggle to maintain production levels while implementing procedures intended to keep workers healthy.

While price spikes for staples such as eggs and flour have eased as consumer demand has leveled off, prices remain volatile for carrots, potatoes and other produce because of transportation issues and the health of workers who pick crops and work in processing plants.

In short, supermarket customers and restaurant owners shouldn’t expect prices to drop anytime soon.

“Our biggest concern is long-term food costs. I believe they will continue to go up,” said Julie Kalambokidis, co-owner of Adriano’s Brick Oven, a restaurant in Glenwood, Iowa.

Tamra Kennedy, who owns nine Mexican-inspired fast food franchises in Iowa and Minnesota, joined Kalambokidis on a call set up by Iowa U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and said sometimes even getting essential ingredients is difficult.

“You can pick an ingredient and I can tell you there are shortages,” she said.

Big fluctuations in food prices began in March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to sink in for U.S. consumers.

The Labor Department reports that the 2.6% jump in April food prices was the largest monthly increase in 46 years. Prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased the most, rising 4.3%. Although the 2.9% jump in cereals and bakery products wasn’t as steep, it was still the largest increase the agency has recorded.

Dairy and related products, and fruits and vegetables increased by 1.5 percent in April.

Egg prices also reached an all-time record of more than $3 a dozen in late March, but they have since fallen to less than $1 a dozen.

The situation has been worse for meat prices, largely because of illnesses among slaughterhouse workers. The outbreaks struck pork processing plants the hardest, but beef and chicken processors also saw some impact as thousands of workers tested positive for the virus and the United Food and Commercial Workers union said at least 44 workers had died of COVID-19 as of Friday.

April retail prices for boneless pork chops and ham were nearly 6% higher than in March and retail prices for hamburger and sirloin steak were about 4% higher, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. The price of whole fresh chickens rose by more than 12%.

After numerous closures, most pork plants have reopened but often not at full capacity, forcing pig farmers to euthanize animals that couldn’t be processed.

“There are biological constraints to this and that’s why I would anticipate prices to stay high at least for some period of time,” said Trey Malone, an agriculture economist and professor at Michigan State University. “If you’re going to euthanize thousands of animals and it takes six months to raise a new one, obviously there’s going to be some type of delay or buffer in the supply chain.”

By mid-May, beef and pork slaughterhouses were operating at about 60% capacity, though that figure has since climbed to nearly 90%, said Jayson Lusk, an economist at Purdue University. Although Lusk was optimistic that the worst of the meat supply crunch is over, he said it’s always possible that a second wave of illness could cause the situation to worsen.

Some grocery price jumps were because of people stocking up when the coronavirus first arrived. But even as some prices have dropped, the cost of produce such as potatoes, onions and carrots has remained above last year’s prices.

Much of the increase appears to be because more people are cooking at home.

For garlic, most of which is imported from China, a 278% price increase from a year ago is largely due to a sluggish supply chain in China.

Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms, a major provider of carrots and distributor of salad dressings and fruit and vegetable-based beverages, said he doesn’t anticipate new supply problems. But he noted that some of his company’s workers in distribution and field work have become sick, and that there is an additional cost to implement and maintain procedures intended to keep workers safe.

Someone has to pick up those costs, he said.

“There is real cost being built across every supply chain. Not just with us but with the retailer in terms of incremental cost associated with COVID,” Dunn said. “At some point, if you want any chance to hold up any kind of margin, those costs are going to have to be passed on or somehow recognized by the government with some help.”

Given that the percentage of Americans’ paychecks that go toward food has declined over the past 50 years, many people likely can handle the recent price increases. But the coronavirus also has pushed roughly 41 million Americans out of work, and for them, even a small price hike can be troubling.

“We’ve obviously seen this record increase in unemployment filings, and so there are more people who are at risk in that sense that they literally don’t have any employment to secure the money that they would need to buy the food that they traditionally purchase,” Malone said. “For the people who are already operating on the margins, these price increases are nontrivial.”

It’s also a tough time for livestock farmers, who had hoped that after some down years, they would benefit from new trade deals and a strong domestic economy.

“Farmers thought they saw the light at the end of tunnel,” Lusk said. “It turns out that it was the headlight of a train.”

 

Germany Divided Over Plans to Nix Rules Despite Outbreaks

Germany’s federal government and state governors squared up Monday for a battle over plans to end pandemic-related restrictions despite fresh clusters of cases across the country.

The country has seen a steady decline in the overall number of COVID-19 cases thanks to measures imposed 10 weeks ago to limit personal contacts.

But as restrictions have slowly been lifted there have also been case spikes across Germany linked to slaughterhouses, restaurants, religious services, nursing homes and refugee shelters.

The country’s current raft of coronavirus measures is due to expire on June 5. Over the weekend, the governor of the state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, said he hopes to lift the blanket rules on social distancing on June 6 and replace them with more targeted measures.

Germany’s 16 states are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions and all currently have physical distancing requirements and an obligation to wear masks on public transit and shops. Thuringia’s new approach would raise pressure on other states to ease their rules further.

Government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters that Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to continue “bravely, and carefully” with easing restrictions, but pushed back against the idea that all measures will be lifted.

“We want to hold onto the fundamental rules for distancing, hygiene and contact restrictions,” he said, adding that Merkel favors “binding orders.” Seibert cited recent outbreaks following a Baptist service in Frankfurt and at a restaurant in the country’s northwest as examples of what can happen if rules aren’t followed.

Following Ramelow’s announcement, the neighboring state of Saxony said Monday that it, too, is aiming for a “paradigm change” on pandemic rules from June 6 if infections remain low.

At the same time, the interior minister of Bavaria, the state that has seen the most coronavirus infections and borders Thuringia to the south, called Ramelow’s plans “irresponsible.”

“We will certainly not stand by and watch Ramelow carelessly destroy great successes in the fight against the highly dangerous coronavirus,” Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Funke media group.

Merkel is due to hold talks with governors Wednesday.

Federal and state officials agreed earlier this month that restrictions would be re-imposed if there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a city or county within a week.

As it stands, Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said Monday that several states reported no new cases overnight, and that the overall total grew by only 289. The seven-day reproduction factor, defined as the mean number of people infected by an infected person, remained under 1 at 0.93, indicating a contraction of new cases.

Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned, however, against giving the impression that the pandemic is over.

Spahn told tabloid paper Bild that “on the one hand we are seeing whole regions where there are no new reported infections for days. And on the other hand local and regional outbreaks in which the virus is spreading quickly again and immediate intervention is required.”

As the pandemic ebbs, officials across Europe are on the lookout for any spike in the number of infections that could indicate a second wave.

There have been several clusters of COVID-19 among slaughterhouse workers in Germany in recent weeks, prompting a government pledge to crack down on conditions in the industry.

Many workers in German abattoirs are migrants from Eastern Europe employed by subcontractors. They often live in shared housing and are transported to and from the slaughterhouses by shuttle bus, increasing the likelihood of infection.

On Monday, Dutch regional health authorities said tests showed 147 of 657 employees at a meat processing plant across the border in the Netherlands were positive for COVID-19.

They said 79 of those infected live in Germany, while 68 are residents of the Netherlands.

In other, non-connected outbreaks in Europe, a mine in the Czech Republic stopped work after tests of about 2,400 people revealed 212 with the coronavirus, mostly miners and their family members.

And across the continent in Portugal, health officials said tests of 346 people at the warehouse near Lisbon returned 121 positive cases.

Wary of a new resurgence of the coronavirus, authorities said they are carefully monitoring the outbreak at the warehouse, a national distribution center for supermarket goods.

Uber axes 3,700 staff as trips drop in lockdowns

Uber Eats deliveryImage copyright Getty Images

Uber has announced plans to cut 3,700 full-time staff – about 14% of its workforce – as business plunges following pandemic shutdowns.

Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi will also waive his base salary – set at $1m (£809,690) in 2019 – through to the year end.

The announcements come a day ahead of the firm’s quarterly results.

Even before the pandemic, Uber was struggling to balance its books, making a loss of $8.5bn in 2019.

Uber said the reductions will come from its customer support and recruiting teams, and would result in $20m in severance pay and other costs.

Executives in March warned the firm had seen demand for its taxi services fall by more than 60% in coronavirus hotspots, though they said ordering via its Uber Eats food delivery service had increased.

“Since we don’t know how long a recovery will take, we are taking steps to bring our costs in line with the size of our business today,” the firm said in a statement on Wednesday.

Uber’s business is heavily reliant on big cities, including some that have been most affected by the pandemic.

Last year, four metro areas in the US, including New York and San Francisco, and London accounted for 23% of the money spent on the platform.

Analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities called the job cuts “painful but necessary”, noting that both Uber and smaller rival Lyft face long-term difficulties as more people work from home and avoid taxis for fear of infection.

“Uber and Lyft face Herculean-like challenges looking ahead as the new reality will likely change the business models of these companies [and competitors] for the foreseeable future,” he wrote in a note.

Lyft last week also announced plans to axe about 17% of its workforce or almost 1,000 employees, furlough another 300 people and reduce executive pay. The firm, which is due to share quarterly results later on Wednesday, also cited the impact of the pandemic.

Record job losses

The reductions are a sign that the impact from the shutdowns is continuing to ripple out into the US economy, with economists now bracing for a prolonged slowdown rather than a quick rebound.

On Wednesday, payrolls processor ADP reported that private employers in the US cut a record 20.2 million jobs last month – more than double the jobs lost in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Job losses of this scale are unprecedented,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute.

Trump’s grievances with little known group put their attacks in the spotlight

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Republican strategist Jennifer Horn was up at 1 o’clock Tuesday morning writing an op-ed when she saw it: An angry tweet mentioning her by name from the President of the United States.

Donald Trump had name-checked Horn, alongside other advisers to the anti-Trump Republican group the Lincoln Project, in a late-night rant against the organization’s latest ad criticizing the President for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among Trump’s targets on Twitter were George Conway, the outspoken husband of White House aide Kellyanne Conway, and several veterans of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The ad, which was released on Monday and ran in limited buys on Fox News in the DC market, is titled “Mourning in America” and claims the country is “weaker and sicker and poorer” under Trump’s leadership. The 60-second spot ran during a midnight-hour re-airing of Tucker Carlson’s Monday show, which Horn figures is where the President saw it. In his tweets posted at 12:46 am, Trump called the Lincoln Project’s founders “LOSERS” and Republicans in name only.
The President’s reaction was the biggest splash yet for the Lincoln Project, a relatively small super PAC run by Republican or ex-Republican political professionals who oppose the President. Their goal is for Trump to lose reelection, and last month the group ran an ad endorsing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. But getting under Trump’s skin is an added benefit for the group.
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“The idea is to get as big of an audience as possible, and there’s no question that when the President tweets you, your audience increases exponentially,” Horn told CNN on Tuesday.
Beyond Conway and Horn, others associated with the group include Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Reed Galen — all veterans of the 2008 campaign of John McCain, with whom Trump feuded until the Arizona senator’s death in 2018. Others on the advisory board are campaign operatives Rick Wilson, Ron Steslow and Mike Madrid.
Each of the Lincoln Project principles aligned themselves with the “NeverTrump” movement in the 2016 election and have been outspoken critics of Trump and the Republican Party ever since. Weaver ran then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 bid for the GOP nomination, while Wilson advised anti-Trump independent candidate Evan McMullin.
Created late last year, the Lincoln Project has raised just over $2.5 million through the end of March, spending about $1.2 million of that through the same period. According to FEC filings the bulk of that — nearly $780,000 — has gone to a media-consulting company owned by Galen called Summit Strategic Communications, which produces the Lincoln Project’s ads and provides other services. In a subsequent tweet, Trump accused the group of “pocketing” the money they’ve raised from donors
Officials at the Lincoln Project dismissed the criticism.
“No small amount of irony that a man uses his own donors’ money to enrich himself and his family accuses others of the same. Deflection is his stock and trade,” Galen said.
According to data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, the Lincoln Project has purchased a total of $115,000 in TV ad time. Most of that has been in the Washington, DC, market, including $46,000 for the current ad. Weaver told CNN they have intentionally purchased time during the Fox News programs Trump prefers, including Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s.
There have been smaller buys in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and Weaver says there are plans to run the “Mourning in America” spot in states like those soon. The group says it will also be targeting top Republican Senate candidates in upcoming ads.
The most recent ad not only invokes Ronald Reagan’s sunny “Morning in America” slogan from his 1984 reelection campaign but closes with a shot of the Lincoln Memorial — the site of Trump’s Fox News town hall on Sunday. During that event, Trump said he’s faced a more difficult time from the media than even Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president.
Weaver says the inclusion of the memorial in the ad so soon after Trump’s appearance there was a “fortuitous” coincidence.
“That was the luck of the political gods,” Weaver said.
The Trump campaign would not comment directly on the President’s tweets but accused the group of “politicizing a pandemic.”
“This is a group of disgruntled GOP consultants who are no longer Republicans and are not relevant in this election,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director. “The President is out front leading the nation in the battle against the Coronavirus and these baseless attacks do not resonate with the American people.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump defended his record and said the organization should be rebranded the “Losers Project.”
“Every one of them, I either defeated or they lost by themselves. But it’s a group of major losers. They’re Republican losers,” he said before departing Washington for Arizona.

Disney Stock Downgraded to “Sell” Over Coronavirus Impact

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“Disney has gone from being on top of the world a la Lion King (devouring Fox), to feeling like Eeyore stuck in the middle of a perfect storm,” Lightshed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield wrote

 

Lightshed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield on Tuesday downgraded Walt Disney’s stock as he argued there’s too little future earnings visibility to measure the COVID-19 impact on the studio’s theme parks, theatrical releases and other out-of-home businesses.

“Disney is built on shared group experiences. Until there is global comfort health-wise with that behavior again, Disney’s earnings are fundamentally impaired,” Greenfield wrote in a report. He added Disney’s share price is overvalued as he downgraded the studio’s stock to “sell,” with an $85 target.

Disney is set to release its latest financial results after the market close on Tuesday.

Greenfield said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing will force Disney to dramatically cut strategic investments and operating costs just as investors are betting the studio can successfully pivot to the streaming age with Disney+.

“Disney has gone from being on top of the world a la Lion King (devouring Fox), to feeling like Eeyore stuck in the middle of a perfect storm with no end in sight, an inexperienced CEO and furloughing tens of thousands of employees to reduce costs and sustain a dividend that should have been cut immediately,” the analyst argued.

Disney recently named Bob Chapek as its next CEO, succeeding Bob Iger, who assumed the role of executive chairman but has returned in an enlarged management role at the studio as it navigates the coronavirus pandemic.

Greenfield warned Disney reopening its parks too early risks low attendance with high costs as furloughed workers are brought back, and releasing theatrical tentpoles before moviegoers are comfortable returning to theaters risks deep box office losses. Other risk factors for Disney include a deepening TV ad recession.

The Lightshed Partners researcher echoes other analysts who have forecast the studio’s theme park division will take two or more years to return to normal attendance in the coronavirus pandemic era.

On the direct-to-consumer front, Greenfield touted Disney+ for surpassing 50 million subscribers, but added that “even if Disney+ achieves 100 million subscribers in 2022, we expect revenue to be a fraction of Netflix. For now, Disney+ is really more of the SVOD outlet for Disney feature films (like HBO or Showtime) rather than the focal point of the entire company’s content creation.”

Greenfield said investors would be wrong to look past the COVID-19 impact on Disney to more normalized earnings down the road. “We believe that would be a mistake, as there is no clarity on when vacation travel normalizes, nor when movie theater attendance normalizes, enabling a Disney movie to generate $1-$2 billion of box office,” he argued.

Greenfield forecast Disney earnings will fall in 2021, before reaching a “new normal” in 2022 and beyond. “If our estimates are even close to realistic, we cannot see Disney’s stock price holding in at current levels,” he added.

Coronavirus: Heathrow trialling passenger temperature checks

Passenger with mask at Heathrow Airport departuresImage copyright Getty Images

The boss of Heathrow Airport has told MPs that it is trialling large-scale temperature checks as the aviation industry struggles with coronavirus.

He said they are already being carried out at departure gates on people going to places where this is a requirement.

John Holland-Kaye urged the government to produce a plan on what common standards airports should adopt.

“If you want to get the UK economy started again, you have to get the aviation sector started again.”

Mr Holland-Kaye said the introduction of common standards would allow airlines to start flying again more frequently. Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, who was also giving evidence, told MPs that airlines have outlined three levels of measures, with the idea that each country adopts a specific level.

Any flight between two destinations would have to comply with the highest level, with staff wearing personal protective equipment and all passengers wearing masks under the strictest level three, for example.

Several airlines have written to the government suggesting such a “graded system” of restrictions to contain the spread while a more lasting solution is worked out.

‘Cannot afford to wait’

Mr Holland-Kaye told the Transport Select Committee: “If we are told that the only solution until we can get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months’ time is to socially distance in an airport, then tens of thousands of jobs will be cut.

“We cannot afford to wait that long to get flying again,” he added.

Mr Holland-Kaye called for additional government support for the aviation sector as it battles with the coronavirus crisis.

He argued that the French, German and US governments, who have provided large, bespoke rescue packages for their aviation industries saw them as “fundamental”, and suggested that was not the case in the UK.

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Media captionWill thermal cameras help to end the lockdown?

Heathrow’s boss also revealed that he has not spoken to the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, since the beginning of the pandemic.

In comparison, he said the boss of Paris’ main airport, Charles de Gaulle, had told him that he has spoken to the equivalent of the French Transport Secretary on every day of the crisis.

John Holland-Kaye said it was a “very different picture” in the UK, although he said the airport had had “regular calls” with the UK’s junior minister who is in charge of aviation.

“It’s not clear the (UK) government understands the strategic role that aviation plays for the economy”, he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic have seen passenger numbers slump as countries close borders and enact travel bans

The Transport Select Committee was told that large numbers of frontline jobs at Heathrow were at risk unless operations resumed soon.

The hearing follows the announcement by Virgin Atlantic on Tuesday that it is cutting more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and ending its operation at Gatwick airport for the time being.

Virgin Atlantic, which is in the process of applying for emergency loans from the government, said that jobs will be lost across the board.

The airline currently employs a total of about 10,000 people.

Meanwhile claims for refunds on cancelled flights are “through the roof”, according to Airlines UK’s Mr Alderslade.

He said it was impossible to comply with the law, which requires a refund is given within seven days. He said there should be a system in place that tells passengers it is physically impossible to comply.

Coronavirus: ‘More normal’ shopping habits are back, says Ocado

Ocado delivery driverImage copyright PAUL ELLIS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Ocado says “more normal” shopping habits are back after a huge jump in demand amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Its customers are now purchasing fewer items than at the peak of demand, with the balance between fresh and long-life food returning to normal.

The online grocer has made changes to increase the delivery slots available, including suspending the delivery of mineral water.

Its revenues in April were up more than 40% from a year earlier.

“At the beginning of the outbreak demand increased significantly, almost overnight,” the retailer said.

It limited the number of items on sale initially in order to stop customers from panic buying.

Ocado said these limits have since been rolled back as the number of items shoppers are putting in their baskets “appears to have passed its peak but remains high”.

Coronavirus ‘challenges’

Tim Steiner, chief executive of the Ocado group, said: “We are facing quite a different challenge to many, as we scale up Ocado.com to play its part in feeding the nation.”

The supermarket has drawn criticism on social media as customers faced being one of thousands in a virtual queue to place a food order.

Image copyright Getty Images

It was previously forced to suspend its entire service briefly, and temporarily took down its app due to the spike in orders.

Currently, new customers are not able to place orders with the retailer due to a lack of available delivery slots.

On its website, the firm says it is focusing on delivering food to vulnerable, as well as its longest-standing customers.

Mr Steiner added: “Ocado remains in a strong position and we should be grateful that our current challenges are around growth, expansion and increased demand.”

However, the company suspended its revenue forecasts due to the uncertainty over how shoppers will react in the long run.

“Although we expect the long-term shift towards online grocery to accelerate post-crisis, there remain many uncertainties about the length of the crisis, customer reaction immediately post and its long-term impact on customers’ disposable incomes.”

‘Well placed’ for lockdown

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said that Ocado has had a very different experience of the coronavirus lockdown to most businesses.

“While the wider market has dropped, its shares have surged more than 50% in the year to date in anticipation of the business being well placed in the lockdown,” he said.

“Ocado was becoming the UK’s stock market’s most prominent and, arguably, important technology company before the crisis – that status has only accelerated over the past couple of months.”

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown also suggested that the business is in a good position as shoppers shift to online.

M&S announced last year that it would go into partnership with Ocado from September this year, replacing the online grocer’s existing deal with Waitrose.

Image copyright M&S

Under the deal, M&S is buying a 50% share of Ocado’s retail business for £750m. Ocado will also continue to supply its own-label products and big-name branded goods.

“For now, the indicators suggest more deals could be on the cards in the near future,” Ms Lund-Yates said.

Pay row

Ahead of the firm’s annual general meeting, one investor said that it would vote against Ocado’s pay policies, despite its recent performance.

Group chief executive Tim Steiner received £58.7m in total pay in 2019. He got the windfall after an incentive scheme tied to the firm’s share price paid out.

Royal London, which has a small stake in Ocado, said it would oppose Mr Steiner’s payout, calling it “excessive”.

Several other firms posted trading updates on Wednesday which detailed how they had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • ITV reported a 42% slide in advertising revenues in April as firms cut back on marketing
  • Cycle and car repair firm Halfords said sales were 23% below last year in the four weeks to 1 May, although that was better performance than expected
  • Insurer Direct Line said that motor insurance claims fell by 70% last month, as people stayed indoors under lockdown. However, it also said it expected to take a £44m hit from travel insurance claims.

Coronavirus: Firms ready to restart within three weeks, says business group

File photograph of office workersImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Are employees prepared for the return to work?

Most firms believe they could be ready to restart business with just three weeks’ notice.

That’s according to the latest British Chambers of Commerce Coronavirus weekly survey of firms.

BBC News talked to companies in five different sectors to find out how prepared they are to return work and their new ways of doing business.

Some are rotating staff. Others have introduced remote services or plan to shut the office altogether.

“Businesses’ ability to restart quickly varies by company size and by sector,” said BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall.

The survey suggests that businesses that offer services to other business are the most ready, with two-thirds saying they would need less than one week or no notice at all to restart operations.

Fewer than half of firms serving consumers said they were confident of being ready that quickly.

“It will be crucial for the government to maintain and evolve support for businesses, to give as many firms as possible the chance to navigate a phased return to work,” said Dr Marshall.

Here, we talk to five different types of firms – office, construction, restaurant, factory and shop – to see what changes they’re making.

The marketing agency that’s shutting its office

Image copyright Reboot Digital Marketing

“We’re not going to return to office working. We will close it as soon as the lease runs out,” says Shai Aharony, chief executive of Reboot Digital Marketing.

“It will save us around 10% of our turnover and means we’ll cut down on fuel, pollution and all the other surrounding costs associated with having an office.”

The Hertfordshire-based business, which employs 20 people, has found that working from home suits its workers.

“It’s a major change for us. But I don’t think that things are going to go back to normal. A lot of companies are going to have to evolve rapidly if they want to survive.”

However, they’ll still need to get together regularly, says Mr Aharony.

“We have a brainstorming session every two weeks that is key to our business.

“In future, we’ll do it at a local hotel. We’ll brainstorm and do all the other tasks that are more efficiently done face-to-face and then go out as a company.”

The building firm that’s moved to all-digital

Image copyright Bewley Homes

“All our site workers will have to do their health and safety inductions at home,” says Andrew Brooks, boss of housebuilder Bewley Homes.

Inductions are normally done on site in groups, which is not possible right now.

“Importantly, it makes sure they know everything to follow the new regulations. The old way of inducting 10 people in a small room has long gone.”

Signing into a site has also had to go digital. “Sharing a pen, punching into a tablet or fingerprint scans are no longer options,” Mr Brooks says. The builder is adopting digital sign-ins.

Nearly every aspect of construction site life has changed, if not forever, then certainly for the next few months, he says.

“There’s a huge logistical challenge to get 400 workers back on site at once and it needs methodical planning,” he says.

“It’s not just getting subcontractors to respect the two-metre rule plot-by-plot and to navigate around the entire site, there are also all the new on-site safety measures to put in place.”

The restaurant that’s become a takeaway

Image copyright Manu Palomeque

“I’ve had to develop new dishes that travel,” says Dev Biswal, owner of the Ambrette, three fine dining Indian restaurants in Canterbury and Margate.

“I’ve never offered takeaways, because my style of cooking and presentation could never survive transportation.”

But like many other businesses, he’s had to adapt to survive.

He’s now planning to open a “dark kitchen”, which will offer multi-cuisine, takeaway gourmet dishes, such as slow goat stroganoff or coconut and saffron cheesecake, through Deliveroo.

He’s also moving his cookery classes online and set up an ingredient delivery service.

He says the crisis has forced him to accelerate plans to introduce deliveries.

“I’ve read industry reports which all predict significant growth for the delivery market, so it’s something I’d been giving serious thought to for some time,” says Mr Biswal.

“The crash in footfall surrounding the media panic around Covid-19 means I’ve had to bring those plans forward.”

The factory that’s rotating staff

Image copyright Apetito

“We’ve moved our on-site laboratories to operate in completely separated shifts,” says Lee Sheppard, director at Wiltshire-based caterer Apetito.

The company – which supplies food to the health and social care sector – has introduced a number of social distancing measures to ensure the safety of workers at its Trowbridge factory.

These include glass partitions in its production kitchen and individual tables, placed two metres apart in its team canteen, while the numbers of those that can enter have been reduced.

Its offices remain closed, with team members now working from home, but the company is considering a rotation scheme which would limit numbers of people in the office at one time.

“We already had a flexible policy with working from home, but we’re exploring the idea of staff working one week in the office and one week from home.”

Meanwhile, its delivery teams are following a default no-contact delivery policy.

The High Street chain that’s introduced remote services

Image copyright fizkes

“We’ve been exploring remote alternatives to our traditional in-person appointments,” says Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers.

“Our stores are currently only able to offer urgent and essential care to a limited number of customers.”

The new way of doing business is to allow customers to get advice and care from optometrists and audiologists via video and telephone link.

“It removes a number of barriers, especially with health services already under immense pressure,” says Mr Edmonds.

They also have an Ask The Expert service on Facebook, while in branches, “frontline” teams provide urgent  and  essential eye care to other key workers and people who  could come to harm.

“However, we have modified our processes to minimise the time that optometrists or audiologists and their patients are in proximity to each other.”

That’s on top of a range of social distancing measures and the provision of hand sanitisers, which all retailers have adopted.