For the past year, business executives, elected officials, economists, and even celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld have weighed in on the New York City exodus and its comeback. Now that spring is here and vaccinations are underway, people are asking “What does the comeback look like?” Is it trains filled with commuters? Times Square overflowing with tourists? Is it office buildings back to in-person hours and packed conference rooms?
The “new normal” for New York City may not look or feel exactly like the “old normal” but two things are certain: 1) New York City’s comeback relies on people feeling confident and comfortable with their level of risk as they go about their daily business (whether that be work or leisure related) and 2) The confidence and comfort level of the general public in certain spaces – particularly indoor spaces – will require the businesses and government agencies to actively participate in that risk mitigation.
So, what does risk mitigation look like from private business and public policy perspectives? Simply, it looks like updated and modernized biosecurity regulations, tools, and processes put into place that keep pathogen transmission to a minimum. The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to ask if we should rethink how we interact with air, surfaces and people who might be unknowingly infected with a virus. In a city as dense as New York, that may sound like a tall order, but there is some low-hanging fruit that could help kickstart the comeback and generate momentum for New York’s residents and visitors.
While COVID is the immediate concern, implementing biosecurity measures has benefits to the NYC economy with an eye to the long term. A study by the workforce solutions company Circadian states that unscheduled absenteeism, primarily caused by employee illness, costs employers roughly $3,600 per year for each worker. Concurrently, Harvard University published a study titled “The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function,” where researchers linked better indoor environment quality to high cognitive function of their test subjects. If these results were applied to knowledge workers in the typical NYC office, this would result in roughly $6,500 per employee per year for employers in increased productivity. These studies show that healthier indoor spaces lead to a healthier, more productive employee that directly contributes to the profitability of the company they work for.
A COVID comeback that signals the next great wave of NYC productivity? That sounds like a win-win for New York.