The back to work minefield

first_imgI know I have. Aside from being in a permanent state of hypervigilance over the 2m social distancing rule, I’m constantly fretting over whether: I’ve had the virus and, if yes, whether I’ve got antibodies and am immune; I’ve washed my hands thoroughly enough after handling items from my neighbour and brother (a frontline nurse); or I’ve inadvertently given it to my parents via the weekly shop I do for them (gratefully received by dad sporting yellow Marigolds).Now we can add to the mix the feelings of anxiety induced by the prospect of returning to the office. As Property Week went to press, Boris Johnson was due to unveil his phased lockdown exit plan to get the nation back to work.Reports suggest social distancing measures will be every bit as stringent as feared, with canteens and communal areas closed, working hours staggered, hotdesking banned, sharing of pens forbidden and vulnerable people including the over-70s, pregnant women and severely obese expected to work from home.While many of us would happily take working from home over this grim new office reality any day, we may soon have no choice but to return. On the plus side, the results of our snapshot PW Covid-19 Survey suggest most people in the industry don’t expect to be heading back in the next few weeks. Fewer than one in 10 of you think you will be back by the end of this month, while more than a third expect to return in June and a surprising 30.7% do not expect to be back until after July. That is if you are not on furlough. More than half of survey respondents report that their firms have furloughed staff, while more than a fifth say their firms have suspended bonuses, more than a quarter say people have been asked to take pay cuts and more than a tenth report redundancies.Even if fewer people do return to work in the first phase, many businesses will struggle to comply with the new government guidelines. Recent Colliers International research estimated that 60% of the UK’s 11.8 million desks would be unusable if a 2m gap were introduced.There is also the question of how the limited number of lifts and toilets in many buildings can be safely used, and many people will understandably be concerned about using public transport.The challenges don’t just relate to how we use existing space. Developers working on new-build offices also need to rethink their plans. Is the open-plan office dead? Should any communal space be included? Could cubicles make a return?At least there is scope to modify traditional and yet-to-be built schemes. Not so flexible and co-working space, some of which is based on densities of 30 sq ft to 40 sq ft per workstation and much of which relies on hotdesking.The future looks bleak for the sector, which is why operators are calling for the government to do more to support them. However, it is not the sector that survey respondents think will be hardest hit by the lockdown. That dubious honour goes to restaurants and pubs.No wonder more than half of those surveyed are more pessimistic than they were at the start of the lockdown and almost a quarter fear the current crisis will be worse than the Great Depression. In these strangest of times, back to work clearly will not mean back to business as usual.last_img read more

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Hmong leader accused in Laos plot

first_imgU.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ordered all nine defendants to be held in custody until separate hearings later this week. “We’re looking at conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Twiss said in federal court Monday. He said thousands of co-conspirators remain at large. Vang Pao, now 77, led CIA-backed Hmong forces in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s as a general in the Royal Army of Laos. He immigrated to the U.S. about 1975 and has been credited by thousands of Hmong refugees with helping them build new lives in the U.S. Since then, however, he has been plotting to overthrow the government, according to the federal complaint. Seven others, all prominent members of the Hmong community from California’s Central Valley, also were charged Monday in federal court: The criminal complaint identified them as Lo Cha Thao of Clovis, a suburb of Fresno; Lo Thao of Sacramento County, who is president of United Hmong International, which the complaint says also is known as the Supreme Council of the Hmong 18 Clans; Youa True Vang of Fresno, founder of Fresno’s Hmong International New Year; Hue Vang, a former Clovis police officer; Chong Yang Thao, a Fresno chiropractor; and Seng Vue of Fresno and Chue Lo of Stockton, both of whom are clan representatives in United Hmong International. SACRAMENTO – A former Laotian military general who helped the CIA wage covert war in Southeast Asia more than 30 years ago and a former officer in the California National Guard were charged Monday in federal court with plotting a violent overthrow of Laos’ communist government. General Vang Pao, a prominent Hmong leader who lives in Orange County, was charged with conspiracy to topple Laos’ leaders in a case that reads like it was taken from the pages of a spy novel. Also charged was former California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Ulrich Jack, a 1968 West Point graduate who was involved in covert operations during the Vietnam War. Jack acted as an arms broker and organizer of the plot, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. The group was raising money to recruit a mercenary force and buy enough weapons to equip a small army, including anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers, prosecutors allege. last_img read more

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