Even as the economy reopens in many places across the U.S., health and safety regulations have changed the landscape of the American workplace. Many jobs — such as event planning and catering — have been almost entirely wiped off the map. And for others, the way they function may never be the same.
The workers at these jobs have had to make some serious adjustments and will likely make more as knowledge of the coronavirus continues to evolve. Take a look at the jobs that changed because workers and clients were at risk for the coronavirus under normal operations.
Last updated: Oct. 13, 2020
When the COVID-19 crisis hit in mid-March, servers, bartenders, hosts and the like were some of the most impacted workers. The food industry was reeling, and many places were forced to lay off their workers or put them on furlough. The places that were able to stay open did so in a more limited capacity, relying on takeout and delivery orders to drive their businesses.
Today, many of the restaurants that survived these shutdowns have opened up their dining rooms for in-person meals; although it looks a bit different than before the pandemic. Waitstaff is often required to wear masks, limit the number of customers in the restaurant, hand out paper menus and regularly sanitize surfaces after they’ve been touched.
Even still, these requirements are on a state-by-state basis, and some waitstaff have expressed concern over their safety when serving customers indoors.
Cooks were affected much in the same way as waitstaff when the economy shut down in mid-March. However, as things have been reopening, many of those laid off have been able to go back to work.
Depending on where they live, cooks may or may not be required to wear a mask. But for many restaurants, safety is paramount — there’s no question that a COVID-19 outbreak would be bad for business — and the cooks are not exempt from wearing personal protective equipment, or PPE. They also have to regularly sanitize kitchen tools and equipment, and in some cases wear gloves while handling food.
Fortunately for bank workers, many banks already had plexiglass guards between tellers and customers before the pandemic struck. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also recommended wearing face masks, frequently disinfecting surfaces and practicing social-distancing rules with both customers and co-workers.
Retail Sales Workers
As indoor restrictions are loosened in cities like Los Angeles, more and more malls are opening their doors. This means that retail salespersons are back on the job, with a few more guidelines than before.
These guidelines — which may or may not be required, depending on the area — include wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, frequently washing hands and even limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time.
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Cashiers are needed at almost every business with point-of-sale transactions, particularly in essential businesses such as grocery stores. Many of them were the frontline workers Americans so desperately relied on at the height of the pandemic.
Today, safe practices at a cashier job include wearing a face mask, standing behind a plexiglass barrier, sanitizing surfaces and staying at least 6 feet away from co-workers and customers.
While the economy has been reopening, concerned parents and teachers have raised questions over whether kids should be doing in-person learning at all. COVID-19 is a virus that primarily spreads through the air, and is most contagious in indoor areas that may not be properly ventilated — such as school buildings.
As a result, some teachers are teaching virtually, some are teaching in person and others are doing a hybrid model of the two. But there’s no question that the job has drastically changed, regardless of what district they work in.
Virtual teachers have to figure out how to keep kids responsive and engaged over Zoom, while in-person educators are doing their best to keep everyone safe by wearing face masks and wiping down desks and other surfaces. It’s not an easy time to be a teacher.
People working at manufacturing jobs in factories or warehouses have been subject to many of the same safety protocols as retail workers and cashiers. Although they’re not serving customers, many are required to wear face masks and practice social distancing to protect themselves and their co-workers.
Medical staff includes doctors, nurses, medical equipment technicians, EMTs and more. And they’ve seen perhaps the most change out of any other worker in the U.S.
Often required to wear full suits and headgear to keep the virus out, these workers need to be up close and personal with COVID-19 patients, so they can’t practice social distancing at all. After working long and hard shifts in full PPE, many of them take off their clothes before entering their homes and even sleep in different places to avoid putting their families at risk.
Unlike medical staff, massage therapists are not a necessity for most people. This means that these workers have likely seen a drastic decrease in clientele since before the pandemic.
While work may be starting to pick up as the economy reopens, massage therapists will still want to wear face masks, wash their hands often and properly sanitize their workspace between every client.
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Nobody thought, “Wow, this feels like a good time to get my teeth cleaned,” when COVID-19 struck in mid-March. It’s also fair to assume that many people lost their dental insurance when they lost their jobs and can no longer afford to get their teeth cleaned.
As a result, dentists have seen less clientele and have also had to adjust their practices during this time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not only the use of PPE and cleaning measures, but screening every client for the risk of COVID-19 before they come in, as well as postponing elective procedures or even scheduling consultations over video-calling services like Zoom.
Car Sales Workers
Because a car definitely counts as an enclosed space wherein a virus could be transmitted, the car sales industry has not looked the same since before the pandemic. Add to that the higher rate of unemployment — meaning, no one can afford to buy a car — and it’s been a rocky road for car sellers.
Fortunately, modern technology allows potential car buyers to meet with car sales workers over phone or video before going in person, and oftentimes they can even take virtual tours of the vehicle. The pandemic has also increased the popularity of online car-buying services like Carvana.
Real Estate Agents
Much like car sales workers, real estate agents are doing most of their work over phone and video. Whereas before they would meet up with potential homebuyers to show them a space, they can now send clients on virtual tours or even just video call them while at the house.
Unfortunately, this may mean that less tech-savvy realtors need to up their game if they want to make sales.
Personal assistants work for many types of people across a wide variety of industries. And, as the name dictates, their job has been classically very in-person — it entails being near the boss to manage their schedule, grab coffee and perform any number of tasks that the person may need.
However, the climate around this job has been shifting, and many personal assistants are now “virtual assistants” who schedule and accomplish everything from home. In the day and age of food-delivery apps, this can even mean getting lunch delivered for their boss while they’re miles away.
Cleaning crew, housekeepers, custodians — maintenance workers have many titles, but the main idea is that they keep things clean. And in a world with a highly contagious virus, this has become an even more important occupation.
For hotels, offices and other businesses to remain safely open, maintenance workers are required to double-down on their cleaning efforts and sanitize as much as possible to diminish the chances of virus transmission, all while keeping themselves safe by wearing PPE.
Office workers have a certain type of flexibility that the rest of these occupations don’t, which is that — most of the time — they can accomplish their same work from home. As long as they have a computer and internet access, many of the jobs performed in office spaces can be done just as effectively from a home environment.
Because of this flexibility, a lot of people have found themselves in remote jobs for the first time in their lives. Not only does it make workers feel safer in the pandemic, but it eliminates overhead costs for companies that may be struggling to make it through the recession. As the U.S. moves forward with reopening, it’s likely that many of these jobs will remain that way.
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