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A Closer Look at Herd Immunity + Returning to the Office

Herd Immunity

The Greater Des Moines Partnership hosted a webinar with guidance on a safe return to the office. Experts joining the conversation included: Alex Doherty, economist with Chmura Economics and Analytics, Kendra Simmons, of Fredrikson & Byron, as well as Stephen Smith, with Work & People Analytics.

Herd Immunity

Doherty briefly discusses a national economic overview before diving into herd immunity, which he says is needed to begin full recovery. According to the University of Washington Institute for Health estimates, COVID-19 infections are forecast to continue decreasing. Some experts disagree, citing the spike in travel in the U.S. and the spike in cases in Europe. However, the widespread and efficient vaccination efforts are holding strong, which is why the University of Washington is projecting infections will decrease.

Herd immunity requirements call for 4 million vaccines administered per day, current infections continuing to decrease at a fast rate and nearly all infected individuals retaining a 95%+ immunity from as early as March 2020. Doherty projects herd immunity could progress by late summer 2021 and, realistically, by September 2021. Doherty also touches on herd immunity assumptions, natural immunity, employment recovery by industry and more.

HR Recommendations

In the second part of the webinar, Simmons discusses the future of the workplace and remote work, employee vaccination and inquiring about employees’ personal and family health. Simmons offers guidance from the CDC, OSHA and the state. When considering the continuation of remote work, she offers ideas for employers, including to: document, communicate, assess, create new policies, protect confidential information, stay informed about performance issues and consider employee reactions. For in-person work, she dives into reopening phases, safety measures and more. In talking about requiring the vaccine for employees, she discusses EEOC guidance (section K) and other guidance from the FDA, CDC, Iowa legislature, Unions/CBA.

Considerations for Returning to Work

People Analytics works around the world in various industries. Smith says what he is seeing in remote work is a huge flux of people on one tail or the other when it comes to remote work or going back to the office. An important consideration being ignored here is the people in the middle who might consider a more hybrid model. Smith discusses repurposing office space, as well as the following questions employers should be asking as they consider remote work:

  • What is it you care most to get back to? Does that include a private desk or spontaneous collaboration?
  • What kind of work are you doing? Understand you people, their tasks and how to support them.
  • What type of space do we need? Human-centered office space design will have a huge impact on the future of work.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Count on the Greater Des Moines Partnership for economic recovery information and business and industry recommendations as the region moves forward from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about current impacts and future trends from the DSM Forward playbooks here.

Find these tips useful? Learn more tricks on how to maximize the potential of your business through The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.