Chamber Members:

The countdown continues as we’re now one week away from the election and a quick reminder that we’re 45 days from government shutdown, remember that continuation? Hopefully, whatever the outcomes may be, we would like to see a deal stricken on federal aid as the recent round of further mitigations goes to show the need for additional relief. Remember to exercise your right to vote if you have not already done so. Several announcements were made today on the state front with shutdowns and we share an interesting article about the eight-hour workday.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

Latest on Relief Discussions
Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the White House for deciding against signing on to the Democrats’ plan for a COVID-19 testing strategy, despite earlier public statements from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating that there was an agreement.

“Today, we are waiting for an important response on several concerns, including on action to crush the virus. Ten days after Secretary Mnuchin went on CNBC to declare that he was accepting our testing plan, the Administration still refuses to do so,” Pelosi wrote.

Pelosi’s comments come after weeks of negotiations between her and Mnuchin on a nearly $2 trillion package, which would likely include another round of stimulus checks to individuals, renewed enhanced unemployment insurance, tax credits and funds for the airline industry, in addition to a testing plan.

What’s Going on Around Us with COVID Numbers and Executive Orders
The state is banning indoor restaurant and bar service and limiting gatherings to no more than 25 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is less, in the City of Chicago. The restrictions, which take effect starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, respond to increasing COVID-19 cases in the city.

The city, which is Region 11 under the state’s pandemic map, actually set a tighter curfew on bars—10 p.m.—and that will remain in place indefinitely. With today’s action, seven of the state’s 11 regions now are in mitigation. New state data released today indicates the city of Chicago now has hit mitigation triggers on two counts, with test positivity rates having risen eight days in a row and seven straight days of increases in COVID-related hospitalizations.

Governor Pritzker has suggested he is very reluctant to impose even stronger measures curbing commerce, and there was no indication today he’s doing so.

Before the announcements today for Chicago and yesterday for Cook County, some Chicago restaurants have decided to close for the winter as COVID-19 cases surge and Illinois continues to stiffen restaurant restrictions. Operators throughout the city are weighing the cost of doing business under tight and ever-changing restrictions, and some are concluding that a winter break makes more financial sense. The temporary closures are expected to end come spring, when rooftops and patios can reopen an—they hope—dining capacities increase.

A Kane County judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday, blocking officials from enforcing new restrictions at the FoxFire restaurant. FoxFire can continue serving its customers inside after a Kane County judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday, protecting the business from new regional coronavirus restrictions. FoxFire owners K.C. and Curtis Gulbro sued Governor Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Kane County Health Department on Friday, a day after announcing the restaurant would defy the new restrictions, which ban indoor service at restaurants and bars in Kane County.

Attorneys for the restaurant also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to block officials from enforcing the indoor-service ban. The motion argued Pritzker has had no authority to issue any disaster declarations beyond his initial 30-day proclamation in March.
Kane County Judge Kevin Busch granted that restraining order Monday afternoon, saying he believes the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act — which Pritzker has pointed to as the legal authority for issuing consecutive disaster proclamations — gives the governor no such authority.

Direct Payments in Cook
Cook County is going to give direct payments to suburban residents hurt by COVID-19 pandemic. To be eligible, residents must have made no more than 250% of the federal poverty level before March 1, or $65,500 for a family of four. They need to show documents proving they suffered unpaid leave, cared for sick or vulnerable relatives or lost wages from closures during the pandemic.

The End of the Eight-Hour Workday?
With the world adjusting to post-pandemic life, everyone’s talking about the “new normal.” But what does that mean when it comes to how we work? Coronavirus has forced us into a massive social experiment. More people than ever are working from home, using tools like Zoom to connect, and adjusting to not being in an office.

Yet once we get over the practical hurdles of the “new normal” there’s a deeper question to answer: How should the typical workday look when there’s no need for commutes, 9-to-5 schedules, and open-plan offices?

After looking through data, trends, and surveys from around the world (both before and during the pandemic), one thing became clear: The “new normal” workday should be much shorter.

Before the pandemic, your life most likely revolved around an eight-hour (or more) workday. But in the new normal, that eight-hour structure should be the first thing to go.

As Deep Work author Cal Newport writes: “Three to four hours of continuous, undisturbed deep work each day is all it takes to see a transformational change in our productivity and our lives.”

Here’s why:
1. Almost no one is “working” for eight hours a day. Let’s start with some hard data. It doesn’t matter how long you spend in the office; chances are you aren’t working productively for eight hours a day. Instead, data and surveys from around the world have found that modern workers are only truly productive for a maximum of 2 hours and 50 minutes a day. But what about the other five-plus hours? They’re spent on nonwork activities like reading the news or social media, socializing with coworkers, taking breaks, or lost to multitasking, context switching, and endless meetings.

2. Quality of work (and happiness) drops sharply after a certain number of hours. Even if you try to work more to make up for those lost hours, your productivity will hit a wall. According to research from Stanford University, output and creativity sharply decline after 50 hours of working in a week. And it only gets worse the more you work. In fact, people who work a 70-hour workweek are likely to produce nothing during those 15-20 extra hours.

3. Our focus is limited to blocks of 20-90 minutes max. The problem with long workdays isn’t just that we’re spending too long at work. It’s that we’re trying to spend all that time productively.

The human brain is more like a muscle than a computer. You can’t load it up with tasks without giving it breaks and proper time to recover. As research scientist Andrew Smart explains: “The idea that you can indefinitely stretch out your deep focus and productivity time to these arbitrary limits is really wrong. It’s self-defeating.”

Instead, research shows that attention spans begin to decay significantly after 20 minutes while most people require a break every 50-90 minutes. (If you want to get technical, our brains go through something called ultradian rhythms every 90 minutes after which we need to take a break.)

4. Working fewer hours is linked to higher output, creativity, and even health. So that’s the bad news (and there’s a lot more of it—but you get the picture). The good news is that you can cut hours from your day and still hit deadlines, make meaningful contributions, and stay connected to your team.

Even better, working fewer hours—whether it’s a four-day workweek or shorter days—has been shown to increase productivity, inspire creative ideas, and keep teams happier and healthier.

So how do you create a shorter new-normal workday schedule that actually works? Unfortunately, creating a new schedule isn’t as simple as just saying you’ll work fewer hours. There are forces at play—both internal and external—that will make it incredibly hard to stick to your new normal, even if you know it’s better for your health, productivity, and creativity.

Here’s the step-by-step process we use at RescueTime to help teams and individuals take back control of their day. Start by understanding your productivity baseline (i.e., know what a “good day” looks like). What gets measured gets improved: If you want to save money, you track your spending. If you want shorter, more efficient workdays, you need to track your time.

Time tracking is a great tool for understanding where your time is going, uncovering distractions, and building a better schedule. But more important, tracking your time helps you understand what a good day actually looks like for you.

A tool like RescueTime automatically observes and tracks everything you do on your digital devices to give you detailed reports on how long you spend on specific apps, websites, and projects, as well as help you uncover trends in your productivity. If you’d rather go the manual route, you can track your time using a pen and paper. Just set a timer and write down what you’re working on in 10- or 15-minute increments. After a week of data collection, you’ll be able to understand what your baseline productivity looks like.

The main RescueTime dashboard shows you some high-level stats about how you worked over the past week. But to get the data you need to build a more efficient schedule; you’ll need to dig deeper into a few specific reports:

Total time: How long do you actually work most days? This will most likely be lower than you think it should be. And that’s okay. It’s important to see that most people only “work” for 4-5 hours a day.
Productivity by the time of day: When are you most productive? This report shows you when during the day you’re doing productive work. By looking at the trends over a week, you’ll see your optimal work hours in the new normal.
Time spent on your core work: How long do you spend on your most important work? This is whatever task you’d like to do more of—whether that’s writing, coding, designing, or something else. Again, this is probably lower than you imagine.
Time spent in communication: How long do you normally spend on email, chat, and in meetings? These are activities that balloon your workday and that you’ll want to try to reduce.
Most distracted hours: When (and how much) are you losing focus? We can’t be productive all day. Look for times when you’re most likely to be distracted and either schedule breaks or cut them out completely.

For most people, seeing their personal data is a light bulb moment. Even if you’re working eight-plus hours a day, you’re probably lucky to get two-plus hours of time for your most important work. But this is good news. As Alex Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, told us:

“Two hours where you can really get into the problem yields solutions that are going to be better than if you spent 10 hours broken up by meetings and bouncing around on Slack channels.” The key difference is in your ability to focus. Single-tasking and focusing for long periods of time are superpowers. In fact, some researchers say that a highly focused hour is up to 500% more productive than one where you bounce between tasks, emails, and calls.

Your new-normal schedule should be built around optimizing for focus at all costs. This will take some work. But to rebuild your focus you need to do two things. First, set aside time for focused work and stick to it. This means blocking distracting websites that tempt you (FocusTime is a great tool for this) and keeping your email/chat/phone on DND mode.

Next, you need to physically rewire your brain for focus. Constant interruption is part of the old normal. To undo its detrimental effects, you need to retrain your brain to focus for longer periods. Luckily, there are some simple and even enjoyable ways to do this. As journalist Amanda Ruggeri wrote in a piece about “active rest”:

“When both adults and children were sent outdoors, without their devices, for four days, their performance on a task that measured both creativity and problem-solving improved by 50 percent. Even taking just one walk, preferably outside, has been proven to significantly increase creativity.”

When we interviewed 850-plus knowledge workers, we found that people who work eight-plus hours a day are three times as likely to say they have “too much work” than those who work five hours or fewer.

But it’s not just too much work that causes us to work longer. It’s also a lack of clear priorities. When you know what work is truly important, it’s easy to set aside focused time for it. But the opposite is just as true. When you’re uncertain about your priorities, it’s easier to spend all day on low-value tasks like constantly emailing, chatting, or meeting up.

The best way to clear up your priorities is to talk to your manager or team. Be open about what’s on your plate and ask for advice. If that doesn’t help, we’ve put together this in-depth guide on nine strategies to help you prioritize your day.

With your priorities straight, hard data on when you work best, and a commitment to focus, it’s time to build your shorter, new-normal schedule. But just as important as how much you work is when you work.

We all go through highs and lows of energy throughout the day. And it’s much easier to focus and be productive when you schedule important work during your peak hours.

The easiest way to do this is to look at your RescueTime Productivity by Time of Day report and block out at least two hours when you’re naturally more productive. Working like this, it’s not unrealistic to get more done in two hours than most people do in a day.

Communication is key to a healthy workplace. But the always-on nature of chat, video calls, and email means work never ends. To keep up with your new schedule, set limits on your communication time, or make yourself available only during specific times of the day.

This is known as “bursty” communication—meaning you alternate between times of deep work and deep conversation. According to studies, this is the best way for teams to stay productive and innovative.

Working four hours a day isn’t an excuse for not taking breaks. Our brains need downtime during the day to recover and refocus. However, we also need downtime outside of work to be at our best. Your overall well-being, creativity, and even productivity depend on a healthy default-mode network. This is the part of the brain that activates when you’re “doing nothing.”

A large part of a healthy new-normal work schedule is giving yourself permission to not work. If you find this hard to maintain, try scheduling your hobbies and downtime.

It doesn’t matter how much you plan to change your workday if you’re not in sync with the rest of your team.

The only way a shorter day works is if you’re all on the same page about focused time, communication, and priorities. Otherwise, it’s too easy to slip back into old habits and work all the time.

So, who’s ready to make the jump?

Ready to Grow Your Business?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at JJC is offering assistance for existing businesses during these times.

21 Topics in 21 Minutes for 2021 Growth
In less than 30 minutes, the SBDC will help you prioritize key 2021 business plans whether it is for your people, your product, your marketing, your sales, your money, or the impact of this crisis. In this short, one-on-one exercise, we will help you determine up to three of the biggest opportunities for growth in the year ahead. We will offer no-cost tools to develop your strategy for success in those areas. Email us at and we will send you a link for registration.

Will County Small Business Assistance Grant

Business Interruption Grant

Finally, due to the recent mitigations, we have moved our Thursday, October 29 hybrid member luncheon to a completely virtual event. This virtual conference will begin at 11:30 AM. You can sign up participate here:

Downtown Joliet – The Renaissance Continues

Please join the Joliet Chamber and Megan Millen – City Center Partnership Board Chair, and Rod Tonelli – City Center Partnership Economic Development Chair, for a hybrid luncheon to discuss:

  • City Center Partnership Overview
  • Downtown Development Project Updates
  • Review of Downtown Grants & Impacts
  • Preview of some of the exciting things coming to Downtown

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct