Pandemic Silver Lining Series … Labor Force with Upper Hand Rethinks Priorities
7.7 million people unemployed last month, has created running commentary to the effect that people are unemployed because they’re CHOOSING not to work, that ‘people are lazy’ or unwilling to work because they received stimulus and recovery payments from the American Recovery Act.
But news report after news report clearly state that the reason companies are having trouble hiring has less to do with laziness and more to do with a pandemic-related fears (becoming infected: job growth slowed as Covid caseloads spiked, early retirements increased along with fears of risking exposure), challenges (inability to find affordable childcare) and importantly consideration about what to prioritize amidst a pandemic. As people, (each of whom, let’s remind ourselves, deserves the pursuit of happiness in their lives), received financial support to alleviate pandemic stresses for basic survival, yes, they’ve been freed to reflect!
People that had been diligently trudging in an unrewarding rut of day-to-day repetitive, uninspiring, unrewarding work, face the reality that life can be short – as 4.94 million people worldwide died of COVID-19, more in the US than in any other country at 760,000 Americans (and counting).
Unsurprisingly then, there has been a shift in what people are willing to risk or tolerate for their wages. Workers are increasingly weighing their options, and employers may need to improve working conditions as well as wages to bring in a motivated workforce. Aaron Sojourner, labor economist and professor noted, “Corporate profits and productivity are up far more than average wages over the past two years, so many employers likely have room to further raise pay, “The big question is, why aren’t companies bidding up wages and working conditions fast enough to pull people off the sidelines?”
This is real change afoot, and disruption to the norm is challenging and uncomfortable. But exhale. Breathe in and and consider this opportunity to ‘build back better.’
Why the ‘Joe v Volcano’ rut before? Why were/are so many peoples’ jobs unrewarding? As the workforce awakes to possibilities and seeks worth and meaning in daily life, it will be companies that center people and create rewarding work environments that succeed in a post-pandemic world. Look for more entrepreneurialism as people strike out on their own to craft more meaningful lives. More flexible work conditions blending in-person at the office with remote management when possible. 4 day work weeks. Shared roles. Employee ownership structures. Childcare cost supports and services. All combining to create less stressed, optimized human resources for innovative businesses.
Maybe we’re seeing the kind of disruption that precedes real growth of the kind our economy needs for a sustainable, rewarding future in a competitive global economy.