ALL the talk about everything COVID has made us weary. We are tired, just plain, dogged tired of the whole subject. Who has it, who doesn’t, who’s been vaccinated, boosted, who hasn’t, who threw a party or staged an event who shouldn’t have, but with all the small talk, we may be ignoring the five-ton elephant in the room, what the pandemic has done to the desire to work.
Apparently, it has not just made people sick. It has made millions sick of work.
In the US, it’s being called The Great Resignation or The Big Quit. Some 20 million people quit their jobs in the latter half of 2021. People of all ages from baby boomers who took early retirement to those in their 20s, even GenZees who said they have had enough even though they have barely had time to learn the job they are now quitting.
Hardest hit industries are hospitality, health care, retail and education, in that order, a combination that could spell serious trouble if the Big Quit were to hit The Bahamas. Nearly one in every 10 jobs in hospitality in the US is going begging. Employers are desperate to hire. And that’s putting employees in the driver’s seat. Minimum wage, that $7.25 federal and $15/hr in California and New York, is not cutting it. Even at fast food restaurants, the new demand is for liveable wages. Yesterday, I heard a restaurant in North Carolina was offering entry level workers with absolutely no experience a package that included training, liveable wages – and housing.
Kids straight out of college are getting signing bonuses simply for agreeing to work at a company desperate for staff.
I reached out to a veteran recruiter I know. Paula Welch is at the top of her game. She’s been finding the right person for the right job with Fortune 100 companies for more than 20 years, but she has never seen the landscape shift so dramatically. “People were burned out. They realised they were living to work and when the pandemic hit, it broke the cycle and professionals began saying no more live to work, it’s now work to live. It is not that they are not interested in working, they just want more favourable conditions, flexible hours and they want to matter.”
For those who jump to the conclusion that stimulus cheques were part of the desire to sit back, early research shows otherwise.
Even when cheques stopped coming, those who quit stayed quit.
Welch said the two biggest differences she’s seen in the last six months – employers are less interested in education. “No one is asking for your degree, they want to know attitude and experience,” she says. The other difference, a shift toward remote working. Welch has been working remotely for a decade, mostly from a kitchen counter where her laptop, headphones, zoom and LinkedIn accounts and her years of experience are her tools for placing professionals in mid- to high six figure jobs. She became a remote contractor when she had to plead her case, now one in every seven jobs in the US is remote, according to a LinkedIn executive.
American trends tend to take the slow boat to The Bahamas, arriving about a year later. We still haven’t caught up with e-commerce or Zelle. But what if there is a great push for signing bonuses or for housing for those with no experience, or for the right to work remotely in banking or hotel restaurants? Where does that leave a country dependent upon tourism? Again, not that we need it, but we are reminded of how vulnerable we are because we are largely a one wagon economic train.
We are holding our breath, pleading for signs of growth, while the glaring reality of a work force fed up stares us in the face, posing a contagious post-pandemic economic meltdown.
If there is a takeaway besides a concern, it is this: the shortness of breath caused by COVID will one day subside. The shortsightedness of productivity issues and work with dignity developments could be the economic pandemic that lingers.
Next time an employer says you are lucky to have the job you have, you might just remind them they are lucky to have the employee they have. Courage is best served when others dish it out first.
Since we spend more waking hours at work than we do anywhere else, the pandemic might have done us a favour, giving us pause and cause to take the reins and make our work life a life worth living.
TWO KNIGHTS IN SHINING ARMOUR
WHEN Sir Sidney Poitier passed away, a woman named Diane Gedymin felt a loss that even for an editor was as hard to describe as it was to accept. Gedymin was the acquiring editor and publisher of Sir Sidney’s Measure of a Man and the editor and publisher of Sir Orville Turnquest’s What Manner of Man is This?
In both cases, she became more than an editor. She became a close friend, almost another member of each man’s family and her reverence for both is reflected in the honesty of her editing their life stories. I emailed her the minute I heard Sir Sidney had died.
Here’s what she replied: “Fortunately, I got to speak with Sir Sidney recently and I told him what I said after virtually every conversation I’ve had with him for over 20 years: ‘If I did nothing else in my life, working with on your book and most importantly having the privilege of calling you a dear friend, would be enough.’ When I told him I loved him, his manager said he smiled. A wonderful final memory.
“Sir Sidney also gave me a treasured gift. Almost two decades ago he introduced me to Sir Orville with whom I not only edited and published his best seller but also had the honour of becoming close friends with him, his family and staff as well and became a Bahamian citizen along the way.
“These two highly intelligent, passionate, generous, funny Bahamians are a joy to know and love. Other than Cinderella, who else can say that two knights changed their lives?”
Gedymin, who lives in New York, listens to books as she drives and plans to relisten to Measure of a Man on tape. Sir Sidney narrates it, she says, “So I’ll be able to hear that lovely voice that will go straight to my heart.”
Good for you, Diane. Good for you.
THANKS to the reader who digested the landscape plan section of last week’s column and suggested a poinciana festival.
It’s based on a proposal which the reader explained he presented to the Ministry of Tourism, presumably before the onslaught of COVID when the idea of festivals was still being entertained.
That reader suggests a festival of art, culture, music and food with various locations that have one thing in common – the presence of a Royal Poinciana for positioning and photo opps.
If we ever return to a life of festivals, it sounds like a good idea to me given the posting potential on social media.