What a difference a year makes. Going into Labor Day weekend 2019, the U.S. was beginning its 19th month with an unemployment rate at or below 4%. Workers were concerned about slow wage growth in a tight labor market.
Fast forward to Labor Day 2020: Who could have foreseen the drastic ways our lives have changed? Unemployment numbers rose to 4.4% in March and then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, leading to a recession, with unemployment spiking to 14.7% in April, 13.3% in May, 11.1% in June, 10.2% in July, and 8.4% in August (just released today).
One of the biggest changes companies and employees have faced is a pandemic-induced at-home work model, but many employers have not changed their playbooks to keep up with the challenges posed by remote work.
This Labor Day, companies would be wise to develop plans that approach business in a new way, according to one workplace authority.
“Many companies have addressed this on a month-by-month basis, hoping to return employees to their workplaces as soon as possible. But as is becoming increasingly clear, the virus and its effects are not going away anytime soon, and companies are scrambling to create a vibrant workplace and a positive culture to ensure that remote workers are successful,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “We are in this for the long run.”
Google has stated that 200,000 of its employees can remain working from home until next summer. Half of Facebook’s staff is expected to be remote within a decade. Twitter announced its staff can stay home permanently.
“Employers need to be creative in figuring out new ways of doing things. They may be nostalgic about the way things used to be, but they should not get stuck on trying to return to the old ways as quickly as possible,” said Challenger. “This can lead to unsafe reopenings of offices or rushing to get teams back together physically. Schools are experimenting with this as the new academic year begins, and many are rethinking in-person learning, as student infection numbers rise.”
“Embracing a work-from-home culture will keep employees safe,” said Challenger.