Churn, Baby, Churn
By Maddie Brown, Associate Attorney
Think of the young people you are closest with in your life. How many of them love their job? Or even like it? How many of them like their boss? Or their coworkers? How many of them aren’t searching for something better? Do you even need two hands to count?
It’s impossible to scroll through TikTok lately without seeing young creators express exasperation with their jobs and the larger systems within which they work. It should come as no surprise that 60% of Gen Z workers report that they are either merely surviving or flat-out struggling. Young people bore the brunt of Covid-19’s economic impact, and they’re finally poised to strike back.
According to the most recent Microsoft Work Trend Index, 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer. Similarly, according to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey, 34% of millennials are actively planning to look for a new job once the pandemic is no longer an issue. This phenomenon has been termed “The Great Resignation” and is already causing unprecedented churn in the workforce.
For most of 2020, workers were made to feel lucky to be employed at all. This was especially true for workers from middle and lower-class communities who watched friends and family members get laid off at the beginning of the pandemic. Front-facing workers who weren’t laid off faced the constant threat of Covid-19 exposure with potentially serious long-term health consequences, many of which could affect their ability to work in the future. Nearly three million American women were forced out of the workforce to care for other family members, and at least 52% of people aged 18-29 moved back in with family to make ends meet. These changes were abrupt, and workers were rightfully anxious. This widespread anxiety forced many workers, but especially younger workers, to tough it out at work under circumstances they otherwise might not tolerate.
The economic uncertainty of the past sixteen months has exhausted workers in a way that no one was prepared for. Most workers report that their productivity either remained the same or increased despite the ache of living through both a global health crisis and unprecedented civil unrest. The intensity of the average work day has increased exponentially. Young workers reached a breaking point months ago, and yet they endured.
In part because employers are bringing remote workers back into the office, workers are seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Businesses are opening up to full capacity, social gatherings have resumed, and management is hoping to get back to business as usual. However, now that it seems like the worst is over, workers are less inclined to accommodate their boss’ unreasonable expectations. American workers were getting a pretty bad deal before, and the pandemic served as a wake up call of sorts.
Working from home has its perks, and the transition to remote work saved many workers both time and money throughout the pandemic. The thought of a 30+ minute commute each way has become less desirable now that workers know what it’s like to save that time. Workers have realized that hours previously spent (i.e. wasted) getting from point A to point B could have been spent with family, pursuing hobbies, or practicing self-care. Remote workers didn’t have to spend (waste) as much time making themselves presentable to fit outdated standards of professionalism, which for women is especially costly. Remote workers saved money on gas, parking, and other transportation expenses that are frequently ignored by employers. Ultimately, the pandemic gave workers ample time to consider the realities of workforce participation, and many came out feeling that work should be better.
There are also less tangible reasons for younger workers to want out. The idea of frequent in-person contact with management and coworkers has lost its luster now that workers are more accustomed to communicating via email, telephone, and Zoom. The fear of contact with customers, clients, and coworkers who are reluctant to wear face coverings gives many workers extreme pause, and rightfully so. Too many workplaces remain understaffed, which serves as an additional deterrent. Finally, as the wealthiest Americans get even richer, workers are looking for salary increases and better benefits. Young workers with dreams of home ownership and starting a family have a lot of financial ground to recover after the pandemic, and they’re looking to start making that up as soon as possible.
Workers are feeling particularly empowered. Churn has put employers on their heels and given unions and workers enormous leverage going forward. Unions have an excellent opportunity to apply pressure and reach for workplace wins that are long overdue. Savvy employers should implement policies, offer training, and make workplace changes to address younger workers’ concerns. LCLG is ready, willing, and able to do whatever it takes to support workers during this unprecedented time. Visit lemonidislaw.com for more information. Big wheel, keep on churning!