When COVID-19 hit, the entire world shut down, and nearly three years later, it still hasn’t fully recovered. Supply chain issues, inflated prices, and lack of staffing continue to affect countries across the globe.
While no one is happy about these negative results of the pandemic, one side effect has transformed how people view their jobs, and they see it as a positive. The work-from-home era has impacted Americans’ views of work and the role they want it to play in their lives.
Sparking its own acronym that has been used across social media, Work From Home, or WFH, became a trend toward American autonomy and freedom from the constraints of physically going to work every day. Suddenly, workers realized they could log onto a computer, hold meetings via Zoom, deliver virtual presentations, and even meet with far-flung clients without stepping foot in an airport.
And they discovered they liked it. During that Zoom meeting, they could have a load of laundry going in the next room. They could wear what became the standard “work outfit” at home – professional on the top for the camera, relaxed on the bottom. That outfit became a symbol of everything working from home meant: the ability to be in your most comfortable space while still doing your job and earning an income. Many Americans gave up a life of rush hour traffic, costly clothes and restaurant lunches, and arriving home harried to hungry kids and incessant chores.
It’s no wonder, then, that employees are fighting the return to the traditional workplace, and all the demands that come with it. Employers are increasingly pushing for on-the-clock work hours, face-to-face meetings, and the accountability that was largely unenforceable when employers no longer had eyes on their employees. Today, only 14 percent of employees are working from home, down from 21 percent a year ago.
Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is a mover and shaker who is calling his staff back to work. “Nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe, and create with peers that comes from being physically together,” he said. Any many executives from corporate giants all the way to small local businesses agree. They want their workers where they can see them, and they want to know exactly what they’re paying for.
Employees, on the other hand, are balking. Their responses have made a statement about what they discovered about themselves while in quarantine and lockdown.
Many found that their lives were better without contending with traffic and set schedules. Once they had the opportunity to reflect, to step back from the daily routines that they marched through with little thought, they realized that they didn’t want to work that hard anymore. Some drew the conclusion that they were working too hard for the income they were drawing; hence a rash of empty positions and the need to raise hourly wages and offer incentives to attract virtually anyone back to work.
In the last year, this trend has fed into others that have earned their own hashtags and spread across social media channels: #quietquitting and #workyourwage are two such concepts centered on being mindful of how much money you are making and asking if it’s really necessary to go above and beyond or to do jobs for which you are not being paid.
That mindset has driven a wedge between employers and employees and sparked discussion about how hard Americans should be working, what is really necessary in a job, and what fair and equal pay should look like to attract and maintain quality employees.
Many would argue that quality employees mean people who work hard and demonstrate the qualities of good work ethic, but employees – especially younger ones – are pushing for a work-life balance that involves much more than a career.