The 2019 to present COVID epidemic posed substantial challenges to the working population, including a new work ethic that is frustrating employers.
As of November 2, 2023, the pandemic had caused 771,548,954 cases and 6,974,460 confirmed deaths, ranking it fifth in the deadliest epidemics and pandemics in history. With an estimated 1,150,119 deaths in the U.S. and the drop in infections, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) no longer tracks the numbers that once reached over 2500 per day to just a handful today.
So, how did COVID-19 change work?
Work stoppages, social distancing, work at home/remote work scenarios, all played into the thought behavior of working. With a break in ‘normal’ working conditions, people adapted to time off and realized that they were a part of a ‘valuable’ workforce.
Coupled with high employment figures and a dwindling workforce, workers felt they could be more choosy in where and how long they worked and under what conditions of employment. Soon, resignations and searching for higher level jobs became the norm.
The once elusive $20 dollar per hour work level extended to low level jobs as fast food outlets strived to fill the ranks.
Benefits, once unattainable in these jobs became paramount to successful hiring. This, in turn, led to higher prices, but an itch in the lower levels of work, that extended upwards.
Striking, unionized and long-term employees, wanted their ‘piece of the pie’ as executive ranks saw sky high salaries and remunerations.
“It’s the Next Normal we’re headed to, not ‘Back to normal ...” said Joseph B. Fuller, co-founder of Managing the Future of Work project at Harvard Business School.
In our neighbors to the North, Canada solved the lack of a steady workforce by allowing high immigration. Every year, millions of people from around the world come to Canada to visit, work, or study temporarily.
In addition, more than 300,000 people are approved to make Canada their permanent home each year under three broad categories – economic immigration, family reunification and humanitarian considerations.
Meanwhile, political polarization and populism in the U.S. has impeded major immigration that could fill jobs at every level.
In Wayne County, all phases of local business have noticed hiring problems.
Manufacturing, School Districts, companies needing CDL drivers, and food service.
"We cannot find people willing to work or even willing to apply," lamented Kevin Wright of K & D Disposal. Almost all those who apply want more money than offered and want to make their own hours. They only want to work 3 or 4 days a week and get vacation time as soon as they start. "I get it - a CDL license takes some training/education time - a few weeks - but when they get it, it gives them a skill that they will be able to fall back on."
"We need drivers - for roll off, residential trash pick up, recycling pick up, and more. We are ok with helpers (those who ride outside the truck and help load it). I don’t think it is really a money thing now. I just don’t think people want to work. Four years ago, we had no problem hiring and keeping people. But since the pandemic, we just don’t get anyone applying. So many don’t want to work at all. I really don’t know what to do. I have clients to serve and trucks that need drivers."
In food service, many restaurants have closed or limited hours due to short staffing. Prodromos Konstantinou of Konstantinou’s Restaurant in Ontario reports that, after the close down during the pandemic, he tried to reopen with take outs only, and found that only dinners were working for him. He has since closed the diner portion of his Restaurant and will use the diner side for catering and events. "With staffing reductions, we have had to reinvent ourselves. We now only serve 4-9pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays." We thought the lack of staffing was a temporary thing, but in continues."