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  • Writer's pictureSonia Pings Rodriguez

No one wants to work

(under bad conditions for inadequate pay)

The Great Resignation has been making the news, splashing across our phone and computer screens, quietly discussed by our HR departments, infiltrating our every day conversations. Even if you don't know it by that name, you've heard of or felt the effects of workplaces across every industry being understaffed. You've experienced "labor shortage" problems. Potentially even at your own company. Here's the thing though: there is no labor shortage.

There are plenty of people willing and able to work, but they want something that a lot of companies don't want to provide: good working conditions, fair pay, and basic human dignity. The entire world has been living in a state of trauma since 2020. The pandemic has taken loved ones, caused increased anxiety and depression, stripped us of our sense of normalcy and security. Now more than ever, people are realizing they need to protect their physical and mental health. This shift in mentality is allowing people to prioritize themselves and now grind culture is suffering.

Early on in the pandemic (and to a lesser degree, even now) work from home blurred our concepts of work and home. Contrary to the ever popular belief pre-covid that people would slack off if allowed to work from home, employees actually began clocking more hours. The lack of commute and opportunity for things to do combined with the need for interpersonal connections drove many to working longer than their scheduled 40 hour work week. In the "essential businesses" this increase in work was not always in hours but often effort. With workplaces reducing staff, the staff left were forced to increase their productivity to offset the loss of coworkers. They worked in uncertainty without much done to protect them from the virus or the angry masses. These shifts skewed the idea of work-life balance and started a flood of people on the path to burnout.

As a result, companies became filled with employees that were exhausted to a point of emptiness and desperation. The notion of continuing to give 150% to jobs that treated them as disposable became abhorrent. People began to realize the toxicity of their workplaces. They flocked to social media and were met with a pattern of workplaces that only practiced performative diversity efforts, weren't equipped to handle neurodivergence, underpaid their employees, understaffed their teams, used favoritism, set unrealistic expectations, did little to ensure safety, etc. So, employees began to turn elsewhere. They began to demand raises. They took jobs with competitors. They resigned, with or without other prospects, because that decision was better for them.

So what can corporate America do to ensure their top talent stays with them? How do they retain their employees during this period? The answer is to listen to your employees. Not just hear their complaints or concerns, but to actually actively listen and engage. Pay people what they are worth, not what you think the bare minimum someone will fall for is. Curb the practice of overworking. Hire more people before your teams start to implode from the stress. Create flexible work opportunities and practices for people who don't thrive in the typical 9-5 Monday-Friday environment. Start conversations about equity and belonging. Realize that your employees are humans and humans are not disposable and replaceable. They are vital.

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