The pandemic is going to have a huge impact on the worker expectations.
In April, the number of workers who quit their job in a single month broke an all-time U.S. record. Economists called it the “Great Resignation. In July, even more people left their job. In August, quitters set yet another record. That Great Resignation? It just keeps getting greater. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August.
That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else. Tthis level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better. For the far smaller number of employers and bosses—who in pre-pandemic times were much more comfortable—this economy must feel like leaping from the frying pan of economic chaos, only to land in the fires of Manager Hell. Job openings are sky-high. Many positions are going unfilled for months. Meanwhile, supply chains are breaking down because of a hydra of bottlenecks. America’s epidemic of bad behavior, from Trader Joe’s tirades to a poor Cape Cod restaurant that had to close briefly in the hope that its clientele would calm down after a few days in the time-out box. Cabin-fevered and filled with rage, American customers have poured into the late-pandemic economy with abandon, like the unfurling of so many angry pinched hoses. I don’t blame thousands of servers and clerks for deciding that suffering nonstop rudeness should never be a job requirement.Meanwhile, the basic terms of employment are undergoing a Great Reset. The pandemic thrust many families into a homebound lifestyle reminiscent of the 19th-century agrarian economy—but this time with screens galore and online delivery. More families today work at home, cook at home, care for kids at home, entertain themselves at home, and even school their kids at home. The writer Aaron M. Renn has called this the rise of the DIY family, and it represents a new vision of work-life balance that is still coming into focus. By eliminating the office as a physical presence in many (but not all!) families’ lives, the pandemic may have downgraded work as the centerpiece of their identity. In fact, the share of Americans who say they plan to work beyond the age of 62 has fallen to its lowest number since the Federal Reserve Bank of New York started asking the question, in 2014. Workism isn’t going away; for many, remote work will collapse the boundary between work and life that was once delineated by the daily commute. But this is a time of broad reconsideration. what we have instead: a great pushing-outward. Migration to the suburbs accelerated. More people are quitting their job to start something new. Before the pandemic, the office served for many as the last physical community left, especially as church attendance and association membership declined. But now even our office relationships are being dispersed. The Great Resignation is speeding up, and it’s created a centrifugal moment in American economic history.