The workplace power dynamic has shifted in favor of employees versus employers. More than half of Generation Z and Millennial employees feel more empowered to influence change within their employers' business strategy, company culture, and work experience, according to the International Workforce Insights Study. This study also highlighted a preference in prioritizing flexible work environments regarding hours and hybrid working environments. Now more than ever, Americans, who are known for working harder than other industrialized nations, have an opportunity to influence companies to make work better. The pandemic has spotlighted several issues within the labor market, such as pay inequality, lengthy hours, the difficulty of work in specific industries, not to mention fair compensation for jobs that are necessary but have increased risk factors. Jobs that fall in this category include roles in the service industry, grocery stores, and health care facilities. Before the pandemic, Americans who could barely make ends meet became essential frontline workers at the height of the pandemic, but their salaries didn't match the risk. Factory and warehouse workers exposed their employers for inhumane conditions and treatment. Even white-collar employees were experiencing burnout, stress, and mental health issues.
This list of factors has led to what we call the "Great Resignation" and has created room for candidates to demand better benefits, compensation, and conditions.
Nomadic Lifestyle is all the Rage
With employees taking full advantage of working from home, some have even taken it a step further and have begun to live the life of a digital nomad. A digital nomad lives a remote lifestyle by being location-independent and performing their work anywhere. A surge in long-term vacation rentals due to remote workers was highlighted from reporting in AirBNB's 4th quarter revenue earnings, which surpassed estimates from financial analysts.
With digital technology flourishing and enabling the ability to work from anywhere, the balance of power is shifting as employees discover they have leverage over their employers. They can choose what company they want to work for and how they want to work for that company. With pensions and 401K contributions largely dissolved, millennials use that bargaining point to demand what they want regarding their salary requirements, flexible schedules, work locations, and inclusion benefits.
Covid-19 Causing a Shift in the Household
With the omicron variant, people consider what they deem necessary for their day-to-day lives. Families are pulling children out of daycare facilities; digital learning is rising, and women are taking on the brunt of that responsibility for their families. This newfound responsibility is taking the former career woman out of the workforce and placing them in more traditional roles in the home. Americans that were set to retire are choosing to retire early. Covid-19 has also sparked a rise in new entrepreneurs, those who used their quarantine time to learn the stock market can now live off of their stock market investments. Creatives who worked in professional roles choose to live off of gig work, and business owners seek entrepreneurial ventures to pay the bills.
Adapt or Die
Companies have no choice but to adjust, and employers are now focusing on retaining workers. A prime example of this comes from Casey Slater, a conference programmer for SXSW, who discussed how she felt loyal toward her company after they supported her while she underwent chemotherapy treatment. Employers who support their employees during life-changing situations such as cancer foster loyalty because they feel like they're viewed as human versus being viewed as another body or number in the workforce. Unions have helped workers in acquiring some of their demands. From February 2020 to December 2021, hourly pay has risen by 11% for all employees in non-managerial positions. Employee schedules are more consistent, and there are now clear-cut plans for advancement within companies. Some employers have even condensed their work weeks and offered time off for wellness. There are even talks about a universal basic income for all Americans.
The past two years have provided an opportunity for the power to shift from the employer to the employed. Hopefully, this power shift will evolve into a better labor market for Americans.