Will the Great Resignation of the past year lead to a Great Reskilling the next...?
Like the year before, 2021 was filled with Zoom meetings, travel bans, shaky economics and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, it was a singular year, defined by strikes, international labor shortages and vaccine mandates in many workplaces. As Q4 comes to an end, things are ramping up, and the work challenges of 2022 are becoming very clear.
All over the world, unemployment is high — and so is the lack of available labor. What will see a bigger increase, inflation or salary bumps? Will the Great Resignation lead to a Great Reskilling? What we do know is that white-collar workers are shifting from overtime to flexible schedules, from cogs in the wheel to drivers in the front seat, from struggling independent contractors to employees with full benefits.
This edition of Work → In Progress dives into mutating office etiquette, who’s getting hired and the crystallizing trends that will define our near future.
Portugal made international waves as they passed a groundbreaking law that imposes fines on companies if they contact their employees outside of office hours. According to Portuguese news channel TVI, unless the situation is a force majeure, contacting an employee when they’re off duty or discriminating against workers who protect their time off is a punishable offense. Additionally, companies also have to provide training for any equipment or software used for telework.
The current labor shortage could spur companies to improve pay and working conditions for menial jobs. Or they could hire teenagers. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics says that 16-19 year olds are seeing their highest employment rate in decades, while the state of Ohio is trying to pass legislation that would extend the working hours of 14 and 15 year olds. And since President Biden signed the new infrastructure bill, the trucking industry, a sector that is particularly suffering from shortages, is now allowed to hire drivers as young as 18 years old. Is the trend helping the economy or hindering the health and education of American adolescents?
The pandemic shifted everyone's priorities so much that companies are re-thinking how they remunerate their workers. Chilean-based daily América Economía reports that money is no longer the biggest motivator for many Latin Americans, who now value having more personal time and other non-salary benefits. Some companies offered to help pay for their workers’ internet, others financed their employees’ home offices, and a few made sure to provide psychological support.
Businesses need to make sure they’re attractive in the current labor shortage, and their shift in tactics is benefiting everyone: a survey of 90 Chilean companies found employees are more productive when they work flexibly and can spend more time with family.
HOLD THAT SNEEZE
Afraid of catching COVID? That’s no excuse to stay home, said a court in Madrid this past June. According to Spanish newspaper La Razòn, the city’s Superior Court of Justice felt that because the employee in question wasn’t particularly vulnerable, and because the company had put adequate measures in place, her absence was unjustified.
Now, Spanish paper El País reports that a recent holiday work party for hospital staff at the Regional University Hospital of Málaga — where negative antigen test results were obligatory to join the fun — resulted in 80 new cases and an urgent need for extra hospital staff. No matter what precautions workplaces take, It seems the best rule of thumb is still “better safe than sorry.”
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
“Work from home” was so 2020 — now it’s all about working from the garden. According to the New York Times, many telecommuters who have tried kitchen tables, living room floors and walk-in closets are finding that garden sheds make great home offices. It creates distance from distractions in the house while still remaining close enough to attend to family duties and provides a greener backdrop.
Shoffice, a British company specializing in shed-offices, has seen a 70% increase in sales, and many similar countries from France to Japan, are reporting similar spikes in interest.
What about workers with no backyards? For city-dwellers with hectic agendas, rentable “pop-up office pods” might be the answer to answering emails or attending online meetings in between rendez-vous. The London-based company Make.Work.Space is in the process of designing and deploying these mini workspaces, which would function similarly to bikeshare programs. The pods could be booked via an app — which also controls the lighting, temperature and WiFi login. In a city once famous for its telephone booths, could these office pods become a new urban icon?
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