What are the real reasons people aren't returning to work?

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

CNBC recently published an article on Six Reasons People Aren't Returning to Work. At a high level, it cited the following reasons:

  1. COVID

  2. Early retirement

  3. Care responsibilities

  4. Savings

  5. Wages

  6. It will take time(?)

Let's take a deeper dive, shall we? Because this article barely scratches the surface about why the Great Resignation is happening, and the more I read it, the more confused I was.

  1. COVID: To blame COVID is an oversimplification. For example, the article states that "a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August. Front-line workers in sectors like restaurants, bars and retail quit at the highest rates — lending credence to the idea that fear of contagion and hazards of in-person work are playing a role". Perhaps that starts to get to the issue, but the bigger point is potential employees are concerned. Why? Because they don't feel protected at work and they don't feel like their concerns are addressed. So why should they work for someone that clearly isn't concerned about their safety?

  2. Early retirement: One of the results of COVID and how it changed our work is it made people think about what they were doing with their lives. Many people went from working in an office to working remotely and were just as if not more productive. There's a nice thing that comes from being older--you stop caring what other people think and start wondering what you're getting out of a situation. If people aren't feeling valued and don't have to go back to work, then they may decide that life is too short to do a job where they're unhappy, especially if they've been working for an employer that was potentially looking to phase them out anyway.

  3. Care responsibilities: COVID was hard on moms. Having to balance working full-time and manage kids who were in remote schooling or didn't have access to pre-school or daycare forced many women to resign from their jobs. Despite the face that it's 2021, in many ways the United States is still eons behind all over developed nation in how it treats its parents, particularly moms. With paid family leave getting dropped from Biden's budget, the U.S. remains the only wealthy nation without any paid family leave. Well done, federal government, well done. Until the government mandates employers to take care of their employees who are parents, very few will offer these benefits.

  4. Savings: This one is strange. Saying people were staying home wading in savings because of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits and increased public assistance doesn't fully understand the fears of being unemployed.

  5. Wages: Many people have been underpaid for a very long time. As a small business owner, I'm incredibly sympathetic to other small business owners. There are many businesses led by people who make a lot of money and have incredible profits, so I roll my eyes at this one as well.

  6. It will take time: Translation--"eventually the peons will be forced to come back to work and we can lower their wages again." The peons have the power right now.

I know CNBC is a business channel, but the more I analyzed this article, the more I was blown away by its inability or unwillingness to understand what's really going on here. If people haven't felt supported or appreciated whether they're in a service industry, a parent, or an older adult, why should they stick around? Many of them are at-will employees who are at risk of getting let go at any moment in time. Why should employees be loyal to employers that will drop them at the drop of a hat?

What do you think? Am I the one that's off-base here?



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