A story of how a pandemic changed our perception on workplace efficiency
Published on 2021/06/09
As stores, office, factories, and everything else that we were locked out of around the world are beginning to open their doors, a shift has occurred during our time at home. This shift not only changes how we live out our daily lives but also how we’ve come to manage our schedules that seemingly always get more and more booked. In a simliar fashion to how labor unions reshaped the job site throughout the 20th century, the emergence of technology will now be what defines the innovations of the workplace through the 21st century.
You don’t need to be in an office every day
During the course of the pandemic, it’s become apparent that pretty much any office job has little to no excuse to not allow at least a few days at home(Minus janitorial/on-site maintenance). Having spent an entire year at a completely new job myself that has been fully remote, I don’t feel that my productivity has been any less than jobs I had before the pandemic started. In many ways, having the opportunity to work at home is one of the most desirable benefits you can give workers in the modern workplace.
While some who work in the office might live a few minutes away, it may not be uncommon for a good majority of workers to live more than a half hour away from the job site. Because of this, you are factoring in a minimum one hour of time daily just to move from one place to another. That time spent is 100% uselss to both you and your employer and only serves to drive down your productivity. Working remotely on a day where you may not be feeling the best but only need to make the effort of getting out of bed is a lot more doable than getting up and driving for a sizable amount of time before you can even start for the day. On top of the personal health benefit, having the flexibility of working at home allows for families to better work with the schedules of things such as the kid’s activities, a chance to get caught up on chores during breaks, and a chance to see your family a little more during the daytime.
I do understand the push to companies to want office workers to return. In many cases the office building costs money to maintain and in some cities there has to be to have a minimum quota of office space filled. Regardless, if companies are worried about productivity, in all honesty, that should be the least of their worries. Coming from personal experience of having some of my best work take place during an entire year of being remote, productivity does not suffer if a work-from-home setup is managed well.
If someone works in retail, it better be worth it
As restaurants and shops opened up, a common situation I saw coming up locally on the news was the lack of workers interested in jobs such as flipping burgers and/or servers at a restaurant. While some jobs saw innovation during the pandemic, the harsh reality of these jobs was put on hold during the time and now more than ever has become apparent to everyone.
For the record, if you’re going to argue that these are ‘starter jobs’, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense why you can be upset about people preferring a stipend over working minimum wage(which by the way, hasn’t changed at all for over 10 years). In many cases if they were to start working at these jobs, not only would they actually make less money than staying on benefits, they would lose alot of the current benefits because ‘hey, a job is a job and I see you have one now’. Besides this, it’s clear that these corporations don’t share the same mindset about them being ‘starter jobs’ since they seem to throw out “at least you’re not starving” quality benefits packaged specifically for full-time workers.
The only thing more atrocious than a minimum wage job right now is the minimum tipped wage, which in most states isn’t even half the federal minimum wage. While the idea of tipping restraunt staff is seemingly a cultural tradition, sounds kinda messed up when you think about it:
Man, depending on whether my service is good or bad or if I’m just on a warpath today will decide if this person’s family eats this week.
I’m not saying that in some capacity tipping shouldn’t go away completely, but it would just make far more sense for companies to at least match a minumum wage. Chances are if you are eating out your are already planning to spend more money on food you could make yourself, might as well pay the extra dollar so you have less chances of wondering why your server may not be in the best mood.
In some situations, the four day work week makes sense
Considering how it might be possible for some jobs to offer more remote positions, some companies might still worry about productiveness while workers are at home. While being remote may be nice because you have the comfort of working from home, it does not change the fact that you are still working a job. Depending on the position you hold, this does not exempt you from things such as working overtime, sitting in meetings, and meeting deadlines all while you are with your family. It is still important even when working remotely to have a good work-life balance.
Problem is, this can be difficult to achieve when working at home since you are a hallway(or less) away from your family as well as your job. Instead of ditching the remote work model(which as I stated above, is here to stay whether like it or not), why not work just four days a week?
When working a four day week, we’re not talking about cramming 40 hours into four days, we’re talking working the regular 8ish hour shift for four days; this actually isn’t to much of a stretch. From my personal experience in my last 3 jobs, it’s already fairly common to make Fridays a shorter day anyways and the old 40 hour model is already in many situations shrinking down.
Besides the change of hours and the personal benefit for employees, having a four-day work week could allow employers to reduce overhead costs typically associated with simply maitaining a corporate office. This isn’t even neccesarily limited to just office jobs. Other fields could see some benefit by staggering their workforce and giving employees oppertunities to improve efficiency for every minute they’re working during the week!
A monthly paycheck during a crisis is not unreasonable
During the early days of the pandemic as many began losing their jobs, it was brought up several times how monthly payments will allow Americans to get by on the bare minimum. The fence was already split by this point of discussion far before the pandemic began. Unforuntately the common ‘get a job’ sentiment wasn’t all that effective when workplaces were closed for what seemed like idefinitely.
The government initially released a $290 billion dollar stimulus package which included a $1,200 payment to each individual. While this price tag does seem high, it’s not as high as a price tag that it would seem. This also was not a new discussion by any means. Regardless of your stance at the time, we got them. While I can’t attest to how you personally spent it, I have typically made the assumption based on how everyone around spent them:
- You spent it on bills, food, or items that are necessities
- You spent it on investments, personal goods, or saved it(for now)
While there were probably some that did more wasteful spending versus essential spending it’s not without some imagination that some of the money went right back into the economy. What sector is a good example of this you say? While those who payed rent during the pandemic went through hardships, on the homeownership side, things were about as sweet as can be.
The housing market underwent a complete boom during the pandemic. Mortgage rates plummeted due to the federal response to COVID, causing a massive demand for both buying homes and refinancing existing mortgages. Besides mortage rates being some of the lowest seen for years, people who had already been keeping steady and looking for houses suddenly had low interest rates and $1,200 in their pockets each. While things are getting a little too hot right now in terms of buying a home, for the time spent in the pandemic, things did not come to a complete hault in all sectors.
Going back to the idea of monthly payments, let’s make a hypothetical in order to ensure that while not enough to neccesarily live off of, the idea of monthly payments does not go away during future crisis. Let’s say we want to have a bill that ensures $500 monthly payments for U.S. adults(let’s equate that number to about 200 million). The bill(costing 100 billion monthly) would equate to about $1.2 trillion yearly. This is a hefty price tag, but nothing out of the ordinary for us to spend:
- We already spend nearly 1 trillion dollars on Social Security. We could factor this money already set aside to some extent
- We spend more than half a trillion dollars on defense, which has long been debated on how much many actually needs to be spent considering our dimished activity.
- Congress approved a nearly 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut which only temporarily lowered individual tax rates, the changes to the corporate tax which dropped nearly 10% are permanent. A core concept of this bill was the reliance on trickle-down economics. Based on the sentiment of conditions I explained above, I think there’s room to reconsider the supposed benefits of this.
While I’m not an expert of managing a federal budget, it’s clear that the money spent for a rather simple concept is nothing new, it just requires adjustment for what truly provides the most benefit to the average citizen.
While the pandemic has been a tough time for many, there are some good lessons learned as we come out of the tunnel. It has become clear to many that the modern workplace is changing in favor of the employee. Companies who see value in benefitting employees with incentives along the work-life balance will be shining stars in the coming decades. It’s also worth a mention that no one should put up with companies who pay pennies worth for their billions made or should feel guilty for getting help until they find an employer that actually gives them a sense of value. The greatest thing you can do for your career is putting foward an effort in what you do and understanding that lessening your well-being is not something you should have to negotiate on.