Is the business still working? | hill
It’s hard to believe Labor Day is just around the corner – we just passed Memorial Day. Summer can’t end yet. But since the calendar ignores our most ardent desires, it’s time to think about action.
Labor Day celebrates the men and women of this country who fought hard for workers’ rights. It became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894 as a result of the labor movement. But some countries officially recognized Labor Day even earlier in honor of the achievements of their workers.
On September 5, 1882, New York City union leaders staged what is now considered the nation’s first Labor Day parade, according to National Geographic. But beyond parades and parties, work is a serious topic that deserves to be reconsidered this year.
First, working conditions in 19th century America were awful and led to the formation of the Labor Day holiday after the Pullman strike, a nationwide railroad boycott that became fatal and exposed the appalling conditions of many workers.
There was a time when the average American worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week to earn a basic wage. The conditions were dangerous. The workers – especially the women and children who worked in the workshops and mills – were exploited.
Question 1: Have working conditions changed over the years? yes. Improving laws along with workplace regulation and a culture of respect for work. Today, we discuss the possibility of a four-day work week, work from home and other revolutionary labor concepts that were unimaginable in the last century. We must celebrate some of these freedoms, though not every worker can enjoy them.
The second serious question today: Who wants to work and where? In 2021, a record number of workers quit their jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million Americans have voluntarily left their jobs – an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce. Labor shortages are emerging everywhere, from doctors’ offices to pizzerias.
The so-called “Big Resignation” reflects something broken in the relationship between workers and work. Many complained about the work-life balance; Others felt uninspired and dissatisfied with their jobs. Many wanted more flexibility in where and when they worked. This is something we still need to address. What prompted people to change jobs so often?
A Harvard Business School study warned businesses and corporations to consider the factors that changed the labor market prior to illness: “retirement, relocation, reconsideration, redistribution, and indecision.” These are the motives that are now being absorbed into the workforce.
Wherever financially possible, people want more time with family and friends, and they want the freedom to explore places to live and work. Social mobility, transportation, and work evolution had people moving in and out of jobs for years before the COVID-19 outbreak, exacerbating and accelerating these trends.
Business is often a partnership between the employer and the employee. Some of these conventions were legislated; Others are unofficial. Work is a human commitment between people, a kind of social contract that makes life possible.
Work is also a reflection of economic conditions and what people can “afford” to do. When layoffs are at low levels, and the demand for employment is high, workers gain leverage to demand higher wages and better conditions—which is a good thing. The average worker’s wage growth rate in America rose 6 percent in April, compared to last April — the largest annual increase in more than 20 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
But the more complex phenomenon of work then becomes how difficult it is for someone to want to work at the expense of doing other things. A new phenomenon is the “quiet take off”, which is essentially staying at your job while returning to work during the hours. In short, this means deciding not to put in too much effort to avoid burnout.
Today’s job market is strong and resilient, despite severe inflation. But people’s motives for work have changed and the economy is changing. If the experts are correct, the job market could turn in a downtrend. Experts say job growth is slowing and unemployment claims are on the rise. Companies are beginning to consider layoffs, and many are planning job freezes.
This Labor Day will test people’s willingness to stay in their jobs and resist the temptation to find alternative solutions to work. We need workers in every sector, from healthcare to commerce. We need pilots to fly planes and assembly workers to keep us competitive and sourcing.
We also need freedom from work to enjoy our free time. We need to work, not work. This will be a difficult balancing act, as ever.
Tara D. Sonnenstein is the Edward R. Morrow School of Public Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.