There are a number of points about work in general that worth thinking about in this piece by Derek Thompson.
If you asked me to predict the most salutary long-term effects of the pandemic last year, I might have muttered something about urban redesign and office filtration. But we may instead look back to the pandemic as a crucial inflection point in something more fundamental: Americans’ attitudes toward work. Since early last year, many workers have had to reconsider the boundaries between boss and worker, family time and work time, home and office.
The article is actually from last October, and I think I may have back-burnered it in my head since it seemed like we were about to emerge from the pandemic. Then Omicron hit… My (limited) time in the office again vanished and I was right back at home – where I sit now!
And while “The Great Resignation” clearly has a natural negative connotation, there are positive flip sides of this as well:
As I wrote in the spring, quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better.
You may have heard the story that in the golden age of American labor, 20th-century workers stayed in one job for 40 years and retired with a gold watch. But that’s a total myth. The truth is people in the 1960s and ’70s quit their jobs more often than they have in the past 20 years, and the economy was better off for it.
Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession. The Great Resignation is, literally, great.
That said, per above, we remain in this strange in-between time where the pandemic isn’t yet over, but an increasing number of people are done with it. We’re not quite in the state to know where this all settles yet, but we seem close.