Corporations had a dirty little secret going on during the pandemic. At first, there was some trepidation on the part of senior management regarding sending everyone home from the office to work remotely. The fear for the upper-echelon executives was that workers wouldn’t really work.
This notion was quickly quelled. Without making headlines or talking about it, many managers took advantage of the situation. Bosses piled extra tasks and responsibilities onto their staff. Boundaries were discarded. Emails, texts and Zoom meetings would take place early in the morning, late at night or weekends.
There was a subtle, unspoken understanding that people were expected to put in longer hours without any increase in compensation. It was as if companies felt that since you’re at home during a deadly virus outbreak, you have nothing better to do than work hard.
As about 80 million Americans filed for unemployment during the pandemic, people were understandably worried about holding onto their jobs. They were willing to endure the punishing hours and stress, as it was better than losing a job or having to search for a new role in the midst of the worst job market in modern history.
A Harvard Business School study, which included over 3 million people who worked from home, found that the “average workday increased by 8.2%” during the beginning of the outbreak. For many people, the workday grew significantly longer as time progressed. This has taken an unfortunate toll on remote workers. The rate of burnout, according to a study from Indeed, has reached epic proportions.
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To be fair, there have been companies that took action to ameliorate the unrelenting work hours and accompanying stress. LinkedIn recently offered a week off to help its staff decompress. Citi’s new CEO, Jane Fraser, offered Zoom-free Fridays to relax the burden of back-to-back, never-ending video calls. She is also offering a companywide holiday, called “Citi Reset Day,” where employees will be given off Friday, May 28 to relax, recharge and extend their Memorial Day weekends. The old-school, buttoned-up Goldman Sachs relented to junior analysts—who complained about 100-hour workweeks—and gave them Saturdays off. Yes, the optics of the big bank doesn’t look good, but at least it’s a start.
Now that we’re hopefully at the tail end of the pandemic, things may start changing. The March jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that nearly 1 million jobs were added last month. The storied investment bank, Goldman Sachs, predicted an upcoming “hiring boom.” With massive multitrillion-dollar stimulus programs, a surprisingly rapid rate of vaccinations and states loosening up restrictions, it looks like the economy and job market are set to rapidly grow—defying all the naysayers.
Companies are starting to plan their post-pandemic work arrangements. The consensus of major corporations conclude that there will be a flexible hybrid system. This will consist of a combination of in-office and at-home work. There will be some people who are proponents for going into the office five days a week. Others may elect to continue operating remotely.
In light of the end of seeing massive layoffs, the strong growth in new jobs available, coupled with an anticipated buoyant economy and elevated mood of the country, it’s the right time for workers to weigh their options. This new era that’s being ushered in will favor the workers.
It’s simply supply and demand. Business will improve, as fears of Covid-19 fade. We’re seeing a swelling, pent-up demand, as people desperately want to get out of their homes and spend money on traveling, staying at hotels, eating out at restaurants, going to movies, concerts and sporting events. Since the American consumer is the biggest driver of the U.S. economy, their spending activities will help businesses, which will make them need to hire more people to keep up with the new demand.
This is the time when you should stand up for yourself. Discuss setting realistic and achievable boundaries between work and life with your boss. It’s likely you didn’t receive a raise or bonus in 2020, so now’s the time to push for a conversation about compensation.
Since you’ve been working extra long hours, it’s only fair to see if there is any extra remuneration due to you. Sensing that the job market will tilt in favor of workers, ask for an increase in salary and promotion. Discuss what is the best option for yourself moving forward. Is it being in the office, working from home or a combination of both?
As the job market improves, you don’t have to put up with the pressure and stress you’ve endured. Dust off your résumé, spruce up the LinkedIn profile, contact recruiters, check in with your network and start looking for a new job, especially one that appreciates you and all that you have to offer.