Pre Covid-19 life was synonymous with grind culture. People were working multiple jobs, university students were struggling to work alongside their course load, and graduates struggled to attain a job after their four-year degree. There was little to no understanding of how and why we accept this as the norm, especially when many countries worldwide do not see and treat work as an inevitable torment, they must endure for 50+ years of their life. Countries like Spain, Finland, and the Netherlands have implemented 4 day work weeks, which has greatly improved their quality of life. So how have the events of the pandemic affected and ultimately changed the way we now view and approach work? How will our jobs be impacted in the years to come after the effects of the pandemic?
The Importance of Essential Workers
With the many closures that have taken place, we have had to evaluate what services in our society are deemed essential or not, and despite the genuine need for grocery store clerks, cashiers, and fast-food workers, the poor treatment of these workers has persisted throughout the pandemic. Although these workers are quite literally essential for us to function each day, corporations have done little in the grand scheme of things to show appreciation for their hard work and the risks they take each day while working in a global pandemic. Walmart is currently under fire for fighting against a $15 minimum wage for their employees, with many current Walmart employees joining groups like “Fight for 15.” The conversation around minimum wage and paid sick leave has been a very important one for those essential workers, and the pandemic might just be the last push for a liveable minimum wage and enough paid sick time off to better support these workers.
The Rise of Remote Work
Many people have had the opportunity to continue their work from home, allowing them to still further their career in an online environment. Although this has been a positive experience for some, for others this has brought on a whole new set of anxieties and a huge rise in depression. Remote work from home during several months of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have wreaked havoc on the mental health of millions of Canadians, causing many to quit their jobs altogether. The amount of work alongside no separation of leisure and workspace is not what their career should be about, and while everyone in the world is simultaneously dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have voiced their concerns about the little support they have received in such a time. A positive side of the rise of remote work according to Stewart Butterfield has to do with more efficient work practices and greater flexibility for the employee. Many people have expressed they do not wish to go back to the way things were before the pandemic hit, they are much more open to flexibility within the workplace and new ways of getting things done.
Youth Rethinking Their Future
Many young people are currently working the most essential jobs while studying for their future careers, but what if you could see the direct impact that a global pandemic was having on the field you wished to pursue in a few years? This has been a common factor in a huge number of students either changing their major and starting from square one or dropping out of school altogether due to the circumstances of online learning. These young people working the essential jobs right now are dealing with little to no paid sick leave, unappreciative customers, and wages that most certainly do not reflect the importance of their jobs–this has also created a small movement of people across North America abandoning their jobs because they simply do not pay the bills. The uncertainty many young graduates are experiencing due to the current trends in the job market adds another layer of stress to their lives and is changing their view on future career options.
The Classic 9-5 Might Be Left Behind Post COVID-19
As many have experienced the ease and flexibility of working from home, it has become more apparent that a more flexible workday is needed. Not only is this a huge benefit for anyone working in an office environment (or any other job that can be done from the comfort of home), but it is a huge benefit for women, whose careers are far more likely to be interrupted when having a family. Roughly 31% of women who took a career break after having kids said they didn’t want to but had to because of a lack of employer flexibility. This change in allowing more remote work will allow for a better family and work dynamic. A more equitable workplace for women will drastically change the way women approach work and will create more equitable opportunities for working mothers.
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on the job market, and these effects will linger for years to come, but the takeaway here is that people have become aware of the bigger picture in life, what is truly important to them. The capitalist view of work is one that might be slowly dissipating within North America, and that may be one of the few positives that we can take from COVID-19. With a new taste for a universal basic income in Canada, work may finally become something that people can enjoy, rather than dread for decades of their lives. There is hope that soon, the minimum wage will support our essential workers, and paid sick leave will be a norm in Canada to protect those at risk.