While out to breakfast at a local chain restaurant, I came across a frazzled employee as I was paying for the check. She mumbled something under her breath about people not wanting to work as she pointed behind me to a pile up of food orders on the counter waiting to be delivered. Clearly, they were understaffed. I didn’t notice any significant wait times on my end as a patron, but I did notice the pressure this lady seemed to be under as a staff member. It reminded me of a video I saw on TikTok about frequently asked questions servers get and all the answers being the same: “we’re understaffed.”
The curse of productivity
This got me reflecting on my recent experiences working with a company that staffs venues and events with temporary workers. I pick up shifts here and there during my free time to make a little extra spending cash—yeah, I know; some people like to play golf during their free time, and I like to do manual labor. The way I see it, I’m getting paid to workout because I’m getting in a week’s worth of cardio during a five or six hour shift to counterbalance a semi-sedentary lifestyle. There are also other perks as well, like meeting new people, practicing humility, and leftover freebies. As I open up the app as of this writing, there are 154 unclaimed job assignments. I find solace in the abundance of opportunity that exists only one download and a tap away.
With my diverse skill set, ranging from food & hospitality, banking, and personal/virtual assistance to marketing consulting, coaching and hypnotherapy counseling, I have no qualms about not ever having a job. No matter how unemployable I might be to some businesses because I’m either under-qualified or over-qualified, I have all the grit in the world to find work opportunities that align with my values or create it for myself if what I’m looking for doesn’t exist yet—even if it means waiting on tables or driving people around while I figure things out and lay the foundation for a dream come true kind of life. With an abundance of jobs on the market, laborers are at liberty to choose their pick of the liter. And how they choose boils down to values, such as flexibility, mobility, autonomy, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
There is plenty of work to go around and an abundance of money to be made one way or another. Still, I find it rather interesting to hear how “people don’t want to work” as the lady at the restaurant this morning mumbled under her breath while processing my payment. With unemployment benefits recently ending for some folks, there no longer seems to be the excuse of “why work when you get can paid better on unemployment?” However, I imagine some of this comes down to mere principles for workers who refuse to get vaccinated and would rather quit than compromise their values. In other cases, I imagine there is also a lot of fear around going back to work related to breakthroughs symptoms of Covid-19 or any of its variants. Alternatively, people are beginning to see that the 9 to 5 lifestyle they originally subscribed to isn’t the only way to do life. Americans seem to be redefining what it means to be productive. I know I certainly am. Learning that resting is just as productive as working was a huge paradigm shift for me.
Quitting isn’t just for losers anymore
Later in my day after coming across that frazzled restaurant worker, I opened up my email to find news from Millenniel Money about a record-breaking 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in August. Wow! I don’t even blame them. Once you’ve enjoyed the benefits of working from home, it’s kinda hard to go back to the office. After a year and some change of working from home, some employers are requiring employees to return back to the office while many others are now requiring proof of vaccination for their employment files. The world may seem like it’s falling apart, but what if it’s actually falling together?
Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic that he too noticed “something weird” happening and referred to it as “The Great Resignation” with a rising number of Americans quitting their jobs in almost every industry. He noted that attitudes toward work are shifting as the pandemic forced many to confront and re-evaluate their work-life balance situation with a sobering perspective.
I wonder what implications this “Great Resignation” will have on the economy. If more people are quitting their jobs to do their own thing by starting a business, then perhaps organizations can learn to evolve and adapt by re-defining the work experience with health and well-being in mind.