Various Industries Respond to Pandemic Recovery Pt. 2

Dear Rich Lifer,

Yesterday we delved into the topic of the post-pandemic workplace, a subject full of unknowns and uncertainty. 

We covered many lingering questions that employees around the country are grappling with as a certain amount of “normalcy” begins to return to the workplace. 

In our research, we determined that while some companies had previously been hesitant to make vaccination a work requirement, many are now beginning to do so. Although, the enforcement process will likely continue to be complicated. 

We also explored worker’s rights regarding mask-wearing on the job. We revealed that until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) remove the “pandemic” label from the coronavirus crisis, workers will be legally protected as long as they wish to wear masks indoors, regardless of state or company guidelines.  

And while this all was a lot to cover yesterday, there is even more pandemic recovery news we wanted to share with you. 

Today, we will focus on how a few specific industries have been dealing with the complications that come with the slow return to America’s new normal. 

Read on… 

The Specific Struggle of the Restaurant Industry 

Restaurants struggled more than many over the past year as they attempted to stay afloat and encourage customers to return to dining. 

Now that they have successfully won back their customers, they face a new struggle: winning back employees.

As Covid-19 restrictions relax, nationwide chains and local restaurants both say they are unable to hire enough workers to staff their now-busy businesses. 

Restaurant chains across the country are responding by offering a multitude of creative incentives to get employees back. 

Some are offering signing bonuses, like Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant. Others are thinking outside the box, like Chipotle, which is offering free college tuition to employees who work at least 15 hours a week after four months on the job.

After a year of mostly to-go orders and online services, U.S. restaurants are finally seeing an increase in seating and serving customers. Sales at bars and restaurants rose 13.4% in March, compared with February. According to the Commerce Department, this has been the biggest month-to-month increase since last June. 

Diners who are excited to return to eating out are now experiencing higher prices as restaurant owners pass along the burden of wage increases and other rising costs. Labor Department data shows that consumer prices for fast food in March grew 6.5% compared with last year, the biggest year-over-year increase since at least 1998.

The lack of labor is also affecting service, and many chains like Pizza Hut and McDonald’s have begun closing locations earlier than normal because they lack a full staff. 

The open number of jobs in food-service are at a record number. According to Indeed.com, postings for such jobs were 16.2% higher than in February 2020. 

Many restaurant owners and economists blame supplemental unemployment benefits for keeping workers from returning to service jobs. 

As of mid-2020, the median wage for a fast-food worker stood at $11.47. Meanwhile, federal and average state unemployment payments can exceed the weekly pay of an employee working 40 hours at $15 an hour. 

Advocates of the supplemental benefits say they are crucial for those struggling with Covid-19’s fallout, especially low-income families and those who are forced to stay home to take care of children or elderly family members. 

These huge shifts are forcing big companies like McDonald’s to reassess pay and benefits for their employees. 

Is it time for corporations to set new standards of treatment that will give their employees better quality of life? 

Was coronavirus the push needed to start treating essential workers like they are actually essential? 

Questions to ruminate on… In the meantime, let us head over to another industry…

Tech Goes Back to the Office 

While some tech companies are leveraging the lure of a flexible work environment to gain a competitive edge, others are going in a very different direction with the idea that a strong work culture will help when it comes to recruiting. 

Mike de Vere is the chief executive of one such fintech software startup, Zest AI. He believes that having employees fully in-office helps improve communication, build trust and become more knowledgeable. 

Other tech giants like Salesforce.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Google have announced hybrid plans to return to the office only a few days a week. 

However, Mr. de Verve says he’s not worried about losing competent workers because he believes young workers want to learn from talented veterans in person. He cited a recent in-person sales meeting with a client where his team was able to cover in three hours what would typically take weeks over Zoom. 

Not everyone agrees with Mr. de Verve, including Dan Kaplan, a partner with organizational consulting firm KornFerry International, who believes the pandemic has permanently changed what employees value. Now, he sees flexibility as a point of negotiation between job seekers and employers… and even between various employers. 

After Amazon announced that it will continue as an office-focused company, other recruiters immediately started to poach its workers…

“Amazon employees: Second guessing a return to the office? Been more productive at home? Enjoying the moments with your family and loved ones? Would you like a more flexible working arrangement? Well, #Zillow is hiring,” posted one recruiter to LinkedIn.

But hybrid work might not be the perfect solution for moving forward in workplaces either. 

Denise Rousseau, a professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, points out that while hybrid models could be seen as offering a “best of both worlds” type situation, it could also put women at a disadvantage. 

Statistically, women have to deal with the majority of caregiving duties and will be more likely to seek out home-based arrangements. As a result, they could miss out on professional face-time. 

Some also anticipate that the hybrid work model may result in more overhead, miscommunication and eventually lead to management having to impose more rules and oversight. 

Regardless of the industry you work in, the return to work (in whatever form that takes) will likely be a big change. 

Will hybrid work prevail? Is a return to five days in the office on the horizon? 

We wish we could tell you for sure… for now, we will continue to bring you the latest updates as we navigate the ever-changing future together. 

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team 

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