The Pandemic Workforce: How America's Labor Sector May Vastly Evolve

Updated: Oct 14




There's no shortage of jobs in today's hastily termed post-COVID America. As well, there's no shortage of pandemic revamps in the employer-employee relationship dynamics. While restaurants and retail stores aim to entice workers back into the workforce, America plays witness to an evolution in how its workers “work” and how employers “pay.”


Large and small businesses are challenged with two major questions:

  • What will it take to fully staff their businesses?

  • What does the future of workforce competition look like?


We all recall March of 2020, when shutdowns loomed and shutdowns happened. During that time, many companies struggled with the idea of remote work. There was a divide, citing productivity as a reason on both sides. But, the prolonged pandemic forced companies to give remote work a chance. For some, it was a lifesaver. For others, it meant layoffs as remote work could not accommodate certain businesses, like restaurants and many retail stores.


America's workforce is now the widespread remote employee landscape. At the same time, business reopenings are bringing back bustling freeways as a signal restoration. But, one major issue remains: where is America's workforce infrastructure heading?


Let's examine several critical influencers which set the table for new workforce infrastructure.


People Want To Move Away From Work.


No, people don't hate their jobs. However, there are various influencers prompting people to want to move further away from their jobs.


In the past, companies required employees to work in an office. This consequently resulted in people moving in some proximity to their offices. Some opted for suburbs that gave them more property and space but burdened them with a heavier commute. Others chose more urban accommodations as a way to save on commute times and gas costs.


In both cases, people chose their living situation based on their work office location.


Last March, a Work Pulse survey showed that 22% of U.S. workers intend to move more than 50 miles away from their offices. Even more notable, 12% already relocated. It's difficult to say how much this number reflects temporary moves, but the statistics are compelling.


Considering our current unemployment numbers are at 8.4 million persons, or 5.4%, versus job opportunity increases, we recognize that the bottleneck falls squarely on the employer's shoulders.


Let’s dive further...


Companies continue to need workers. But, many workers want increased pay and remote work. Remote work offers many advantages, some at no cost to the employer. In some ways, both parties can save on rent and other expenses.


Broader influences, such as local and state taxes, also contribute to reasons people may choose to live somewhere else. For example, if you are a single woman without kids living in a county with high taxes due, you might consider relocating to somewhere less costly but equivalent school quality.


Companies are finding the need to adapt in various ways if they want to get back to business as usual. Some remote work is likely a must. This is because their competitors will swoop up all the talent if they don't. If a company chooses only to hire employees who can work in their office, they also substantially lower their talent pool. If a Cincinnati company offers fully remote opportunities, it can peruse talent located in Kansas City. For a company, the implications of offering remote work opportunities run far and wide.


Wait, there’s more…


According to the same survey, if you are 18 to 40 years old, you expect to work from home when possible. But, for employers, some good news comes along with this stat: Those same workers would give up some pay to work from home. Yet, there's a wage crisis in America right now?


Employees always desire more pay. Employers always claim they can't afford to pay more. If employees and/or legislation forces employers to pay more, they claim they'll lay off workers. If workers don't get more pay, they assert they can't afford rent, bills, and childcare costs.


Companies are looking for options to attract talent.


By looking at this Statista monthly average for a private nonfarm payroll graph, we can see that from August 2020 to August 2021, wages increased by more than $1. Find more statistics at Statista.


Employees Want Unlimited Vacation Time (And They Will Take Less Pay For It).


The aforementioned Work Pulse survey asked questions about employee decisions and interests in work/life benefits. Here are a few answers received:

  • Mental Health Benefits - 31%

  • Paid Time Off for Community Services of my Choice - 33%

  • Above-average training opportunities (ability to choose what I learn) - 33%

  • Unlimited Sick Time - 37%

  • Permanent remote work option - 38%

  • Flexible work hours - 44%