On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By the end of the month, states enacted stay-at-home orders across the country, schools initiated remote learning, and businesses shuttered. Many Americans struggled to make sense of their new reality.
A year later, the ongoing health threat, financial uncertainty, and long stretches of recommended social distancing and isolation have resulted in unprecedented anxiety levels, exacerbating pre-existing mental health conditions. A recent Pew survey found that one-third of Americans reported experiencing high levels of psychological distress since the onset of the pandemic. The coronavirus’s disproportionate impact on black and brown people, many of whom are essential front-line workers, has also taken a toll on mental health.
The reality is, there are still 10 million fewer jobs in the U.S. now than before the pandemic. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 full-time workers have experienced a reduction in pay, and a similar percentage of those unemployed have been out of work for more than six months. Not only is unemployment putting people in a more vulnerable financial position, but it's having a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing.
As the vaccine rollout pace quickens, many are experiencing an additional stressor: the fear of returning to work. Public health and government messaging have long emphasized that home is the safest place for people to be throughout the pandemic, so it's no surprise that many feel anxious about returning to the workforce.
New research from Qualtrics points to the mental health challenges we are facing worldwide as a result of the pandemic. The study surveyed 2,700 people in the US, UK, France, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Its respondents represent various industries from foodservice and retail to manufacturing, technology, education, healthcare, and government.
Two out of five (41.6%) respondents said their mental health has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of people who rated the state of their mental health in the lowest range (3 or under on a 10-point scale) has doubled since the outbreak began. Most notably, unemployed workers have the highest proportion of mental health declines (48.5%), followed by newly remote workers (44.4%), and then all other employed workers (34.1%).
Returning to work after a period of unemployment results in significant physical and mental health improvements. For those with underlying mental health problems, being employed can be an important step to recovery, improving self-esteem and confidence and reducing psychological distress. Engaging in a work setting provides daily structure and often offers meaningful social inclusion.
Although the latest jobs report shows a stall in hiring, employers added significant temporary workers and provided those new temporary and existing employees with more hours. This is reason enough to be optimistic about the future of on-demand staffing.
According to the Labor Department, the pickup in temporary workers and hours is consistent with other signs of a recovering economy despite COVID-19 spikes, leading to 227,000 job losses in December and modest 49,000 gains in January. There were 6.6 million U.S. job openings in December, up by 74,000 from the prior month and by 600,000 from June.
Historically, temporary workers are the first cut in a downturn, and the first brought back in a recovery. Experts say that pattern is playing out in real-time. Many businesses are bringing on temporary workforce because they don’t know what to expect as vaccine accessibility increases and more of the country has the opportunity to become inoculated by summer.
By turning to temporary-labor sourcing, businesses can scale quickly to meet consumer demands without the fixed costs or fear of bringing back permanent workers whom they will be forced to lay off if the recovery does not prove to be as swift or as sustainable as experts predict. On-demand staffing can also bridge the gap when a team member takes a hiatus but plans to return in the future, allowing businesses to respond to workload fluctuations and changing market conditions to maintain a competitive edge.
In the meantime, this spike in temporary hiring can mean longer work days for those picking up shifts, which translates to more income and more spending. According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans worked an average of 35 hours a week in January after seasonal adjustments, the most on record dating back to 2006.
The current landscape suits the labor on-demand model, providing a cost-effective, reliable workforce to employers when they need it while giving workers more job opportunities and control over their schedules when they want it.
Companies across industries have the potential to reshape their approaches to on-demand staffing—and help jumpstart their recoveries in the process. Earlier this month, we sat down with Worth magazine to share our insights on this growing labor trend and how businesses can shift their approach in an ever-changing environment. At Jitjatjo, we’re finding this growing trend to be especially true for staffing our human-powered industries of education, facilities, healthcare, and hospitality.
According to a recent McKinsey report, undertaking such a transformation requires a level of familiarity with a labor market that can vary significantly by industry and by role. Businesses that recognize the emerging potential of investing in the temporary workforce and optimize their talent-procurement strategies to include this growing dynamic will persevere through post-pandemic challenges.
While restaurants, retail, and hotels have cut jobs again amid coronavirus spikes in parts of the country, other home-based industries looking to on-demand shift work continue to thrive, particularly in the healthcare, technology, education, and e-commerce fields.
At Jitjatjo, we’re committed to helping employers take control of their resourcing by increasing client satisfaction and helping them regain access to furloughed or separated staff via a lower-cost dynamic labor model. With our on-demand hiring platform, we provide fully-vetted and experienced W-2 talent for a wide variety of roles from food service to facilities and guest and patient services across diverse industries from healthcare to education. This also provides businesses an opportunity to use on-demand staffing as a recruiting mechanism for full-time positions that open up as the business demand stabilizes, put another way it's like a try-before-you-buy approach.
On the flip side, our proprietary matching algorithm (fondly referred to as Ma) helps workers gain control of their schedule to find job opportunities that provide flexibility and instant payment. As an employer or an employee, whether you have a last-minute need or are scheduling in advance, Ondemand is always ready.
While the hiring and labor landscape will never be the same, on-demand staffing solutions provide businesses with a phased approach to hiring talent as the economy recovers.
Mutually beneficial, on-demand staffing also safely places qualified candidates in roles that allow them to adjust to their new normal on their timeline, beginning the long road of recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
It’s a job-seekers market and businesses are short-staffed. What do workers want and how can businesses compete?
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