Planning for a Changing Workplace and Job Market

February 25, 2021
min read

Nearly a year into the pandemic that upended life across the globe, experts have gathered data on shifts in consumer behavior to inform critical business decisions, including the future of the workplace. Roughly two-thirds of Americans say that their spending habits have changed in the last year. Here, we’ll dig deeper into what this means for the economic rebound and the implications for jobs. 

The Wall Street Journal analyzed credit-card data from Earnest Research to evaluate the dramatic transformation in food, retail, and entertainment purchases as Americans find themselves spending more time at home than ever before. With a significant percentage of office workers still working remotely, spending on professional attire remained low, while sales of home products, including office supplies, increased by 14 percent. Perhaps most notably, food delivery spending has more than doubled year-over-year, with all the major delivery services seeing revenue spike while local and fine-dining establishments continue to struggle. Compared to other retail businesses, restaurants and bars have struggled with reopening while trying to comply with constantly changing regulations. Travel and transportation plummeted 54 percent, second only to events and attractions, which saw a 72 percent decrease in spending from a year earlier. 

Nearly 4 million leisure and hospitality jobs have been lost since February 2020, an astonishing blow to an industry that once employed over 15 million people. Nearly a year later, this same workforce finds themselves under pressure amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases. According to the Labor Department’s latest report, 498,000 leisure and hospitality jobs disappeared in December, with 3 in 4 of those lost being in restaurants and bars. The hemorrhaging of service-sector jobs also has the unintended consequence of affecting unemployed workers from all sectors who may have otherwise taken jobs at bars, hotels, restaurants, or entertainment venues to make ends meet. 

In this new era, businesses are transforming their approach to everything from products to events to meet the unique demands of customers, partners, employees, and the community at large. With these shifts in consumer spending and behavior undoubtedly come changes in employee habits and workplace expectations, inviting employers to consider the effect these patterns have on their workforce, and in turn, their profits. 

The pandemic has resurfaced a long-known notion — American workers, of all levels, come from varied home lives with different household responsibilities. The current employment crisis has shed light on the country’s widespread caregiving crisis, which has especially hurt women and people of color who disproportionately work in education, healthcare, retail, restaurants, and other essential industries. 

The future of work, much like the present, requires acknowledging those differences with flexibility. An inclusive recovery depends on vulnerable workers’ ability to return to work safely, in a clean and disinfected setting, gain new skills and find stable new jobs where possible. Across all industries, businesses are evaluating their fiscal strategies to meet these new needs.

We have an opportunity as humans and an obligation as employers to create an even better workplace — one that allows us to be more connected to each other, find more balance between work and home, and advance equity — ultimately leading to increased innovation and more profitable outcomes. To make this happen, we must listen to and lean into our communities and networks. What we take from this time will help us build the future. 

The year-long duration of workplace disruption has prompted some to adapt to, and even prefer, this new normal. The success of the 42 percent of Americans working remotely has reimagined how corporate businesses operate, as well as where the work takes place. Just 1 in 10 companies expect all workers to return to the office in a post-pandemic world. Tech giants Facebook and Twitter already planned for the prospect of a reluctant return to the office, announcing they will let workers continue to operate from home indefinitely. 

While executives and employees alike converge around a future with more flexibility, few are ready to entirely abandon the office space. Cloud computing company Salesforce joined other Silicon Valley companies in announcing their dramatic policy change, citing that the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and giving more freedom to their employees to choose what their daily schedules look like and how often, if ever, they return to the office once safe to do so. Most employees will fit into the “flex” category, which requires an office presence one to three days a week for key moments like customer meetings and presentations.

This hybrid model embraces the same flexibility afforded in the gig economy. At Jitjatjo, we’re seeing demand for contractor work and temporary-labor demand continue to rise. This shift to a more flexible work environment is likely to transform company culture expectations and enhance employee engagement by increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover. According to Gallup, U.S. businesses lose $1 trillion every year to voluntary turnover. Regardless of size, the cost of replacing just one individual employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary. It all points to a greater cultural shift. People deserve to work for a company that respects them and recognizes their commitments outside of work. 

We already see these promising changes come to life in the hospitality, healthcare, and education industries. For the last five years, Jitjatjo has helped companies solve staffing challenges by offering flexibility while maintaining compliance and control. At our core, we are an on-demand staffing platform that connects employers with the right talent at the right time to get the job done. Because we’re empowering workers to choose their journey, we’re able to maximize the potential success of the match for a long-lasting partnership. 

As the nature of the workforce changes, employers will have to be even more intentional about culture and cultivating an environment of inclusion, belonging, and equality. At Jitjatjo, we believe everyone, especially now, needs a champion, needs to be seen, needs to feel heard, and needs to be believed in. It’s time to embrace change, transform the way we work, and intentionally create a future with opportunity in abundance.

When we acknowledge that shifts in consumer behavior are indicative of shifting in our own network, we can begin the journey from being impacted by the pandemic to being impactful because — and in spite of — the pandemic, allowing the true rebound to begin.


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