Help Wanted, But Not Like That

    I remember getting my first job at J.E. Smith Hardware and Lumber in Waterbury back in 1984. I started three weeks after I turned 16 and one day after I got my driver’s license. I remember that the job was a little boring but, generally, I enjoyed it, I learned a lot, and I liked bringing home a paycheck of about seventy bucks a week for twenty hours of work. The minimum wage was $3.07 back then and I made $3.10 an hour.
            Since I started working almost 37 years ago, I have worked just about every day since (when school or baseball did not get in the way). I have always valued work, and I think that is probably why I have gotten myself into this legal field.
            Since that time 37 years ago, I have never seen a job market so wide open as it is today. I have never seen so many employers looking for workers. The number of “help wanted” signs tells me a few things.
            First, our economy has changed significantly since that day in early March last year when the world shut down. The ways that we provide goods and services is likely changed for a generation if not longer.
            And because of those changes, our businesses are trying to find ways to adjust.
            Second, it seems to me that the economy is starting to overheat fairly significantly. There is an awful lot of money being handed out by the government, and the value of a buck is declining. As a result, fewer and fewer folks are willing to go back to work for a wage that pays under fifteen dollars an hour for difficult labor.
            Jobs will go wanting if the wages are insufficient, and right now we are seeing that workers have better options.
            Third, the ways in which people are willing to work has changed. I get more work done now just by virtue of the fact that I don’t spend at least ninety minutes every day commuting. I am more rested and relaxed. I can fix my attention on various projects for longer sustained periods of time and I can focus on the varied aspects of my job without interruption by working from home. My life has improved exponentially just by working in comfortable surroundings.
            I am not alone in this regard.
            People are starting to value time, leisure, and family over dollars. If employers want to extract workers away from their comfortable lives, they are going to have to pay, and right now employers seem resistant to that idea.
            In my business we saw what was coming, closed down our office, sent everyone home, and changed the model we use to work. We adapted, and, from what I can tell, I have very happy and productive employees who are paid well and who produce.
            I suspect that the “help wanted” signs are not going to go away until employers start coming to terms with the adaptations that need to be made.
            On the bright side, I would predict that happier workers who perform outside of a standard workplace are going to result in fewer lawsuits for employers. Sexual harassment can’t occur if nobody is around to do the harassing. Discriminatory conduct goes away when folks don’t interact with each other directly in the workplace.

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