The pandemic is shifting our relationship to work. The so-called Great Resignation of 2021 saw a record number of workers quit their jobs. In November alone, 4.5 million people resigned.
Some workers say this social and economic shift was already brewing pre-pandemic. For years, teachers have faced strict curriculums; health care workers have navigated the business of the medical system; and service industry workers have dealt with scant benefits and low wages. When the pandemic came along, all of this came to a head.
Workers are job switching, finding more lucrative positions elsewhere. Others are soul searching, burned out from their former jobs and taking time to figure out what comes next. There’s also been an uptick in union membership during the pandemic. Workers in some sectors have seen their industry screech to a halt. Others just need to stay home to care for their loved ones.
Meanwhile, housing costs are up. Food, energy, cars: All more expensive. Consumer prices are up 6.8 percent. And with the new year, the Child Tax Credit expansion expired, which means families are cut from much-needed cash.
There’s a lot to unpack here, which is why we’re launching How We Work. This mini-series highlights people from different sectors of the labor force—from nurses to sex workers—and explores their changing relationships to work.
In interviews with one nurse throughout the pandemic and after he left, you can trace the real-time evolution of a nurse who went from feeling the work was a calling, to fearing it was hurting himself and potentially even his patients.
Since the start of this school year, schools all over Michigan and the U.S. have struggled with unprecedented staffing shortages. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up retirements and led to more resignations. But many teachers who left say they only did it after years of frustration and increasing burnout.