Ending of pandemic reveals a U.S. full of bad behaviors, in and out of workplace

Not only did Joe Biden say that “the pandemic is over” a week ago, but Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve whose hawkishness is roiling the markets, said shortly after that the economy ‘is moving towards a “new normal”.

If you admit that the pandemic is ending and there is a new normal, what does that look like? Early signs are: not very good.

The pandemic forced many Americans to use limited ways to work and socialize. Interactions generally became more limited, outside of Zoom and occasional clashes over mask policies. Americans are now interacting more and staying less, proving the words of Biden and Powell to be true, and the results are not so pretty. From the telecommuting wars to “crisis” levels of automotive violence and new STD infections to the well-documented sense of “burnout” in and out of the workplace, the pandemic is pulling back to reveal an America full of bad behavior, falling apart. at the seams

In the workplace, bosses and employees are increasingly at odds over what “the place” should be. CEOs, often from the boomer generation, often demand that workers return to the office, if not directly to pre-pandemic routines, at least a few days a week. The “hybrid” approach also draws complaints, with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in June calling it “half-measures hell” and the “worst of the three options.”

Many workers, led by the vocal Gen Z, are demanding fully remote work as an answer, countering that they are more productive at home without the distractions of the office and time-consuming commutes (and much of the work part of the Gen Z only knows remote work). labour market). Middle managers, meanwhile, resented being hit in the crossfire.

Public health officials are trying to be heard amid the fray, worried about the potential emergence of dangerous new variants of COVID. “We have so little experience with coronaviruses and how they work,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota. the fortune this week. “We’re kind of in limbo right now.”

Meanwhile, clashes between company bosses and union organizers, including at Amazon and Starbucks, add to the sense of confrontation. In some cases, unions are helping to fight back-to-office mandates, and Americans increasingly view them in a favorable light.

This week, federal labor regulators accused Amazon of singling out union organizers for discipline, with the company calling the allegations “completely without merit.” And an employee who helped lead a union campaign at Starbucks accused the coffee giant of forcing her out in retaliation. Workers United accused the company, which denied the allegation, of applying scheduling and availability policies in a discriminatory manner against Jaz Brisack, which led to her separation from the company.

Americans are free to move around the country again – be afraid

Outside of work, Americans are letting go more. One result is an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

“People feel more liberated,” Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the Associated Press this week.

That followed a speech Monday by Leandro Mena of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which he said expanding STD prevention in the U.S. was “imperative,” with the rate of syphilis cases last year reaching its highest since 1991. An increase in cases of monkey pox. he also highlighted the worsening problem of diseases that are mainly transmitted through sex.

The situation is “out of control,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told the AP.

Also out of control, the National Transportation Safety Board said this week, are deaths on U.S. roads, which it said are at crisis levels despite a slight drop in the second quarter. Nearly 43,000 people were killed last year, the highest number in 16 years, as Americans returned to the roads after pandemic stay-at-home orders.

The agency recommended on Tuesday that all new vehicles in the US be equipped with breathalyzer monitoring systems that can prevent an intoxicated person from driving. A significant portion of road deaths are alcohol-related, about 30 percent in 2020, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to save lives,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said.

Accidents increased during the pandemic as less congested roads spurred riskier driving. Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, told the Associated Press this week: “What may be, we’re seeing a decrease in some of the problems caused by the pandemic: speeding, open roads, problems of risky driving.Traffic is back to normal [but] the death rate is still very, very high.”

A mental health ‘time bomb’

Meanwhile, after years of prioritizing workers’ well-being during the pandemic, some business leaders are suffering from “getting it right fatigue,” as one executive headhunter described it. Financial Timesadding: “The feeling is that we need to get back to business.”

But ignoring burnout and mental health among employees could be counterproductive. While remote work became the norm during the recession, it also blurred the lines between home and work life, leading to burnout as employees juggled their workload with childcare and other challenges.

Teuila Hanson, chief people officer at LinkedIn, warned earlier this year that organizations need to make mental health a top priority as employee burnout reaches “historic levels” and “major reshaping”: the workers “reconsider not only how they work, but where and why.” – transforms the workplace.

According to research by global recruiter Robert Walters, three major “life crises” will further drive the Great Reorganization: the rising cost of living, a post-pandemic mental health “time bomb,” and the prioritization of purpose over the profession

“The crucial act here is for employers to listen and take an active role in alleviating some of the personal problems in employees’ lives before they reach this point of irreversible crisis,” said Chris Hickey, CEO of Robert Walters North America. “Companies need to be more attuned to the issues affecting their employees if they want to avoid major reshaping.”

Detecting these problems is not always easy. Lime Group, a health insurance company, has warned about “plantism”, a phenomenon in which workers, when they return to the workplace, put on a brave face and present the best versions of themselves. This, the company says, can undermine efforts to promote open dialogue about mental health in a workplace setting.

“Companies are sleepwalking into a mental health crisis,” the firm warned.

“Employee well-being is critical to the bottom line,” said Arianna Huffington, CEO of consulting agency Thrive Global, during the fortune‘s Reimagine Work Summit earlier this year. Companies need to be more flexible not only with where, but also when employees work, he said: “We are now beginning to realize that the human operating system is different. The downtime of the human operating system is not a error, it’s a feature.”

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