A quick Google news search for the popular phrase, ‘the great resignation’ returns a mere twenty-two million headlines. But that's a little misleading. A deeper dive revealed the truth – yes, many folks left their jobs in the time of pandemic remote work. But many found new opportunities, not to work less, but instead double – or even triple down.
What at first glance seems to be a great resignation, was, in many cases, something much bleaker and more chaotic. A significant number of people did not so much resign, as quit one employer to work multiple jobs. The new normal centers around Remote Work Mania.
Working Harder – Not Smarter
On the subreddit r/overemployed there are several tips and tricks for managing two full-time jobs or many jobs. A common theme was working in multiple time zones. For example, one Redditor from the east coast explained how they worked a full-time job, then worked part-time for a California company, and had a third gig with a UK company.
Another Redditor was happy to be making “great money” by working two full-time jobs in the US and India.
But happiness was not the typical sentiment of the overworked, as Scott Koenig reported in his February article in Nautilus, We’re Killing Ourselves with Work. A 2019 Pew study found Americans ranked having a career they loved as more important than anything else in life. Amassing a fortune instead of a meaningful relationship has become endemic to the US.
Another post that highlighted the grim reality of working multiple jobs was in the Overemployed Subreddit, “How many people work two full-time jobs?” One Redditor described their daily grind, “…I was working as a CNA during the day and in fast food at night…I worked 6-7 days a week. It was exhausting, and I did not find that I made much leeway because I was getting paid less than $11 at each job.”
Dystopian American Dream?
In 2020, the pandemic upended how we work. Remote work changed how businesses approached their business plans.
The math makes sense. Corporations paid less to run their businesses from their employees’ basements for two years. No large utility bills, parking fees, or cleaning crews for an empty 30-floor skyscraper.
At first, it looked better for employees too. Remote work gave us the opportunity to work more hours – seemingly making more money. But overworking still has the same health issues – except maybe driving home late and tired. It's still not a healthy alternative. On the contrary, it was a recipe for heart attacks, massive mental health issues, and will probably lead to an even smaller more population, with no time or space for new and healthy relationships.
How the American worker could take back their agency was discussed on Reddit under discussion about the Dropped Day Plan, a proposal for Americans to come together and demand a four-day workweek – by not showing up five days a week.
It works – as a concept. But as more than one Redditor put it, “If people cannot afford to live off their current wages, how can they afford to live off 20% less? How does one nicely ask to work only four days?”
Government bailouts that kept getting extended did nothing to dismiss the stereotype of ‘the lazy American.' Employers, politicians, and news pundits all leaned into it, blaming the extra cash for the great resignation.
On the contrary, stimulus checks and boosted unemployment kept people fed. Sure, some diverted money originally allocated to pay bills for “Netflix and chill” (or Disney+ and HBO Max and chill), but not everyone. And those that did didn't always see the time as wasted. Extra time and added money became an opportunity to dive into getting their work-life balance figured out.
In a Fast Company article in March by Joe Andrew, The Employee-Employer Disconnect that’s Fueling the Great Resignation, Andrews argued it wasn't a “…Great Resignation but a Great Transition.” Andrews highlighted how the lockdown gave people space to sit and contemplate their lives.
And coming out of the pandemic, we have an even stark contrast between the haves and have nots.
Suddenly two vastly diverse groups of workers existed: the over-employed and the overworked. A new user on Reddit posted to r/Overemployed, “I currently work full time in healthcare. I have too much free time and would like nothing else than a second job. Someone recommended I try you guys. Any advice?”
Too much time without enough work was not a common thread three years ago before the pandemic, or if it was, it didn’t get much news coverage.
Redditors working many jobs ascribed to the same theme; economic situations and aggravation have beleaguered the thoughts of many overworked Americans:
One Subredditor’s response: “I don’t even care about work/life balance right now; I’ll indulge in that as soon as I’ve caught myself up. In 2019 I was working 12 days straight between two jobs & I was f***ing thriving. I knew it wouldn’t be permanent, but it built me up quite nicely, only to lose it all during Covid…. I’d happily work more than two jobs, but I can’t be in two places @ once & I cannot find one place to give me more than 15-20 hours & no two places will work with regularly scheduled shifts somewhere else. Like I have an entire 15-20 hours to give to you! You’re telling me you can’t accommodate that?”
Another Redditor responded, “I’ve been in retail forever and occasionally in retail management. I would have LOVED part-time workers to have a set schedule! Scheduling around changing availability is a massive pain.”
One imperfect solution – flexible managers – allowing employees to have side hustles to cover the less than stellar pay. People want to work, and people want employees. Somewhere there has to be a balance that works.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured image: Pexels.
Stasia DeMarco has been a freelance journalist in Philadelphia for over 20 years.