In a Tuesday town hall, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered our nation’s economy.
Among the changes he identified were an increase in remote work, as well as an uptick in that cottage industry known as virtual events.
“We’re not simply going back to the economy that we had before the pandemic,” he said, adding COVID-19 is “going to change the nature of work and the way things get done.”
Well thanks for that profound insight, Captain Obvious.
Kidding aside, he does happen to be right. And in senior living, the changes still to come could be quite severe.
You can bet that infection control is going to take on unprecedented importance in this sector. Especially if new coronavirus variants keep popping up.
It’s also a safe bet that additional residents (or to be more precise, their children) will reconsider the wisdom of congregate living for the aged. And you can be sure that hiring won’t get any easier. Not that it was a cakewalk before.
I think there also may be an unspoken recruitment and retention challenge ahead. It occurred to me while perusing “Down and Out in Paris and London,” by George Orwell. As books about life in the 1920s go, it’s a far cry from Jay Gatsby’s pinings for Daisy Buchanan.
Published in 1933, the memoir revisits Orwell’s days of being flat broke in two thriving cities. It also offers a poignant examination of how poverty and destitution can mess with the heads of the less fortunate.
One of his observations about the chronically poor strikes me as particularly relevant. To paraphrase, he noted that those who are broke actually have less anxiety. That may be in no small part because, as a practical matter, they don’t have much to lose. They also have what might be called far less ambition, however. They don’t have much to gain, either.
Much of our national dialogue on mental health lately has focused on the plight of stressed out millionaire Olympians. To be fair, that demographic may belong in the conversation. But it’s an awfully thin slice to chew on, if you ask me. Which nobody has. Still, I can’t help but wonder how many people toiling at or near the minimum wage level basically have lost whatever limited day job enthusiasm they once enjoyed.
Millions among us have not worked for more than a year and half. After a stoppage like that, quite a few may be in no hurry to return to a life of hard physical labor, crazy hours, commuting headaches and limited psychic rewards.
At this point, it is impossible to know how full those ranks might be. But my gut tells me that the numbers might be a lot higher — and frankly, more frightening — than many of us might care to admit.
In fact, we soon could find ourselves dealing with a whole new kind of lost generation. One that’s made up of the very workers your organization will presumably need to dig out.
What if many of these same people simply refuse to work for you, or anyone else? It could be argued they are only harming themselves. But make no mistake, they will also be hurting you.