All in a day’s work

Unemployment and employment are central themes of the pandemic that began changing our lives about this time two years ago. When I look back at my naïve response in March 2020, I’m kind of ashamed. At this point, I know way more about contagions than I ever desired.

Many facets of the pandemic perplex me. The impact it had on both employment and unemployment intrigues me. Even though Arkansas’ unemployment rate declined to 3.1% in December, I want to understand why working-age people (aged 15 to 64) aren’t returning to jobs. I’ve heard many valid reasons, including: Concerns about virus exposure, child and elderly care responsibilities, taking early retirement, decreased expenses for families, tapping into savings, and workers requesting the option to work from home.

Another issue people face is applying for jobs but not seeing results. I know people who want to work but cannot get an interview with a company that matches their skillset. Of course, they can get “a” job, but I’m speaking of a livable wage and benefits.  

And therein lies the rub. Some people don’t want to return to work, and others want to work and can’t.  

The issue is complex, but we know that the pandemic forced many workers to break from the marathon they called life. Instead of rushing out the door at 7:15 a.m., their daily routine was interrupted. As a result, workers had a chance to be home and reflect on their careers and began asking questions about the traditional workday, which is healthy. We shouldn’t be afraid to reinvent the workplace in our great country. 

It’s time to be innovative and use technology to our advantage. For example, many employers have discovered the financial benefits of allowing employees to either partially or fully work from home. Plus, they are glad to see that flexibility makes their staff happier. 

Our theme this month, “501 Works” presents a variety of small, medium and large businesses, including our cover story about Nabholz Construction which employs more than 1,000 people.

For all our readers who enjoy their jobs, I wish you success. And for those who are seeking something more, I encourage you to look for guidance to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t know who to ask, ask a teacher or leader at your place of worship. With so many community, college, and state programs available to help grow your skill set, there is hope for a brighter workday.

Stefanie Brazile