Not working… ever again?

Not working… ever again?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Yesterday I saw an article on LinkedIn titled, “Millions staying away from work,” which you can find here: Now, is that just click-bait or is it true? In the blurb, editor Jake Perez writes:

“About three million people who dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic say they plan to stay away indefinitely, reports The Wall Street Journal, citing research led by Stanford University economist Nick Bloom. The survey points to what it calls ‘long social distancing,’ a refusal or a reluctance to return to pre-COVID activities out of fear of getting sick or injured, as the main cause. The phenomenon threatens to depress the labor force for years, and Bloom says it shows work participation ‘isn’t going to magically bounce back.’ The research team says these workforce dropouts tend to be non-college-educated women in lower-paying fields.”


Exactly. Some of these companies are probably the same ones who claim that no one wants to work, entire generations are lazy, everyone should just love their company culture (which is often quite toxic), etc.

🔝  Yes! This! Most people do not want the butt-in-seat cubicle farm. We all now know that the emperor was naked all this time and we can’t go back to pretending he was wearing clothes.


The WSJ article this LI article references is a paid article (unfortunately) but you can find it here:  So… is this all click-bait or is it true?

For one thing, “indefinitely” is not the same as “forever.” The LinkedIn headline that “millions are staying away from work” makes it sound like hordes of people are planning to never go back to work, which is not accurate.

For another, what they are referring to as “long social distancing” probably has a lot of components to it. Things like:

-Who will take care of the kids if I get sick?
-Who will take care of the kids if I have to commute again?
-How will I afford the medicine / hospital stay if I get sick?
-Will the pay rate offered by the job offset the cost of going to the job site? Especially with the price of gasoline being so high?
-Do I want to go back? Was all of it worth it? (Remember: this is not only The Great Resignation, it is also The Great Contemplation.)
-Am I happier in my current situation without a formal job? Some of these people who are showing up as “unemployed” could be in cash-only situations or working in some type of gig that’s more flexible.

Nicholas Bloom comments on this “long social distancing” phenomenon for The New York Times:

“‘I can understand that people in July 2020 are terrified,’ he said. At the time, about 11 percent of people surveyed reported they would ‘have no return to pre-Covid activities.’ But in February 2022, the latest monthly report from the economists, the figure was slightly up, to nearly 13 percent. Weighted for the national work force, that’s about 20 million adults, said Dr. Bloom.

‘Even if it’s just half that, it’s a huge number,’ he said. ‘It’s many millions of people who have disappeared out of society.’

The reason or reasons were not clear. Dr. Bloom hypothesized that some might be ‘happy with their hermit lifestyle’ and others might find interaction so stressful that they prefer isolation, or fear getting sick even if the coronavirus threat were to disappear.”

As a crusty old introvert, I love a good hermit lifestyle LOL. But are all of these people living as hermits? No, I highly doubt that. I’ve quoted Dan Pontefract before and will do so again. People are asking themselves what really matters:

“What’s Really Happening?
Now more than ever before, people are doing the mental and emotional legwork wondering:

-Is my boss a jerk? Are they kind?
-Do my teammates care about me?
-Does my organization stand for something?
-Am I paid fairly, respected & valued?
-Is the culture something I can work in?
-Is hybrid or flexible work allowable?
-Am I unfulfilled or fulfilled in my role?

That’s what is different. People are swimming in a cocoon of questions.”

I think part of what’s labeled as “long social distancing” is a recalibration of priorities. I can tell you in no uncertain terms I do not miss:

A long commute
Dressing up
Wearing shapewear and feeling like a human sausage
High heels that look cute but kill your feet
Waking up at 4am
Falling asleep at 8pm like great-grandma
Living just for the weekends
Hibernating out of sheer exhaustion during said weekends
Lots of wear & tear on my vehicle + expensive gasoline
The Cube Farm / Digital Panopticon
Toxic work environments
Lack of freedom and flexibility
Nothing ever being good enough
“A.I.S.” (@ss in seat) Syndrome
Lunch & learns
Any type of forced extrovert nonsense


So, IMHO, some of what’s being labeled as “long social distancing” and a super deep fear of Covid is actually a change in priorities. There’s a huge amount of on-demand technology now and this also includes on-demand employment and on-demand services. The person having DoorDash deliver food or Instacart bringing groceries may not be a shut-in who’s terrified of illness; that person may be WFH, running after small children, etc., and has made the decision that having a delivery is better than going out to obtain those goods on their own.

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