In the past, a job interview was an opportunity for candidates to sell themselves – to dazzle hiring managers with their preparedness, personality, and emotional intelligence.
But this summer, job seekers are the ones who need to be sold. As the pandemic loosens its grip and the US economy reopens, employers are scrambling to fill 9.3 million open positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Prospective employees have room to be choosy, and many are looking for more than just a paycheck or prestige, according to Debra Wheatman, the founder and president of Careers Done Write, a marketing and personal branding company. “Coming out of COVID, people feel differently about their priorities,” she said.
Candidates want challenges and stimulation, of course, but they also, “seek balance and to work in an environment that’s aligned with their values,” she said.
How can you tell if the organization you’ve applied to is right for you? Insider spoke with six career coaches and experts about the questions you need to ask in your next interview.
You might expect older generations to be the most stressed out from the pandemic. After all, COVID put them at the highest risk for serious illness or even death. But it turns out, Gen Z may be experiencing the greatest mental health challenges right now.
Despite being digital natives who are used to working online, the under-24 crowd has experienced significant psychological distress during lockdown. Consequently, younger workers may need more support than employers anticipate.
A large chunk of their time in the workplace has been spent staring at their digital devices. Integrating into the workplace – or reintegrating – may be a little more difficult for them since they have a lot less experience than older generations.
Research shows work and money are the biggest stressors
Findings from our first survey indicate that Gen Z respondents are the most stressed out generation right now, and their biggest sources of stress are work and money.
Gen Zers who responded to our survey also reported more symptoms of depression, such as difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, and feelings of hopelessness.
Given their psychological distress, it’s important for employers to provide some much needed support. As these young workers finish their education and step into the working world, a little extra attention could go a long way toward helping our future leaders.
Provide stress management resources
Gen Z is just learning about the workplace. And their view of work is skewed since many of them entered the workforce during the pandemic.
Provide ongoing information about stress management. Whether that means having more conversations about this during one-on-one private meetings or it means offering free classes that teach skills, like yoga or meditation, incorporate stress management strategies into the workplace.
Gen Zers could also likely benefit from information on work/life balance (daily life and busyness was the third biggest source of stress). Many of them have been working remotely during the pandemic which may make finding balance tough. Educating them on how to set boundaries with work so they can enjoy free time can go a long way toward preventing burnout.
Give ongoing mental health support
Despite the higher rates of distress, our survey showed that Gen Z respondents were less likely to say that society would be better off if more people saw a therapist. They’re also concerned about the stigma associated with therapy.
Ongoing conversations about mental health in the workplace, however, could change that.
Offering an EAP might make therapy more accessible to them since they’re more likely to be strapped for money for therapy.
Bring therapists into the office to provide occasional workshops or informational sessions. This may teach them about mental health issues, local resources, and ways to get help.
They may benefit from learning about how to build mental strength, improve their emotional intelligence, and address workplace issues in a healthy way.
Offer financial incentives and clear opportunities for advancement
Since Gen Z workers are most worried about work and their financial futures, provide clear opportunities for advancement. If they understand what’s available to them and how to get there, they are likely to feel more secure in the workplace, as well.
Additionally, they may be very motivated by financial incentives. Offer financial incentives for reaching their goals or exceeding their expectations.
When you help them reduce their distress and improve their mental health, you’ll be improving their lives. You’ll also help free up their mental energy to focus more on work and worry less about their financial security.
In other words, you can do what you want in America as long as you’re not hurting anyone. So far as rules of thumb go, it’s an elegant one.
And it also serves as a simple illustration of a difficult truth that isn’t often acknowledged in American politics: Freedom is never a zero-sum game.
Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, for example, we’ve established a minimum wage that (most) employers have had to pay. For workers, the minimum wage is an essential freedom to be protected, because it ensures that if they work a full week, they can afford the basic necessities. But for certain vulture capitalists, the minimum wage is a freedom-killing constraint to be derided and overturned. From their perspective, the minimum wage is impeding on their freedom to fatten profit margins by paying starvation wages.
Freedom in the workplace
Freedom isn’t handed down in pure form by some omniscient higher power. It’s determined by legislators, enforced by courts, and influenced by popular opinion. Like most human institutions, the decision of who enjoys more freedom is often rigged toward the most powerful. The last 40 years of outsized corporate influence has marched to the drumbeat of anti-worker laws that restrict the rights of workers to unionize and to keep their home life private. In general, the more freedoms your employers enjoy, the fewer freedoms you enjoy in your workplace.
This week’s episode of “Pitchfork Economics” features an interview with Mike Konczal, the director of progressive thought at the Roosevelt Institute. Konczal’s new book, “Freedom from the Market: America’s Fight to Liberate Itself from the Grip of the Invisible Hand,” is about the junction between economics and freedom, and how to reclaim some of the freedoms that American workers briefly captured in the middle of the 20th century.
Konczal says the concept of trickle-down economics that ruled over American politics since the 1980s has been informed by the concept of prioritizing negative freedoms over positive freedoms. “Negative freedom is the idea of freedom from the government, and the idea that the government can’t stop you from doing the things you want,” he explained, whereas “positive freedom is associated with a freedom to – a freedom to be able to get health care, or get a good education.”
‘Pro-freedom’ and anti-government
For too long, leaders on the left and right have bought into the libertarian concept that a government’s primary role in protecting freedoms should be to limit government’s power wherever possible. This anti-government stance is the reason why, for instance, the “pro-freedom” argument over the 2nd Amendment has long been to argue for the freedom of those who own the guns, when gun safety advocates could just as logically argue that the freedom of the individual to go to school or participate in public events without fear of being killed in a mass shooting should take precedence.
The popular discourse has for decades been so absorbed with negative freedoms that benefit corporations, Konczal says, that we’ve forgotten to prioritize our individual positive freedoms.
“Is the government making us more or less free with the way the economy is structured?” he said. “I think it’s increasingly less free in the past decades.”
Worker versus employer freedoms
Konczal says the recent debate over secure scheduling laws, which require employers to post employee schedules in advance and pay workers extra for shifts added or canceled at the last minute, are a good example of a positive freedom. Some workers, he said, “don’t start their weeks knowing the hours they’re going to work over the next week.”
If employers aren’t required to tell workers when they will and won’t be working, Konczal asked, “how do you build a robust social life with that kind of stress?” Without the freedom to plan even one day ahead, “it’s tough to start and maintain a family, or to volunteer, or join a bowling league – all the things that we think of as having a rich social life,” he explained.
Once you understand that worker freedoms have been trampled over the last 40 years, you start to see examples everywhere. Consider the Jimmy John workers who were forced to sign agreements that said they couldn’t go to work for another fast food restaurant if they quit, or the janitors who unwittingly signed noncompete clauses. Think of how many people feel trapped in their jobs because they can’t afford to give up the health insurance their employers provide. Can anyone really make the argument that these workers are anywhere near as free as their counterparts in nations with single-payer health care and stronger worker protections?
The economic power imbalance
In order to reestablish freedoms that benefit the individual, Konczal argued that “we need to decommodify spheres of our lives.” A public health care system and free public college would establish a baseline in which everyone has the freedom to pursue the life that they want, and worker protections would allow people to live balanced lives.
And lastly, “we need to do something about the real disparities of wealth and income in this country through very aggressive progressive taxation,” Konczal said.
Freedom can’t exist in a country with the kind of economic power imbalance that exists in America today. Your freedom to swing big bags of money around ends when your fortune risks crushing the livelihoods of millions of working Americans.
A major factor underlying the great economic potential of reopening lies with how the pandemic ushered in an era of remote work, which is likely here to stay to some extent in a post-pandemic world.
More than two-thirds of professionals were working remotely during the peak of the pandemic, according to a new report by work marketplace Upwork, and over the next five years, 20% to 25% of professionals will likely be working remotely.
Remote working has caused employees to rethink and better accommodate their priorities in life and employers to rethink operations regarding how they can best work with professionals and create teams, the report stated. But it also hasn’t been without some downsides, such as blurring the lines between work-life balance and causing increased stress.
Overall, though, Upwork found the shift to remote work in the past year has ultimately benefited the economy in five key ways.
(1) Remote workers are more productive
Remote and and online collaboration technology are proving to be helpful with hidden benefits like making teams work better together, reported Douglas Quenqua for Insider. Higher meeting attendance rates, more attentive managers, simplified communication, and more breaks are just a few of the positive changes.
It’s made many more productive. Sixty-one percent of workers said their productivity increased from working remotely, according to an Upwork survey. And an Upwork survey of hiring managers found 32.2% of them said they saw overall productivity rise as of late April, compared to 22.5% that felt it decreased.
These productive effects will only further develop as people adapt more to remote work, new technology is invented, and people will start remote businesses, wrote the report’s author, Adam Ozimek.
(2) Remote work has freed up relocation opportunities
Remote work will redistribute opportunity across the US, Ozimek wrote. Upwork estimated that up to 23 million people plan to relocate.
Richard Florida, urban studies theorist and economics professor at the University of Toronto, has a similar mindset. He previously told Insider remote work will accelerate the movement of families out of superstar cities into suburbs and the 1% who are seeking lower taxes.
“I have long said that we will see the rise of the rest, given the incredible expensiveness and affordability of existing superstar cities,” he said. “But it’s not going to be the rise of everywhere. It’s going to be the rise of a dozen or two dozen places.” These places will consequently attract new talent, changing economic development.
Florida predicted that bigger cities will see a resurgence, though, as the US inches closer to widespread vaccination, reshaped by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.
(3) Employers are hiring more independent talent
Employers have become more inclined to build hybrid teams made up of both full-time employees and freelance workers, Ozimek wrote. A November Upwork survey that asked about plans for hiring freelancers in the next six months found that 36% of hiring managers plan to hire out more independent talent.
Fortune 1000 companies in particular have been tapping into more diverse talent regardless of matter location, found a recent report by Business Talent Group, a marketplace for independent consultants. Independent talent has especially increased in the C-Suite. There has been a 67% increase over the past year in executives seeking independent talent needs, per the report.
This increases the talent pool and opportunities for workers.
(4) Remote workers are saving time and money
Without daily commutes, workers have more hours and bigger bank accounts.
One year of working remotely has saved people on average nine days from commuting, per Upwork’s research. And car commuters saved around $4,350, including costs to public from their driving.
The time and money saved could boost economic growth and productivity, Robert Gordon, economics professor at Northwestern University, said in a recent UCLA Anderson Forecast interview. The labor force has restructured, with high-paid people working from home and making the same income, he said.
“This shift to remote working has got to improve productivity because we’re getting the same amount of output without commuting, without office buildings, and without all the goods and services associated with that,” Gordon said. “We can produce output at home and transmit it to the rest of the economy electronically.”
(5) Pandemic remote work is different from remote work
“Remote work and remote work during a global pandemic are not the same,” Ozimek wrote.
Many of the struggles with remote work were due to pandemic circumstances – like balancing remote work with child care while schools were closed. In a post-pandemic world, these things won’t be a hindrance and remote employees will be able to revel in fewer interruptions, which Upwork found to be one of the most cited benefits of remote work.
Remote work also won’t always be done from home. Florida thinks neighborhoods will reshape as offices.
“Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office,” he said. “People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office.”