April 8, 2020,

Taboo subjects should be never spoken of in mixed company.

Especially around the dinner table, set for family and friends.

Given what’s going on today during these sheltering in times, there is very little mixed company since we’re clustered in our own little worlds.

So now we will talk about a subject that few would like to discuss and, even here, we will do it from the perspective of the effects that it is having on people’s psyche and, at least initially, some possible temporary emotional encouragement.

It is the catastrophic event of a job loss.

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The worst part about what is occurring during this unprecedented pandemic is that as little as 6 months ago, most of us were planning for a brighter future and never remotely saw this coming.

As reported by the global news source CNN, “On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in March, up from 3.5% in February. In addition, it reported 701,000 jobs were lost.”

They express that figure paints a rosier picture than what appears to be reality.

CNN learned earlier that another 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to nearly 10 million in the last two weeks of March and signaling an unprecedented collapse in jobs.

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The important news and information CNBC adds, “As businesses continue to grapple with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve estimates that a total of 47 million jobs could be lost as a result of this crisis.”

“The American Dream is one of success, home ownership, college education for one’s children, and have a secure job to provide these and other goals.”… Leonard Boswell

The historical meteoric rise in unemployment has led to a surge in workers looking for new opportunities.

Having said that, with the vast majority of states across America issuing stay-at-home orders for residents, millions of job seekers may be compelled to seek new positions that will allow them to work from home.

The extensive tentacles of job losses go much further beyond the paycheck and a society will need to understand and embrace the totality of what that means.

One aspect that should not be forgotten is that even though you may be out of work, in some ways you can still volunteer.

In our circle we have associates who volunteered at two hospitals for over 2 years each and even assisted Habitat For Humanity, a group that builds very nice homes for low income families.

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”
~Erma Bombeck

Volunteering will still provide a strong sense of community and the knowledge that when times got tough, you demonstrated very high stands.

Reading the following should place that in some perspective.

For Americans Facing Job Loss, Financial Strains Only Scratch the Surface

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NEW YORK, April 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In the week ending March 28, over 6.6 million people filed for unemployment – the most initial jobless claims in U.S. history. The financial consequences of unemployment are extensive – for these workers and for the country. But it’s worth pointing out that the effects of job losses are not solely monetary.

Research by Stephan Meier, the James P. Gorman Professor of Business at Columbia Business School shows that jobs provides purpose, a feeling of competence, the sense of being useful and the connection to other people that cultivates a sense of belonging and community. Whether someone works behind a bar, as an actress, or as a building maintenance person, a job gives – beyond a paycheck – a feeling of being useful, mastery of a craft or skill, and structure in the day.  Thus, when someone loses a job, they lose much more than crucial income and benefits like health insurance. They lose a source of fulfillment and purpose – meaning that these newly-unemployed workers will be suffering much worse than financial strain.

While policymakers can help with loss of income, they are not well equipped to help compensate for loss in meaning. Non-profit organizations and volunteer opportunities, on the other hand, might be able to provide short-term meaningful tasks for those facing unemployment. Writing letters to lonely and isolated elderly, or other tasks that can be done at home but have a purpose, might provide some compensation for the loss of meaning at work. The toll of unemployment during this pandemic-fueled recession will be mental and emotional in addition to financial, and it’s worth considering the scars that will leave when the economy is up and running again.

The pandemic is also reshaping the structure of work, transitioning jobs from communal offices to days spent at home behind a computer. A non-trivial aspect of the American economy is having in-person interactions with others. Even with the security of a steady paycheck, those working remotely may be feeling a lack of motivation and incentivization as well. Unfortunately, video conferencing or house-party social work events cannot replace real-life interaction with coworkers. Companies and policymakers will have to address how productivity might suffer during this phase, recognizing the mental toll on employees.

The longer the coronavirus lockdown lasts, the higher the psychic cost will be for millions who are missing the meaning that they gain from work. But all is not lost. The coronavirus shut down could help workers to gain a new appreciation of personal interactions in our workplaces – potentially increasing our productivity and fulfillment upon our return. What’s more, firms are likely learning how to optimize their workflow using technology, while employees are gaining sense of autonomy over the structure of our days – potentially resulting in healthy new habits when we’re back in the office. The coronavirus pandemic may increase meaning at work in the long term.

But until then, companies and employers strategizing how to preserve mission and revenue and, policymakers looking to provide critical relief to millions of newly unemployed Americans, must be mindful to incorporate compassion, empathy and acceptance as they plan for the future of their workforce.

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To learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted at Columbia Business School, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.

SOURCE Columbia Business School

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