Posts tagged with: recession

Are workers giving up on the perks?

If you’re fortunate enough to still have a job, you want to do everything in your power to hold onto it. I understand that.

But what are you willing to give up?

How about any hope of a raise? What about the chance to work from home one or more days a week? What about extra pay for taking on extra jobs or duties?

Turns out, a growing number of workers are willing to give up all of these perks to hold onto their jobs.

It’s unfortunate that people are willing to give up so much. But it’s certainly understandable. The nation’s unemployment rate has soared to 8.5 percent. And in many states, the jobless rate is even higher.

Still … I wonder about the long-term impact this willingness of workers to simply give up on their work-life benefits and perks. Once the recession ends — and it will, despite the steady stream of gloomy news and economic reports, end some day — I worry that employers, grown used to employees willing to do more for less, will forget that they once paid their workers to take on extra jobs, or rewarded them for working longer hours.

Have we workers created a new norm at our offices, a norm where we’re expected to work long hours and commit ourselves wholly to our jobs without expecting any perks from our employers?

Don’t get reorganized out of your job!

You may think you’re safe at your job. You’ve survived the layoffs, so far. You’re still getting a lot of work. You’re earning praise from your bosses.

But then you hear the news: Your department is going through a reorganization.

Oh, *&$#!

According to this story by the Wall Street Journal, reorganizations are extremely common during recessions. And often further layoffs accompany them.

Fortunately, the same Wall Street Journal story provides plenty of advice on how employees can survive a department reorganization.

The first tip, which I think is the best, is that employees should be bold. This means asking managers what the new department will look like once the reorganization is complete. It means clarifying your new role with your managers. Employees should also evaluate their own strengths. It’s important in a reorganization for employees to focus on what they can do to help the newly reorganized department. For instance, if you’ve led several successful projects in the past, be sure to remind — in a subtle way, of course — your new managers of this fact.

A reorganization can be scary, especially in today’s economy. But it doesn’t have to be disastrous.

Even if you’re out of work, it’s OK to have a good time

This weekend boasted wonderful weather in the Chicago area. That’s a nice bonus, considering that snow and ice storms aren’t that unusual for March here.

Everyone was out. Riding their bikes. Walking their babies. Playing catch. Barbecuing. It was a nice weekend.

I have a friend, though, who’s out of work. He’s been looking, and looking hard, for a job for the last three months or so. He always tells me he has a tough time with days like this.

He wants to ride his bike. He wants to listen to Spring Training baseball on his radio and sip a beer on his front porch. This kind of early Spring-like weather calls for it.

But he feels guilty now that he’s out of work. He should be on the computer, he says, scouring the help-wanted ads. He should be searching for flaws in his resume’. He should be working at the job of looking for work.

That’s a tough one. It’s a natural feeling, I suppose. We need our jobs to enjoy the rest of life, unfortunately. But still, you can’t spend every waking moment looking for work. Sometimes a good bike ride is therapy. Sometimes a Spring Training baseball game offers hope.

It’s OK to enjoy life, even if you are facing the incredible stress of trying to find a job. Remember that. Free yourself from your computer for a bit, maybe a couple of hours, maybe an entire afternoon. You need it.

Economic woes causing us to lose our minds

There are certain studies that seem really unnecessary. A recent Gallup-Healthways poll showing that U.S. residents have become more stressed as the economy worsens fits into this category.

I mean, of course we’re more stressed now. Of course our mental health is on the fritz. We’re all worried about losing our stupid jobs!

The USA Today, the paper that you read when it shows up outside your hotel room door, ran a story on the survey, saying that stress levels shot up throughout 2008. According to the story, the 10 saddest days of the year all came in the final quarter, as the economic news worsened.

It doesn’t say which days actually were the least-happiest. For me, though, it was the three when I trudged outside my Chicago home in below-zero weather to find that my car wouldn’t start. Twice this happened after I’d already scraped a coat of ice off my car’s windows. Those days, I suppose, would rank as extra-sad.

I don’t doubt the health survey’s results. But I’m not sure we need a survey to tell us that U.S. residents are worried about the economy and their emlpoyment options. Unemployment levels are soaring. Salaries are not. And 401(k) totals are disappearing.

What’s not to be stressed about?

Working more, making less

Now that the nation’s unemployment rate has soared to more than 8 percent, who’s doing the work of all those people who’ve been fired or laid off?

If you still have a job, the unfortunate answer is “you.”

Those people lucky enough to still have their jobs are now working harder than ever, picking up the slack for their fired former comrades. And you can bet that the vast majority of these people taking on extra work aren’t getting raises at the same time. Most folks consider themselves lucky to still have a job; They certainly aren’t going to press their luck by asking for a raise.

I don’t want my readers to feel sorry for me — OK, maybe I do, just a bit — but I’m in the working-harder-for-no-additional-money boat myself. The publishing company where I work fired nine people last month. Since then, three writers have been responsible for getting out three trade magazines, updating the company Web site, sending out e-mail blasts and putting together an outside newsletter. It’s kind of a drag. And, of course, I’m not complaining to my bosses about this for one reason: I really want to keep my job.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure there is one. These days it’s all about making it through the recession alive, and employed. My only worry? My bosses will see that we’re able — barely — to get all this work done with a skeleton staff. This might encourage them to keep the staff just as skeletal once the recession ends.

By Monday morning, we’re ready for the workweek to be over

This weekend, my wife and I convinced my parents to come to our house and watch our two sons for the weekend. This allowed us to take a weekend getaway with some friends.

It was a nice, and much needed, break from the sometimes maddening duties of raising kids and making a living.

During our dinner on Saturday night, though, much of the talk centered on the econony and the lack of hope anyone saw for a quick turnaround. Someone was quick to remind everyone that it took the United States 10 whole years to recover during the Great Depression. Try enjoying your bleu cheeseburger with that nose rattling around your head.

None of my friends have lost their jobs. But they’re all worried that they might. One friend, who works at a major banking company, said he’d grown to hate Mondays. That’s when his company holds their weekly meetings, and these days it’s all bad news. By 10:30 in the morning on Monday, he says, he’s ready for the week to be over.

That’s grim. It’s also grim that the U.S. unemployment recently soared to its highest rate since 1983. The rate now stands at 8.1 percent, and more than 12.5 million U.S. residents are now out of work.

Nothing seems to be helping the economy right now. I’m starting to think that it’s just going to take time. The country has to work through the recession naturally. Government stimulus packages, I fear, are going to have little impact.

I did have a nice weekend, though, despite the gloomy job talk. I feel fortunate that my wife and I were even able to afford a weekend away. Many more U.S. residents probably can’t fathom that right now.

Unemployment not just high here. Others suffering, too

We tend to get a bit isolated here in the United States. We often don’t think of the rest of the world, which is often going through the same problems we are experiencing.

For instance, unemployment. We all know that unemployment levels here in the United States are soaring. Anyone who’s out of work and struggling to find any job will tell you that.

Well, our country is far from alone. According to a report in Bloomberg News, unemployment rates in Europe are on the rise, too. In fact, the uemployment rate in Europe is at a two-year high.

The jobless rate in the European Union is now at 8.2 percent. Europe, the story says, is facing its worst recession since World War II.

This may not make anyone here feel better, but it is important to realize that the United States is not the only country struggling with a weakened economy.

When a friend is fired from your company

Layoffs are always tough. Last week, the publishing company where I work fired nine employees from our rather small department. Many of the employees had worked at our company for more than a decade. Some where the type that always made sure their co-workers received cards on their birthdays or brought in muffins on Friday mornings.

They were nice people. And they were considered friends by many in the office.

Like I said, layoffs are rough. And when the people laid off are your friends? That’s even worse.

The skilled writers at the Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal section addressed this very issue in one of their recent editions. One of the best pieces of advice in the story? When you see a well-liked co-worker packing up his or her desk, act like a normal human being. This means go over and say goodbye. Tell the co-worker how sorry you are. Tell the co-worker that it stinks that so many talented people are losing their jobs in this economy.

But do not pretend that nothing is happening. Don’t scuttle away while the co-worker is packing up. Don’t pretend you’re so immersed at whatever’s on your computer screen that you can’t see what’s going on. That, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the worst thing you can do.

Airline workers suffering, too

Because I work in publishing — and because many of the magazines I write for cover the housing industry — I tend to think that my industry is suffering more than any other during this recession.

It usually takes a quick glance at the daily news to realize that I’m wrong on that.

Just about every industry is struggling these days. For an example, look at the plight of airline workers. According to the Dayton Business Journal, airlines across the country are seeing their biggest employment drop in five years.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the employment drop at seven large “network” airlines hit 6.3 percent from December of 2007 to the same month in 2008. Seven low-cost airlines during the same period saw employment drop 3.3 percent.

So remember, as you’re struggling to stay employed, that you’re far from alone. There are very few recession-proof industries out there anymore.

If you lost your job, who would you be?

I’ve long preached — or nagged — that people should craft busy, active lives outside the workforce. Too many people tie their entire self worth to their job. They care about their careers and little else.

Well, that attitude can be dangerous in the best of times. When even the hardest working, most talented people can lose their jobs at any moment, connecting your sense of self completely to your career is a sure path to low self esteem.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a good story about this. It starts with a look at a former investigative reporter who recently was forced to take a buyout from the Kansas City Star newspaper. For 30 years, this man worked as a reporter. It was how he identified himself.

When he didn’t have that job, he had no idea what he was.

That’s the danger we all risk when we let work take over our lives. Think about it: Do you think of yourself as an accountant, a writer, a CEO? Or do you think of yourself as a great wife, a loving husband, a terrific father or a supportive friend? Maybe it’s time we all began to think of ourselves as those latter choices.