As of April 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a national unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, equating to 9.8 million unemployed individuals. Despite this seemingly expanded pool of job candidates, various factors stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have created complexities for employers. Navigating Post-Pandemic Labor Challenges in industries like hospitality, entertainment, and restaurants have been disproportionately affected, impacting candidate availability and preferences. Moreover, concerns about COVID-19 risks, government stimulus packages, and expanded unemployment benefits have altered the urgency for many to return to work or reconsider career paths.
Challenges Faced by Employers:
This labor shortage, compounded by multiple circumstances, presents challenges for employers, particularly in sectors like warehousing and distribution. The pandemic catalyzed shifts in consumer behavior, leading to a surge in online shopping and home deliveries, increasing demands on distribution sectors. This heightened demand has escalated productivity levels, causing workers to handle more cases per hour, with increasing overtime hours becoming the norm. AEI’s analysis revealed a 40% surge in work intensity between 2007 and 2019 in food warehouses, likely exacerbated in the current scenario. This relentless pace and increased workload raise concerns about worker safety and potential injuries.
Risks to Existing and New Hires:
Existing workers face a greater risk of injury due to the intensified workload and decreased recovery time. Newly hired workers, entering roles with high productivity and physical demands, confront heightened risks. AEI’s research highlighted a decline in overall fitness levels among job candidates, indicating that less than 40% of candidates possess the necessary fitness for warehousing jobs. The pandemic has further complicated this issue, potentially amplifying both short and long-term risks of work-related injuries and associated costs.
Implications and Potential Costs:
The repercussions of increased workplace injuries could prove devastating for businesses, considering the average cost of medically consulted workplace injuries in 2018 was $41,000, affecting profitability significantly. The pandemic-induced reduction in overall physical activity, as indicated by various sources, has implications for declining fitness levels, which might persist and prove challenging to restore. Additionally, the long-term effects on the physical capabilities of COVID-19 survivors remain uncertain.
Strategies for Employers:
In this complex employment landscape, employers are advised to exercise caution in their hiring approaches. Rushing to hire without considering qualifications and training could exacerbate injury risks. Implementing comprehensive onboarding processes, including training periods for productivity and safety, can significantly contribute to injury prevention. Moreover, pre-screening programs like the AEI Physical Abilities Testing Program have shown a 47% reduction in injuries among new hires in the first year. Employers focusing on proactive strategies stand to positively impact current and future profitability by mitigating the risk of hiring individuals prone to workplace injuries.
Navigating Post-Pandemic Labor Challenges environment demands a nuanced approach from employers. Prioritizing comprehensive onboarding processes, safety training, and pre-screening programs can help navigate the challenges of worker shortages while mitigating the increased risks of workplace injuries, ensuring a safer and more productive workforce in the long run.