Sep 7, 2020

Good News on Labor Day: We Want to Work!

National survey shows we’ll adapt

By Ed Goldman

This being Labor Day, I thought you might enjoy knowing that a new national survey indicates American workers are flexible and optimistic. 

The good news, as reported by the Robert Half Agency, an international staffing firm, is that America is ready and expects to go back to work—though maybe not the same way as it has for decades. Debbie Lazo, a spokesperson for Half, recently sent me the following data:

  • More than 18 million unemployed professionals who were temporarily laid off due to work slowdowns or business closures expect to return to work;
  • Many companies have learned that remote work is a viable option, and employees enjoy having the flexibility: 79 percent said their job allows for windowed work, or the ability to block their day into chunks of business and personal time, and 73 percent of those workers said it leads to greater productivity;  
  • Workers have become more comfortable using technology for remote work and 60 percent said the lack of a commute had improved their work-life balance; and 
  • Small business owners expect the recession to be short-lived, and nearly 40 percent anticipate better business conditions in the next six months.  

This strikes me as pretty encouraging stuff, especially on a day that honors people who work by letting them not work, unless their work is essential. And while I’m sorry that millions of safety and medical personnel are working today, I’m certainly grateful they are. Likewise for those who work at gas stations and grocery stores that remain open, who drive the buses and light rail trains so many people rely on, and fix the air conditioners that have a habit of taking holidays off, especially if they’re hot-weather ones.

I’m hardly what you’d call an essential worker. But for me, the term Labor Day is a literal one because I usually labor on it. The same goes for me on most of the other major American holidays, all of the Jewish ones and probably those of religions I’m barely aware of, owing to my always having skipped the “recommended supplemental reading” list at the end of a textbook chapter. 

I’m sure that somewhere I’d have found a veritable cornucopia of dates and facts to memorize, like in “Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations, Volume 1.” This is an actual book I’ve never read, possibly because of that “Volume 1” tacked onto the end of the title. I mean, do I really want to wade through a book with that lengthy a title only to find it has a sequel, which I’m sure is even longer?

Call that last part an educated guess. I base it on the fact that the film adaptation of “The Godfather” ran 177 minutes but its first sequel, “The Godfather, Part II,” was a full 25 minutes longer. (The filmmakers apparently decided not to press their luck: “The Godfather Part III” was in and out of there in seven minutes less than Part I. So maybe if there’s a Volume 3 of “Religious Celebrations,” it’s a comparatively zippy read.)

Anyway, I like working on holidays, like today, because it usually means my phone doesn’t ring as often, emails only contain “Breaking News” of local stories that already ran three times during the week in local papers, and the texts are mainly police alerts (“A drunk guy without a vest on has apparently tumbled off a boat he was piloting for the first time. His embarrassed family, watching from the shore, are declining to identify him. Oh, he survived—they just don’t want anything to do with him”).

If you’re fortunate enough to call today a day off, I wish you a wonderful one—and I apologize if you found the tangent in today’s column somewhat, oh, what’s the word?—laborious.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).