Workers Face Pandemic-Sized Problems
by Stephanie Kim, Opinions Editor
The pandemic has posed many problems this past year. With no clear end in sight, there is no ignoring the effect it has had on workers. Workers of all trades have had to go through extra struggles and hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no denying that frontline workers have faced the most challenges, but all workers have had to deal with changes in their workplace. These changes have not only affected the way workers feel about themselves but have changed how they feel about their jobs in particular. The added stress of not knowing when the pandemic will end has also heightened workers’ anxieties. All of this combined has made this past year a very stressful one for employees.
Anxieties stem not only from the pandemic itself but from all the changes it has brought. One mechanic and shop manager says how the pandemic affected him mentally at first because of not knowing “how bad it was going to get. Just the simple fact that you did not know what to do or what to believe. Being scared of getting it or someone you know getting it, and if they would be okay. When nobody has the answers at first it makes you a little scared.” It was challenging to deal with all the changes the pandemic brought, such as having to wear a mask all the time, while also keeping business running. Workers of all trades can relate to that: pushing to keep business going while trying to keep yourself safe. It’s a common anxiety we can all relate to.
Though the shop manager was able to keep business going, there were difficulties along the way. He says that “last year, during peak pandemic, business did slow down due to people not working and not having extra money for projects. Also, big businesses that we deal with for projects were put on hold due to shortage of workers and contracts being put on hold simply for the fact of the unknown.” Business is running more normally now, but there is no telling what could happen during the pandemic. Workers fear that the tides could turn at any minute. One frontline worker, an assisted living facility nurse, says how her facility “lost seven residents within weeks of each other.” She continued to explain how “as a long-term nurse I’m used to death, it’s a part of the career I love, but that many deaths at once brought me to a new low. It took a while to reach the acceptance stage of the grief process.” As we’ve seen from many frontline workers’ stories, the impact the pandemic has had on them has been tremendous. They have been seeing the side of COVID that many of us haven’t.
She explained to me further the pain she endured, going on to say how “for a while after the losses, I thought about giving up nursing, but some of the families who lost loved ones reminded me why I do what I do.” She says, “we had half our nurses out in the beginning with COVID, so we were working short-staffed. Residents were not allowed to go out and doctor appointments were done via Zoom, which took time away from other daily duties.” The pandemic almost changed her career entirely, but she also says how much the vaccine has helped alleviate worries, saying “although the vaccine has severe side effects for some and the long-term effects are still unknown, for me getting it has given me some sense of safety and normalcy.” Though as a nurse she has found security by getting the vaccine, some have been able to find it through their jobs.
One facility and operation management keeper in St. Louis says “there has definitely been added stress; however, I feel the agency I work for has taken extra steps to keep the workforce mentally and physically healthy. They have extended a fitness program to allow up to three hours paid each week to be used at home for exercise. And when COVID first impacted us last March, they allowed four hours paid per pay period, which was to provide a mental break to help keep the workforce mentally healthy.” This allowed him to have some peace of mind while trying to keep up with work. His agency further helped workers decrease stress by having them telework from home last year. The worker I spoke with claims this was the largest change he dealt with, as well as “learning new ways to conduct meetings and stay connected with day-to-day work functions.” As a college student, I related to that statement the most.
Anxieties are at a high and workers are still fearful of what the future holds; however, it seems that many are starting to adapt to life during a pandemic. Since there isn’t an explicit end in sight for it, workers can begin to adjust to the changes they have faced this past year. Jobs are trying to alleviate employees’ stress and employees want to feel a sense of safety. It seems like a step in the right direction for everything currently going on. Though the pandemic has posed problems for us all, workers and their employers can now start taking steps towards normalcy. And as the nurse told me, “it takes a great deal of time to find a mask to match my scrubs,” which may be the new normal we all have to face.