Workforce In Motion


COVID-19 and subsequent business shutdowns forced many small business owners to make difficult decisions about how to handle their employees.

Some were forced to lay people off. Other imposed furloughs. Those that were able to keep their employees needed to offer remote work arrangements, at least initially, until safety protocols were put in place.

The workforce certainly got rattled, but what we didn't know then was how different everything would be when businesses opened back up and we started to see glimpses of normalcy.

As business owners pivoted to meet guidelines for a safe working environment, much of the workforce pivoted too.

Here are a few "workforce in motion" trends that we've noticed:


Help wanted signs are everywhere you look. In May of 2021, there were over 181,000 jobs opening in Ohio, (15 million in the US) but millions of Americans are not seeking employment.

Why? There are a number of reasons for this, from family demands to personal preference. Nearly 2 million of the 4.2 million employees who dropped out of the workforce at the beginning of the pandemic are mothers not returning due to childcare issues.

Working mothers have taken the biggest hit of all working professionals during the pandemic, as family caregiving responsibilities fall disproportionally on them. A recent survey of 1,508 working mothers found that 69% were planning to stay at home to take care of their children, and only 31% said they planned to return to the workforce within the next 12 months. Most schools have reopened, but some have limited hours or remain closed, posing childcare challenges to parents.

Considering the delta variant, some workers, especially front-line, low-wage workers, are hesitant to return to jobs they believe are stressful and high risk. They are concerned about exposure to the virus and having to constantly deal with customers who are unvaccinated or refuse to wear masks. They are waiting for better jobs to come around.

Education can also affect a worker's perspectives on going back to work. In September 2021, employment of the college educated grew by 350,000 people, but declined by more than 430,000 or more among Americans with a high school degree or less. Overall, more than 5 million Americans have stopped looking for jobs during this crisis.


Employees who were initially forced to work remotely are not appreciating the convenience and flexibility that comes with not having to go into the office. More family time, less money spent on gas/vehicle upkeep, and working around family schedules are all benefits some employees have gotten used to and don't want to give up.

In a recent study of 3,000 adult, 64% of respondents said if given the choice, they would choose to work from home over a $30,000 a year raise. Another study of 1,000 people showed that 39% would consider quitting if they were not offered the flexibility of remote work.

ZipRecruiter reports that nearly half of job seekers would like a remote job, even after the pandemic, and even if their previous career doesn't translate to an ideal remote option.

Both men and women want flexibility. In a study of 4,553 full time employees, 71% said flexibility with work schedules was source of anxiety around returning to the workforce. 68% want to keep flexibility, and 53% want to continue to work from home.

As employees are aligning with a new set of employment priorities and preferences, employers are feeling the pain. While offering flexibility and working from home options work great for some business, there are others that can't accommodate the level of flexibility their employees are wanting. Those businesses are quickly learning that it's hard, expensive, and sometimes not feasible to provide flexible, work from home arrangements. Depending on the industry, type of business or business model, sacrificing face-to-face interactions and in-person collaboration is not in the best interest of the company or its clients.

As a result of the pandemic, some employees would prefer to work for themselves instead of someone else, some no longer want to work full time, and others don't want to work at all. The concern of this "work less or not work at all" priority shift is the unintended consequence of not being financially prepared for retirement. If an individual is not working or is only working part time, how will they remain financially independent, both now and years from now?

Employees have to think about the impact today's decisions will have on their financial futures. Will they be able to pay their bills? Will they have enough money to live the lifestyle they want in retirement? Do they think the government will step in and take care of them?


The overarching theme that every employer must face is that the pandemic has allowed employees to shift priority from the customers to themselves.

Society and governors pushed people forward during the pandemic, changing the employment model to "me" over anything else. We've found that some employees simply don't want to work as hard as they once did. They are no longer concerned about the employer or the end customer but are more focused on themselves and what they want. Some employees who no longer want to work are blaming safety, social distancing, and a poor working environment as the reason. Yet 53% of Americans traveled this summer, 40% by plane.


Not all employees prefer working remotely. There are some that feel the best interactions are had in-person, where everyone can sit in the same room, talk over lunch or catch up at the water cooler. They feel that working together in-person is the best and most effective way to serve their customers.

As a business that operates with most of our employees working in-person in the office, we agree with this opinion. We believe that long term, companies whose teams work together in-person most or all the time perform better than companies with teams who don't. The consistency, teamwork and face-to-face investment in the company will result in the business running like a well-oiled machine. This will be a key differentiator for businesses in three, five and 10 years down the road.


It's up to each employer to determine the workforce arrangements that is best for their business, their employees and their customers. There is no right or wrong answer to this.

Some employers will embrace a remote work or hybrid model if it fits their business's culture and can meet the needs of their clients. Other employers, such as JP Morgan for example, want their employees in-person in the office because that's what's best for their clients. They've drawn the line and employees know if they want to work for JP Morgan, being physically present is a deal breaker.

And some employers can knowingly employ those workers who don't want to come into the office by offering some type of remote arrangement. If they choose, those employers can figure out a way to give their employees what they need so everyone is happy.


Just two short years ago, we never imagined we'd be dealing with workplace problems like social distancing, masking and working around quarantine requirements. So, employers will need to continue solving for these problems, especially if we are faced with another COVID variant or a different pandemic.

When reflecting on the last 20 years, we've gone through 9-11, the financial crisis of 2008, unusual weather patterns, and the pandemic, all which affected our lives and our businesses. Are you ready for the next challenge? Because history has taught us it's coming, and it will be a different challenge. Are you prepared?

We do predict we will see the remote work trend shift back, and we will gradually return to pre-COVID in-person employment arrangements. In order to accommodate employee needs, preferences, and situations, employers will need to make concessions for time spent at work, where the work is to be done, and other accommodations on a case-by-case basis and as the need arises.

What workforce trends have you seen in your business or your industry? How has your business adapted to the workforce in motion? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn! 

Gerber, LLC (“Gerber”) is a registered investment advisor. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Gerber and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure.