Bad vibes are spreading, with fears of a recession and waves of layoffs intensifying.
After two years of the pandemic, the economy is turning, as inflation continues to be at multi-decade highs, and with the Federal Reserve going on the warpath with rate hikes to address it.
Workers should shift their mindset, and prepare to advocate for themselves, as the storm looms closer, workplace experts say. One report from KPMG said that 91% of the U.S. CEOs surveyed are “convinced” that the economy is headed towards a recession in the next 12 months.
There’s been a “real change in tone,” Steve Koepp, an entrepreneur who co-founded From Day One, a conference series and an employee-focused media outlet, told MarketWatch. “Companies aren’t so desperate anymore, and they also see a recession coming. Employees were in the driver’s seat. Now, they’re not as much.”
“‘Companies aren’t so desperate anymore, and they also see a recession coming.’”
To be clear, it doesn’t appear that companies are giving up on their employees. In fact, they’re trying very hard to keep their workers, as the New York Times reported recently.
But that also doesn’t mean that layoffs will not happen, Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor, told MarketWatch. “Demand for workers is still extremely high and in the optimistic case, that could mean fewer layoffs if the economy does slow down,” Zhao said.
“But if a recession does happen, employers may have to lay off workers once the rubber hits the road,” he stressed.
If you’re worried about a recession and what that means for your job, Koepp has five pieces of advice:
1. Push for benefits
While there has been a shift from employers being desperate to hire to being less so, there also is a recognition that they need to keep employees happy, Koepp said.
So for workers, that’s a possible cue to stand up and ask for things that matter to you. While employers were very creative with benefits, compensation, and flexibility, over the pandemic, that’s shifted, experts say.
But things like wellness, mental health, preventing burnout, providing benefits for women’s health, and caregiving, are all issues that some companies prioritize.
“Companies want to be transparent about the things they want to tout, but they’re also more exposed to outside scrutiny of how good of an employer are you?” Koepp said.
For instance, retail giant Walmart WMT, -1.40% recently announced that it was partnering with Kindbody to provide its associates with fertility benefits. This includes access to in-vitro fertilization facilities, fertility preservation, genetic testing, and more.
2. Advocate for yourself
Koepp also suggested employees find ways to make their current job more meaningful.
“They need to do things like finding a work best friend, making friends at work, advocating for new programs and initiatives,” he said.
And raising your hand to talk about issues that are pain points, or issues that are flying under the radar, are all extremely significant.
Employers are “listening more carefully to what people want,” Koepp said. So there is a benefit that people really need, and “workers need to speak up,” he added.
While we’re past the Great Resignation stage, and now moving beyond the Great Resistance and Quiet Quitting stages, “we’re in a period where we’re kind of negotiating what comes next — and people need to stick up for themselves,” Koepp advised.
3. Change starts at home
If you’re frustrated about your job, instead of looking externally, look for internal postings that would allow you to move laterally, which is a lot easier for companies to manage, Koepp said.
“It’s a kind of a win-win for workers and companies. What else is going on in your company that you’d love to do? It’s a lot cheaper for companies to move somebody into something they’re passionate about than to go outside and hire someone and train them,” he noted.
Moving people around instead of laying people off is something companies will try to do, he added.
There are some politics involved with a lateral move, though — if your boss finds out and doesn’t like that, that could hurt your current job. And especially if you don’t get that other job, you’re stuck in a weird position.
4. Get face time with the boss
A controversial topic, but one that’s becoming more relevant, is the push to return to work. It’s frustrating to hear for some employees who like the comforts of home, but it’s likely the case that showing up in the office one or two days a week can be helpful in keeping your job.
Companies won’t say that they will find it easier to let go of people who refuse to come back to the office, Koepp said.
But there is such a thing as proximity bias, he added. “Managers do like to see the people who they work with and work with them. They feel they have more control or at least more knowledge of what the person is doing,” Koepp explained.
But at the same time, flexibility isn’t going away — remote work has become much more normalized with the pandemic forcing everyone to work from home five days a week.
5. Zoom with your manager
It’s still a reasonable thing to ask to work from home, Koepp said. But that’s tightening up, as the world reopens. But to be clear, if work from home is something that’s extremely important to you, speak up and ask for it, Koepp said.
Particularly for many caregivers, such working parents, or those taking care of elder relatives, work from home has become a genie that’s out of the bottle and can’t go back in.
In such cases, set up a regular Zoom ZM, -3.27% or Google Meets GOOGL, -2.52% video chat with your manager. It’s good for them to see you in your home office, looking professional and keeping busy and engaged. That way, your end-of-year review should have no surprises.
Working remotely allows parents to be more flexible and more involved in their children’s lives. For instance, a family can avoid paying for expensive daycare for their infants and toddlers, as one parent or both are able to work from home.
“To be able to have that was just a great boon for women who disproportionately are caregivers, whether it’s their own kids or their you know, elderly people or siblings with issues you name it,” Koepp said.
“And I think that employees need to try to find it, negotiate it, where they are,” he added. “It’s going to just be pretty, pretty disruptive to go back to the way things were, unless they can.”
So as you worry about layoffs and a recession, take a deep breath, step back and take stock of what’s important to you.
Write to MarketWatch reporter Aarthi Swaminathan at firstname.lastname@example.org