The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are now coming into focus, highlighting the challenges that businesses and governments will face. This week's links look at the scale of the problems we face, from employee burnout to mass unemployment among some of society's most vulnerable groups.

#1. Lockdown is taking a toll on work-life balance


Working from home in quarantine or isolation is pushing many people to the brink of burnout, according to a new survey. A survey by Canva found that 89% of people have experienced symptoms of workaholism, including 45% who have lost sleep over work stress and 43% who have skipped meals because of work. As the survey shows, balancing work with family and leisure time is a skill and it takes practice. Companies can help their employees by being aware of the challenge they are facing and putting in place policies that prioritise wellness and self-care.

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#2. COVID-19 response driving changes in HR


The world of HR “has changed more in the last 20 days than in 20 years”, writes Steve Arnold in HR Zone. He identifies five key areas that have changed as a result of the pandemic, including a huge rise in sick days, a shift to home-working and the challenge of how to manage holiday allowance backlogs. Arnold, who is CEO of e-days, which makes absence management software, says his company has seen an increase in customers wanting to track furloughed employees, separate home workers from those in self-isolation as well as those who are on sick leave versus those who have COVID-19. HR teams, already crucial to the future of work, suddenly find themselves with lots more data to manage but the end result of this crisis might be improved processes.

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#3. Some companies are still hiring amid the crisis


While almost 17 million Americans have lost their jobs as a result of the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, many businesses are still hiring. Amazon has seen business boom during the lockdown, with customers spending nearly $11,000 every second, according to reports. To keep up with demand, the company has had to hire extra staff. Amazon hired an extra 100,000 people in March and plans to hire another 75,000. The $350m investment in extra staff has now increased to $500m. This will offer some hope for those who have lost their jobs, though the numbers being hired do not yet come close to the numbers of newly unemployed.

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#4. Older workers hardest hit by economic turmoil


Still on the subject of unemployment in the pandemic, research suggests that not all workers are being hit equally. Experts predict that over-55s will be hard hit by the crisis, as they are more likely to lose their jobs and may face a struggle to find new employment as businesses look for younger workers. Part of the reason for this is that older workers are less likely to be in jobs where they can work remotely. Older workers are also in the high-risk category for COVID-19 because they are more likely to experience life-threatening symptoms if they catch the disease. Since they are less likely to be able to work from home, they are putting themselves at greater risk of infection. All this, says Forbes, highlights the need for better healthcare and retirement plans to protect older workers.

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#5. Low-income workers disproportionately hit by lockdown


And finally, a study by McKinsey reiterates that the most vulnerable workers are the ones most at risk from economic disruption during the pandemic. As the previous link notes, older workers are particularly at risk, but McKinsey says that low-income workers are also suffering. “People who were living paycheck to paycheck do not have the financial cushion to absorb a shock of this magnitude,” the authors note. The pandemic has shown that our existing social contract is not fit for modern threats. We need to rebuild it so that all workers have the protection they need.


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