More Employer Power Being Put Back in the Hands of Companies?

Now that society has regained some sense of normalcy combined with a potential economic downturn, employer power is once again growing.

By Trista Sobeck | Published

The pandemic is over. But during it, and quickly thereafter workers had the upper hand when it came to the balance of employer power between workers and businesses. Elon Musk recently ordered all workers back to the office from remote working.

But now that the fear of the COVID-19 virus has (seemingly) calmed down, many are wondering what happens next. According to a recent news piece on BBC.com, the balance of employer power may be shifting back to employers calling all the shots.

Why Employees Had More Power

During and immediately after the pandemic, employees were tough to find. From mass resignations to vaccine mandates, many people seemed to have reason after reason for not wanting to back to the office. So, businesses became more amenable to giving away their employer power and relent to what employees wanted most. That seems to be flexibility.

The pandemic forced many employees who weren’t typical remote workers back home. A great number of them found they liked it. More time spent with family, less time commuting, and worker power tipped toward employees.

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They wanted flexibility, they got it. It was something easy to give (and it was needed as people were socially distanced) since raises and bonuses were out of the question during the unknown economic time. In addition, warnings of a full-blown recession were being broadcast.

It looked like the tables of employer power were about to change. However, it seemed like the “boy who cried wolf.” Recession? Nah. Maybe just a little downturn. Workers still had the power. But, in more recent news, Elon Musk reportedly said on Twitter that “he had a bad feeling about things.” Cryptic yes, but when a multi-billionaire speaks, people listen.

As more and more warnings about a possible recession ramp up, we are guaranteed to see employer power shift to employers. Workers want flexibility? Well, they just better be happy they have a job. This is the attitude that employers may start to have.

However, on the other hand, Walmart has seen a trend where savvy shoppers are downgrading their grocery lists to save money. The big brand says that if this trend keeps up, we may be able to stave off a recession. Again, employer power shifts. At some point, employers may just decide to put a stake in the ground when it comes to ground rules. Hence the hybrid model many employees are presented with today.

A couple of days in the office is better than 5 days, most employees rationalize. In addition, if, as a country, we are continuously threatened with a recession where employment is hard to find, the choice seems obvious. Sitting in an office is much better than sitting at home—without a paycheck. Employer power wins again.

 Some Sectors Will Come Out On Top

According to reports, not all business sectors will feel the employer power shift quite as much as others. Knowledge workers in specialized fields such as engineering, IT, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and engineering will still hold all the cards. There is still a significant shortage of these types of workers, and the power will continue to reside with them.

What is more than likely to happen, however, is most employers find a balance. The employee-employer relationship should be a give and take, not just a simple power play.