Social Distancing Still Keeping 3M Americans out of Work

social distancing in workplace

COVID changed everything. From consumption patterns to communication standards, the idea that changes resulting from the events of 2020 and 2021 would disappear as soon as a vaccine was developed has been proven drastically shortsighted.

For example, with the U.S.’s great post-pandemic reopening now well underway, recent research shows that many people have no intention of ending COVID-era social distancing in a phenomenon the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is calling “long social distancing.”

In fact, a monthly survey of tens of thousands of American adults carried out since May 2020 has found that persistent worries about catching COVID has kept millions out of the workforce.

Read more: How Faster Payments Can Help Retain Employees

The researchers estimate the effects of long social distancing imply a drag on the labor force participation rate of 2.0 percentage points which would equate to about 3 million Americans out of work. They calculated that this decreased economic output by nearly 1% in the first half of 2022, translating to an annual GDP loss of about $250 billion.

Distinguishing between strong- and weak-form long social distancing, whereby the stronger type indicates that survey respondents have not returned to any of the activities they stopped partaking in due to the pandemic, the researchers found significant variance in the reporting of strong-form long social distancing.

The strong form of long social distancing falls sharply with education and earnings, rises with age, and is higher for women than men at all ages.

The age variation in people’s changing employment habits is observed in many countries. In the U.K., Professor Anthony Klotz has coined the term “the great resignation” to refer to the wave of resignations that have occurred in the past two years, with those closest to retirement age most likely to make the move.

In an employee’s job market, retention strategies have become more critical than ever. Bonus schemes, flexible work arrangements and more timely payroll have all been shown to have a positive effect on employers’ ability to retain staff.

Related: Restaurants Leverage Back-of-House Tech to Boost Employee Retention

To help businesses keep their best workers, tech companies have developed tools to encourage loyalty.

For example, Keep Financial offers a scheme in which employers can regularly distribute a cash bonus to employees as long as they stay on board with the firm for a pre-determined period of time.

Read also: Kabbage Co-Founders Launch Keep Financial for Employee Retention

And as the PYMNTS “Expanding Payments Choice Playbook” has found, faster and more dependable payments can increase employee loyalty, and instant payments can even serve as a recruiting tool in a competitive talent acquisition environment.

Get the report: Expanding Payments Choice Playbook