Laid Off in Your Living Room: The Chaos of Remote Job Cuts
Kerensa Cadenas opened Slack Friday morning to an expletive-laden email from a colleague. It started essentially: “I got fired.” Ms. Cadenas was determined and checked her email. She then typed her expletive. She was also laid off. She was alone in her Brooklyn apartment.
Ms. Cadenas was joined by more than 100 Vox Media coworkers, as well as thousands of other workers, in this lonely, surreal wave of remote layoffs. People received the news via email, Slack messages, or video calls. After that, they sent their farewell notes and shut down their computers. There were no other workers to share their sorrows with.
“Normally, you’re like, ‘OK, I can get drunk.’” Ms. Cadenas, 37 said. She noted that on top of the isolation, comes frustration with the instabilities that many media workers now accept as part of their work lives. It’s frightening because it’s like, ‘Will you ever have savings? Do I ever plan to own anything? “Probably not.”
Anxiety has swept across laptop screens this month with dozens of companies making mass layoffs. Even the most established workplaces are finding ways to create more chaos. According to Layoffs, more than 1,000 tech companies cut nearly 160,000 employees last year. FYI tracks job cuts in the sector and reports that 185 other companies have laid off 57,000 workers since the beginning of the year.
According to one study, layoffs can be among the most difficult life events. They cause more psychological stress than divorce. Layoffs can cause financial and psychological damage to workers. In many cases, layoffs in remote work environments have been particularly destabilizing due to employer mistakes that fuel uncertainty and unanticipated consequences.
Twitter employees were informed in the middle of the night that they had been fired. At least one worker also found out this information during a team meeting when he lost access to company accounts. Rena Starr (33), a mortgage lender at Better.com missed a Zoom meeting in 2021 and then texted her boss to find out that she had been fired along with more than 900 others. Some employees at Better.com learned that they were laid off last year when severance payments hit their payroll accounts. This was months after Rena Starr, 33, missed a Zoom meeting in 2021. It was also months after the chief executive had apologized for firing almost 10% of employees in a three-minute call right before the holidays.
Sandra Sucher, a Harvard professor of management who has been studying layoffs for over a decade, said that “they’re immediately cutting your off from your technological connectivity.” “I have heard of many companies in which people couldn’t keep up and didn’t know what to do.”
Many workers who are laid off have a lot of questions and don’t know where to turn for help. Amazon told a recruiter that her job would be cut within four months. She was then encouraged to accept a severance pay package. It was difficult to find a job because she had to return her company computer.
Some people noticed that their colleagues were more helpful than their bosses after a layoff at some companies. Erika Kwee (32), lost her job in November at an e-commerce marketing company. A colleague had crowdsourced a list and contacts for recruiters to assist her with her search.
Many remote workers don’t have the numbers of their colleagues and don’t know where to find help or comfort. Beth Anstandig is a Bay Area psychotherapist who helps clients cope with the mental trauma of this time.
“I hear people aren’t sleeping or sleeping two hours at night on their couches,” Ms. Anstandig said. She is currently working with clients who are experiencing layoffs as well as those who are going through them. Many of these clients are stressed and overworked. “They are in tears during our meetings together.”
Millions of American workers never knew a world without mass layoffs. This kind of instability has been a part of the economy since the 1970s and 1980s when shareholders were prioritized and companies adopted the strategy of increasing their speed and then cutting back quickly. Some executives tried to make this a part of corporate life. In 1996 Robert Eaton, chief executive at Chrysler Corporation stated that “downsizing and layoffs were part of the price for becoming more competitive.” According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 85 percent of workers consider job loss their top concern.
Last year saw job cuts at tech giants Meta resulting in more than 11,000 jobs being lost, or 13 percent, while Lyft was able to lay off 13 percent. Alphabet, Google’s parent, announced last week that it will cut 12,000, or 6 percent, of its global workforce. Microsoft also plans to reduce 10,000 jobs, or 5 percent, of its employees. Spotify, however, stated this week that it will cut 6% of its workforce. Many of these company cuts came after years of flexible work arrangements and free-flowing perks that were part of what was known as a “war on talent.”
Ms. Sucher stated, “That’s one of the great contradictions in corporate life.” “All corporations believe that people are our greatest asset. But they don’t seem able to believe it.”
She said that referring to someone as a “talent” is a different thing than calling them a person. “People are not a resource that is easily depleted.”
Trip Barnes, 39, an Atlanta resident, has been laid off three different times over the past three years. Each experience brought with it pangs and grief in a different way. He received a call at 8 AM from his boss in the spring of 2020. He was informed that he would be receiving information from human resources later that morning about his position as a hospitality staffer.
“Everybody is trying to get away from the conversation — get it done fast,” Mr. Barnes stated. “It was all about taking the Band-Aid off.”
He rewatched “Up in the Air”, a 2009 movie about a character played in part by George Clooney, two weeks ago. His job is to extract people from corporations. The treatment of workers was seen as both interchangeable and disposable by Mr. Barnes.
Many workers expressed a sense of resignation in response to the mass layoffs that hit their workplaces this month, particularly in the media.
Phoebe Gavin (37), who managed talent and development at Vox.com said that she was not surprised to learn on Friday that her job had been lost. Since her 2015 job at Upworthy, she has been planning for periods of unemployment. She has saved 10 percent of each paycheck to build a nest egg. She started a coaching company in 2019, during which she spent her weekends and early mornings building. This was to provide a backup plan in the event she lost her job.
Ms. Gavin stated, “I don’t expect any company that I work for to prioritize my interests.”
Management experts emphasize that businesses shouldn’t be forced to deal with economic turmoil so randomly.
Ms. Sucher pointed out that Nokia gave approximately 18,000 employees a year’s notice when it was restructuring in 2011. The company also offered several options for them: They could get new jobs, start businesses, or even begin education programs.
Nokia’s success metrics included whether employees had a job lined up when they left and whether they left with enough positive impressions to be open to the possibility of returning. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who left knew their next steps.
“This is going be the lasting impression you leave with your former employees, your current employees, and all future employees,” stated Tanner Hackett chief executive of Counterpart, an insurer technology company that assists small businesses.
Hackett stated that companies often take a rush to implement layoffs because their shareholders are watching other industries do it and expecting the same. This creates a climate of panic and leaves employers vulnerable to being sued for wrongful termination and violations of the WARN Act (a 1998 labor law that requires large corporations to notify employees in advance of any mass layoffs). Hackett has observed some companies reacting to economic downturns rather than responding strategically.
Briana Boehmer (44), drove to Boulder for what she assumed was a regular executive meeting at the company’s fitness technology company. She was the chief operating officer and had worked long hours and weekends supporting customers for nearly six years. The founders appeared nervous when the meeting began.
After some confusion, the chief technology officers jumped in and said: “So aren’t you saying that we’re terminated?”
It was an unusual moment for Ms. Boehmer who had been following news reports about chaos at other tech companies in recent months.
She said, “I’ve been listening to it on podcasts and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s shameful, that’s a terrible way to do it.'” “And then, I’m like, “Oh, that just happened.”
Post Title: Laid Off in Your Living Room: The Chaos of Remote Job Cuts
Posted Date: January 25, 2023
Author: USA Jobs