Mr. Clayton W. Lord

2022 Trends: Shifts in Labor, Work, and Training

Posted by Mr. Clayton W. Lord, Apr 19, 2022 0 comments

Mr. Clayton W. Lord

This is one in a series of blogs about trends that will impact the arts in 2022 and going forward. Links to the introduction and full series appear at the end of this post.

In ways large and small, the way we work continues to change as we carry into the rest of 2022 and emerge from two years of seismic change. A true tussle between those who want it to go back to how it was, and those who want something new in the relationship between workers and work, is about to come to a head. 

(Re-)Shuffle Along
Nationally, we are in the midst of what has been named The Great Resignation, which has seen an average of 4 million people quitting their jobs each month since February 2021. They’re seeking meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in their new jobs—as well as more flexible, bespoke, and often entrepreneurial working arrangements.

Collective Action
Meanwhile, workers are organizing, unionizing, and taking power in ways they haven’t before. From Starbucks to Amazon to non-profits like the ACLU and even cultural institutions, collective action is being engaged in new places and new ways.

Mx. Independent 
The ongoing pandemic has accelerated a long-term shift towards independent or gig work (something we in the arts already know about—a third of arts workers are independent workers) and increased the number of people who consider it not only a preferred way of working, but a more stable and secure one than certain W2 situations. If the gig economy keeps growing at the rate it has been, the majority of workers will be gig workers by 2027. The big question is when and how public policy—which currently isn’t well designed for independent workers and locks them out of unemployment, healthcare, safety net programs, and access to capital inequitably—will catch up to the trend. In a field where one third of all arts workers are independent, ASAP is the hoped-for answer.

Work-From-Home 4EVA
At the height of the pandemic, two-thirds of all U.S. workers were working entirely out of their homes. As going back to the office becomes an option again, many workers are questioning whether being at the office is necessary at all. Meanwhile business leaders—not to mention the President—are starting to push harder for people to go back to the office (and to downtown areas where businesses are suffering mightily from the lack of traffic).

Getting Re-educated
Workplace skill-building is shifting and changing, partly in reaction to the pandemic and remote work, and in part to anticipate the skills that will remain with human workers with the rise of more and better robotics and AI. Top of mind are the unique skills necessary to maintain hybrid work relationships and corporate culture, enhance staff morale and bonding in the absence of constant physical presence, and ensure productivity and work/life balance, and likely will require many of us to get re-educated.

How will these trends impact the arts?

For our sector, the implications of this shift in work are, and will be, profound. The hardship of the pandemic created exoduses of artists leaving the arts field, either temporarily or permanently, and have opened new job training employment opportunities for creative workers and organizations. For those staying in the arts, collective organizing offers the promise of better wages and quality of life, which has led unions like Actors Equity to relax their requirements for entry and organizations like Bectu, a UK-based union for creative independent workers, to arise. As more people move into being independent workers outside the arts, the possibility that public policy will recognize the unique needs of such workers grows, which is good news for our sector—and as more people seek new careers and engage in new ways, the prospect of new uses for arts-based education emerge as well.

2022 Trends That Will Impact the Arts

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