Bringing Workers Back to the Workplace

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By Ryan Stenvick

Vice President of Business Development and Delivery, North America

Talent and employment experts from across the country argued that ceasing the distribution of federal unemployment benefits would inundate the job market with qualified candidates. So far, their predictions couldn’t be more wrong.

A total of 26 states chose to end some—or all—of the expanded unemployment benefits in recent weeks. State and local leaders in these areas claimed that this federal aid dissuades employees from seeking work. Yet according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department, states that ended the provision of these benefits have experienced job growth similar to—and perhaps slower than—growth in states that kept these benefits.

Positive Labor Trends Highlighted in Latest BLS Report

As the nationwide unemployment rate has reached 5.4 percent—its lowest since the start of the pandemic—data shows that the state of the U.S. labor market has improved. So why are companies still struggling to find workers? And what can they do to more effectively entice prospective employees to join their teams?

Lack of women in the workforce

Since the earliest months of pandemic shutdowns, the writing has been on the wall—nearly three million women departed from the workforce to handle the disproportionate demands that were thrown their way. From handling schooling responsibilities for their children to caring for their elderly parents, the pandemic heightened disparities for women in professional roles.

As many of these same women are still working from home, it makes sense why the percentage of females that comprise the independent contracting workforce has risen dramatically. Studies from the American Action Forum show that women now represent 46 percent of this group—up from 33 percent in May 2017. Due to the added flexibility that is provided through gig working jobs, women can put their skills to good use while earning money to support their families—all while operating from the confines of their homes. Companies need to more seriously consider independent contractors a viable resource during the pandemic to provide greater opportunities for women.

Delta variant surge

In light of the COVID-19 delta variant’s rapid spread across the country, there are large populations of American workers that remain uneasy about this more contagious strain of the virus. According to a workforce research study conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting, 44 percent of U.S. workers claim that the rise of the delta strain has impacted their willingness to return to the workplace—while 50 percent of workers say the variant has increased their concerns about contracting COVID-19.

While employers have little control over the delta variant’s recent surge, they can dictate vaccine policies and workplace arrangements while in the office. It has been widely reported that many private companies have either mandated the coronavirus vaccine for employees or implemented stringent protocols to encourage workers to receive it. Increasing the percentage of vaccinated workers within an organization can help to ensure a safer and more comfortable environment for all. In addition, employers should look to restructure their offices or other workplace settings to limit employees’ close exposure to one another. These strategies can be critical in enticing workers to return to the workplace in a setting that is more cautious and conservative.

Younger Americans fill the void

Due to the record number of job openings that remain unfilled, companies have turned to younger generations of workers to assuage their labor needs. Studies from Gusto show that in states that have kept federal unemployment benefits, employment has risen quickly for teenagers. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 33.2 percent of teens aged 16 to 19 were active in the workforce in May 2021—the largest figure since the Great Recession of 2008.

For some businesses—including restaurants and food service jobs, amusement parks, and retail stores—teenagers have been the sole resource that has kept their operations afloat. Although this young demographic has largely taken advantage of these new work opportunities, the number of teenagers in the workforce may sharply decline due to the start of high schools and colleges. As these students head back to campus, it remains to be seen who businesses will turn to next to fill their labor voids.

Enticing through incentives

The current labor market has forced many companies to get creative when enticing workers to join their organizations. Here are some of the most effective strategies that you can use to improve your recruiting efforts and bring workers back to your workforce:

  • Additional PTO – Providing an increase in vacation time could be a factor that would sway employees to strongly consider joining your business.
  • Sign-on bonuses – Some companies have offered hundreds—and even thousands—of dollars to employees who agree to meet certain hourly workweek requirements.
  • Childcare stipends – For employees with young children, stipends that cover the cost of daycare can be a huge asset—one that would enable them to more seriously consider your job offer.
  • Pet insurance – Want to make sure that your employees’ furry friends are taken care of? Offering pet insurance and other pet-specific benefits has proven to be a critical factor in persuading workers to accept a job at your company.
  • Four-day workweek – In the eyes of many talent experts, gone are the days of the five-day traditional workweek. Looking for a new approach that will really turn some job seekers’ heads? Institute a four-day work calendar for your employees to see a drastic improvement in your talent acquisition results.


Although businesses are confident that the economy will remain strong in the coming months, workers are less convinced. Wary of the impact of the COVID-19 delta variant, millions of Americans—including hundreds of thousands of women—are choosing to stay home rather than return to the workforce. And while the mass employment of teenagers has helped to quell talent shortages, this solution appears to be a temporary fix—not a permanent one. To discover the qualified candidates that will drive their operations forward, companies need to get creative and piece together intriguing incentive packages to attract prospective employees. Done right, this approach will be critically important in bringing high-quality talent to their organization.

Interested in learning about why employee resignations are at an all-time high? Check out this blog on why workers are quitting their jobs—and what employers can do to keep them.

To discover how your company can compose a prudent and practical return-to-work plan—even in light of the COVID-19 craziness—read our latest insights here.

Is your business looking for talent? Get in touch with us.