Blouch: The Great Resignation has reached Fort Collins

Cat Blouch

A student walks towards the Durrell dining hall
A student walks towards the Durrell dining hall from Laurel Village Feb 2. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Editor’s Note:   All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Times are changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has created irreversible shifts in our ways of life, and the workforce is no exception. Citing the the U.S. Department of Labor, Phillip Kane from Inc.com writes that “during the months of April, May and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs” in what is being colloquially referred to as the Great Resignation. 

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After countless employees were forced to switch to a remote style of work in the wake of the pandemic, many are left seeking that same flexibility that became available. Many major companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft are offering their workers remote opportunities. Members of the workforce seek flexible options such as this, and companies that cannot provide these opportunities struggle to keep up.

Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, explained in an interview with National Public Radio, “Work has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed.”

Workers want the flexibility the pandemic offered but was previously unattainable. 

The food service industry is especially affected by the labor shortage. Restaurant and hotel workers, in fact, catalyzed the Great Resignation in April when more than 740,000 workers in hotels, bars and restaurants left their jobs, according to NPR.  

Working in a restaurant — it’s like a giant machine, right? … And if you’re missing any of those little components, then it messes up everybody.” –Axel Fuentes Ibanez, CSU finance and accounting student 

This problem becomes all the more real after the recent closing of the Durrell Dining Center at Colorado State University. Vincent Montez, third-year mechanical engineering student at Colorado State, is a student supervisor at the Durrell Dining Center. He explained that the buffet section of the dining center closed because they “didn’t have enough full-time or part-time staff to comfortably operate the main dining center.” 

“A lot of the general team member employees left. … A lot of them were freshmen; they were like, ‘Oh, I could kinda get better jobs or do something that’s more specific to my major,’” Montez explained. 

The worker shortage in the food industry is not only affecting the campus but the surrounding Fort Collins area. Axel Fuentes Ibanez, a first-year CSU finance and accounting student, works at Olive Garden and explained that the recent shortage of workers has been a strain on the restaurant.

As the world shut down, the workers keeping essential businesses operating were essential, and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated just because we are returning to in-person events.”

“There’s definitely a shortage of people willing to work in the kitchen,” Fuentes said. “Working in a restaurant — it’s like a giant machine, right? … And if you’re missing any of those little components, then it messes up everybody.” 

Olivia Deters, a recent CSU graduate, worked at La Creperie & French Bakery from about June 2019 until she quit a week ago. Deters spoke to the stress of being short-staffed.

“You can’t get time off; you can’t call in; you can’t miss a shift,” Deters said. “We had a couple of employees that came in even when they had strep.” 

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There are many speculations surrounding the Great Resignation, but a common thread is the effects of COVID-19.

“The main difference after COVID-19 was the ways that customers treated employees in restaurants,” Deters said. “At first, they were really friendly and tipped really well, but in the last couple months it’s been a little bit worse. … Customers started to become more rude to us, especially when it came to COVID-19 mandates.” 

COVID-19 created a shift in the workplace environment for the worse. Coupled with members of the workforce rethinking work in a bigger sense — what it means to them and how they spend their time — it has created the perfect environment for a mass departure of millions of workers. 

If we are to value these essential workers in a post-pandemic climate, it’s important that we pay them in a way that accurately reflects their important roles.”

The pandemic, however, made us realize how important these jobs are. As the world shut down, the workers keeping essential businesses operating were essential, and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated just because we are returning to in-person events. 

Offering workers the same opportunities for flexibility the pandemic provided and prioritizing a healthy workplace environment are crucial if we want to prevent more waves of resignations that could further damage the already-sensitive economy.

If we are to value these essential workers in a post-pandemic climate, it’s important that we pay them in a way that accurately reflects their important roles. Raising wages should be a legitimate consideration across the board. 

Have you been affected by the Great Resignation? We want to hear your thoughts. Take this Twitter poll here to share responses.

Cat Blouch can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @BlouchCat.