Jamil Jude, BriAnne M. Daniels, Anna Hickey Fotis, Stefan Johnson, Andrew Erskine Wheeler, David Loose, pictured far right, Pre-Covid production meeting for Baltimore is Burning at The Underdog Theater group in Saint Paul, Minn. October 24, 2016. Archival Photo used with permission. (Pedro Juan Fonseca)

Employment — Now Out of the Storm

By Group 8: Melissa Naves Tannus, Ryan Morris, Ayushi Srivastava, Olivia Shan, Marguerite Knowlton


Coming out of a year of devastation and economic hardship for many, we look towards the positives that are emerging for working class citizens.

2020 will go down as one of the darkest years of our recent memory. The primary culprit for the chaos and tragedy we had to endure last year was COVID 19. It killed close to 4 million people worldwide and inflicted serious damages on the global economy. Many people could not even say goodbye to their loved ones who died alone in nursing homes and hospitals. It broke society, dividing people through social distancing and forcing everyone to seek safety behind masks. Children’s education also took a drastic hit with school closures, and some children have grown up in a world devastated by a pandemic. Many people lost their life savings in small business closedowns while global mega corporations like Amazon got even richer. However, even through this time of unspeakable darkness, we can find few shining lights. One of these positive outcomes of COVID was that it helped people to get time off work and reconfigure and reevaluate their lives, presenting them with an opportunity to break the cycle and find new horizons. It also led employers to be flexible with working conditions and emphasize the health and safety of their employees.

A list of jobs created as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as identified by 46 anonymous individuals in a survey. (Ayushi Srivastava/J110)

One of the rare advantages of COVID was that many workers who were burdened with the hardship of daily work got the opportunity to stay home and reconfigure their lives. Many people were laid off from jobs that they have been stuck working for for many years. Stores started closing up and many lost jobs and are not able to find new jobs. Some people could find Covid advantageous because getting laid off from jobs they are previously working for has given them the chance to find out what they are truly passionate about. Particularly the people who were doing difficult or boring jobs for minimum wage can see the covid break as an opportunity to take a break and improve their skills. Also because the government of Canada provided them financial assistance with the CERB, these workers had the financial support to spend their time on what they truly love. Also, being able to spend time with their families could be seen as an added benefit here. Furthermore, the CERB could be seen as a trial of a universal basic income (UBI) where people got money without having to be exploited by employers. We can see that this provided the opportunity for many minimum wage workers doing hard and thankless jobs like restaurant workers to demand higher wages to come back. As such, we can say that COVID pandemic ironically empowered workers and showed the world that an UBI concept could work. And some people have found what they are truly passionate about from getting a new job. Therefore, Covid has given them the chance to try a new job and career.

(Ayushi Srivastava/J110)

The other main advantage of COVID for workers is that it presents the opportunity to reconfigure how we work. The whole situation forced employers to prioritize the well being of the employees as well as making work more flexible through options like working from home. Many people started to work from home and sometimes at their convenience, showcasing new ways people can be productive without being at the traditional office settings. Employers can take this opportunity to give employees more control and hope they can trust them to manage their schedules. Also, leaders and managers may want to learn more about employees’ values, interests, strengths, and motivations. At the same time, the entire organization may accept working from home and continue to try different ways of working after the crisis is over. Essentially, COVID provides an opportunity for employers to embrace more flexibility like working from home and having virtual teams. This helps employees to spend more time with their families and friends, but also cut costs of commuting and eating out and save more money.

(Ayushi Srivastava/J110)

So it is apparent that human ingenuity can find silver linings in the darkest pages of our history. Even though COVID is deadly and disruptive, that disruptive nature has provided us an opportunity to improve the lives of workers around the world. I do not find it insulting to millions who died and billions whose lives are disrupted by this pandemic at all, as long as we can advance the agenda of the workers. Despite its drawbacks COVID-19 is a very good opportunity to reorganize work in a more flexible and employee friendly way that is more equal and equitable.


Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel —

Left to Right: Pre Covid Jorge Bartolomei getting burried by paperwork at Sprint in Round Rock, Texas on Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019.(Jorge Bartolomei). Post Covid Jorge shows off wares from his store, Candle Lit Glow.com located in Round Rock, Texas Sunday, June 27, 2021. (Maggie Knowlton/J-110)
Left to Right: Jasmine Woods Pre-Covid works at EMS, 12–16 hour days in Charlotte, North Carolina circa.October 2018(Jasmine Woods). Post-Covid Jasmine woods getting ready for her job at Asperion in Charlotte, North Carolina in administration working 9–5 with “10 times better benefits.”-Jasmine Woods. (Maggie Knowlton/J-110)
Left to Right: David Loose Pre-Covid pictured on stage(R) with Joshua Vosberg(L) at a production meeting for Urinetown, at the Underdog Theater as the assistant director in Saint Paul, Minn. Saturday, May 14, 2016. Archival photo used with permission. (Abbee Warmboe) Post Covid, David Loose works at his home office during the pandemic as the Office Manager for Flex-Pac, Inc. client advocates for Disabled Service Providers for the county, in New Prague, Minn. Sunday, June 27, 2021. (Maggie Knowlton/J-110)
Right to left: Kelly Childs Pre- Covid works as a welder June 24, 2018 in Cleveland, Tenn.(Jessica Caldwell). Kelly Childs discusses the finer points of insurance policies on the phone with clients. Post Covid Kelly is certified to sell insurance in 49 states, and works from her home in Cleveland, Tenn. Friday, June 25, 2021. (Maggie Knowlton/J-110)
Right to Left: Arielle Edwards pictured on the right with her child Pre-covid is a stay at home mom, in Milwaulkie, Ore. circa May 2019. (Arielle Edwards) Right: Post Covid, Arielle starts her own buisness, New Moon Witch Co. On Etsy, with over 640 sales in 6 months located in Milaulkie, Ore. Archival photo used with permission. (Arielle Edwards)
Dave Filonek owns Filonek’s Bar & Grill on the North Side of Chicago, and he recently spoke with the J110 team in regards to his establishment’s experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Julia Portela (33) explains how the pandemic led her to leave her job as an office manager in Los Angeles to follow her dream of becoming a vegan Personal Chef in Miami. (Melissa Tannús)

Story by Olivia Shan

Photography by Marguerite Knowlton

Audio by Ryan Morris

Infographics by Ayushi Srivastava

Video by Melissa Naves Tannus