Over the past year, many businesses have been suffering from an ongoing issue: A worker shortage has caused complications for both business owners and their employees, from across the country to here in Athens.
Kenadi Sours, a sophomore studying commercial photography, holds a job in Athens at Taco Bell, 978 E. State St.
“We've been pretty short-staffed recently,” Sours said. “When it's busy, it's a lot harder to keep our drive-thru times up and get orders out quickly. It's really hard to manage taking orders, taking money and getting everything out the window in a timely fashion because I don't have any help with me.”
High turnover rates and numerous call-offs are just a few of the problems causing headaches at Sours’ place of employment.
There are many contributing factors to the ongoing worker shortage. Retirement plays a large role in the reduction of Americans participating in the workforce.
As of November 2021, 61.8% of Americans either held active jobs or were seeking jobs. That number stood at 63.3% in February 2020, according to CNN Business. Retirement is far from the only cause of this problem.
“I think people are sick of working for $8 to $10 an hour, especially by these huge corporations that can certainly afford to pay more,” Chris Pyle, co-owner of Donkey Coffee & Espresso, 17 1/2 W. Washington St., said. “I think that when you work for a little pay, then it's a horrible work environment as well.”
Jerry DePizzo serves as the owner and operator of Big Mamma’s Burritos, 10 S. Court St. DePizzo works hard to create a culture where employees feel good going to work and where they genuinely enjoy going to work.
“We owe a great deal of our success and what we've been able to accomplish these past 18 months to our team members and how passionately and diligently they’ve worked with Big Mamma’s,” DePizzo said. “That being said, it's certainly a lot more tight this year than in years past. It really came down to a real tight-knit group of our team members banding together and working extremely hard to keep Big Mamma’s open.”
Although many Athens businesses are in dire need of worker help, others have been fortunate enough to have plenty of employees.
“We probably get seven to 10 applications a week,” Pyle said. “We haven't had a shortage of staff at all. We've been able to hire people whenever we needed.”
This wasn’t always the case for Donkey Coffee. During the spring and summer of 2020, Pyle had to cut down on employees significantly, as he was facing much slower business than usual during these months.
“It wasn't a worker shortage,” Pyle said. “Like every business owner in the country, I woke up with knots in my stomach. I couldn’t sleep and had high anxiety.”
Pyle has since been able to offer all employees who were let go their job back, and though some returned, others had already found new positions. However, creating a healthy environment has proved successful in combating the worker shortage in both Pyle and DePizzo’s businesses.
“What we tried to do is just listen to the needs of our team members and try to fulfill them as best we can while keeping our model healthy,” DePizzo said. “Every day we take a temperature of the business to see whether it’s healthy that day or if it’s sick and we need to adjust. As long as the model is healthy, we try to put as much opportunity as we can within our team members and culture.”