The Vox article, “Are layoffs common?” discussed the ways in which the job security of the American workforce has been under constant assault. Jump to the last paragraph if you’d like to read the 10 Tips to Avoid the Remote Work Firing Line.
Leading Companies Announcing Layoffs 2023
A quick review of the recent media headlines suggest that layoffs and hiring freezes are occurring at a rapid pace. In fact, Intellizence offered data showing that 1,431 companies announced massive layoffs in 2023 (as of April 27, 2023). To compare, for 2022 a total of about 3,150 announced layoffs. Here is a chart to demonstrate the distribution as it currently stands.
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Leading Companies That Announced Mass Layoffs in 2023: Source IntellizenceAs you can see, most of the companies are in the technology sector; with the exception of Accenture, professional services and management consulting; Amazon, online retail and technology infrastructure; Disney, entertainment; Ericsson, telecommunications and networking; and Philips, electronics and health technology.
Top Reasons for Massive Layoffs
To look at the data, it sure seems like, “are layoffs commonplace.” From an academic perspective, we turn to the research of Louis Hyman, a Cornell University professor who authored the book, Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary. Professor Hyman analyzed the historical working conditions of the past and contextualized them for today’s application.
Hyman suggested a few reasons for massive layoffs. We’ve added to the list of reasons for massive layoffs as well. The corporate rationale may surprise you. Companies may announce layoffs for the following reasons:
- to gain media attention
- to respond to an economic downturn
- to reduce costs
- to take the opportunity to shed the employee pool of a former professional opponent
- to open vacancies for supporters and allies
- to reimagine a new and invigorating strategy
- to re-direct the company, division or department into a new area of focus
Layoff Practices of Other Countries
As Americans, we like to think that mass layoffs are now part of the American culture. We may mistakenly believe that getting fired or laid off is just an American phenomenon. But that is not entirely true. Particularly in the age of globalization.
Business Insider, provided examples a few years ago about the machinations of a layoff in other countries.
- American employers may inform laid off workers by email (when working virtually), or when reporting to a traditional in-office setting, may give them just a few hours to pack their belongings
- German employers may allow employees who have been let go, access to company facilities, equipment and files, weeks after dismissal to complete outstanding projects
- Swedish employers offer, as standard practice, retraining programs and offer to help laid off employees obtain new jobs
- Japanese employers do much to refrain from mass layoffs as it is considered a social taboo
- Indian employers tended to refrain from layoffs as well, considering it as a source of shame, until just recently
Now that we have reviewed the data, read the academic research, and compared lay off practices across cultures, we need to talk about the elephant in the room.
“Will remote workers get laid off first?” The newscast of WKLA in Los Angeles, California devoted a short segment to this topic. They reported upon a survey by Beautiful.ai where 60% of the 3,000 American managers surveyed reported the perception that, “Yes, remote workers will be laid off first.” Just 20% said remote workers working from home are not in danger of being fired first.
10 Tips to Avoid the Remote Work Firing Line
In reading this statistic, you may be alarmed. You might conclude that you are in the ‘crosshairs.’ But, not so fast. Sixty-six percent of the same managers suggested that, “managing is more difficult in a remote workplace.”
So, as a remote worker, what steps can you take to ensure that your supervisor DOES NOT find it more difficult to manage you (as a subordinate) when you work from home?
- Be visible. Do not be the remote employee who is “out-of-sight” and therefore “out-of-mind.”
- Participate during virtual meetings and phone conferences. Make your voice heard.
- Make sure, when you make a comment, introduce yourself first and your title (I know it is strange, but it is difficult for remote team managers to determine who is speaking, when and if their comment added value to the overall conversation). Give your supervisor a little help!
- Volunteer to provide summaries and synopsis of the meeting and/or volunteer to post to company forum and task list (and don’t forget to add your byline for additional exposure).
- Inform your boss of your weekly schedule, weekly output/production and identify early on, the areas where you need additional support or recognize potential barriers to success.
- Strive to be the individual to provide new information, innovative ideas, best practices, and examples of competitors’ work that can be applicable.
- Never turn down the opportunity to report to the in-office setting for a hybrid arrangement, occasionally and/or permanently.
- Participate in all virtual retreats. Remember, consider every opportunity to engage as mandatory even though it is presented as an optional event.
- Master online digital tools to remain competent at your job. If you need additional supports, hire an outside tutor or consultant to help you attain mastery.
- Maintain a professional demeanor at all times when you are virtual conferencing. Use every situation to demonstrate professionalism. No one (especially your boss) should know just by your appearance, distracting noise, interruptions, or the background screen that you are working from home.