Making Incentives, Breaking Them, and General Malaise

I find myself with a palpable sense of dread today. A decent amount of it is just this general world-encompassing malaise that I assume afflicts most people at the moment. Anxiety is a fairly natural part of such tragedies and we must acknowledge it and carry on as best we can. This is hardly the worst crisis we as a species have ever faced.

The little economist in my head finds many aspects of it quite fascinating and curious. It seems somehow wrong to take any enjoyment from the consequences of events, but they are what we have. One of those categories right now is incentives.

See, a local employer is offering all of the employees an “appreciation pay” for coming to work to the tune of $80 a week, or so I’ve been told. From my perspective this is basically hazard pay, hoping that a little extra cash will prove enough incentive to get enough people to set aside their health concerns and walk in the door. I’m not sure how that works out in a cost/benefit way for the employees, but it’s clearly an incentive.

In watching a variety of economic indicators move past us, it seems clear that we’re entering a recessionary period. This really shouldn’t be news to anyone at the point. As such, I expect most employers to begin deploying cost-saving measures. We’re entering a time in which expenses are way up on screening, masks, and preventive measures while income is likely dropping due to softening demand. Based on the timeline of how the 2008 crisis played out I figured we had about a month for sales to drop and 2-3 months before permanent downsizing started.

One of my friends at the other company told me yesterday that they’re stopping all overtime hours. While I doubt that is a huge problem for most of their employees, he was telling me that this is a 20% reduction in hours for him. Would that be a 30% decrease in pay at time and a half? Either way, the overtime added up to more than the appreciation pay, so he now makes less per week than before.

Their incentive has, to some extent, become a disincentive. Especially when you consider my county of residence, where the other company is at, just had it’s number of confirmed covid cases double yesterday. An increase in risk and a decrease in pay sounds like a recipe for trouble.

The dread comes from knowing that things like this aren’t limited to a single individual. There are many people county-wide, nation-wide, and world-wide facing similar circumstances or worse. On that scale, this hurts the “economy.”

If that insanity weren’t enough watching our governor attempt to “open the state” back up when our little rural corner is just now catching its stride for infection isn’t helping. I’m wearing a face-covering when in public, but most people aren’t. I had to make a quick stop to get some cat food the other day and the smaller store I was in didn’t have anyone else in a mask. Not the employees, not the customers, just me. The sum total of where we are locally and where we seem to be headed is horrifying. My employer is requiring masks, effective next week, but it just seems like too little, too late.

I’m really hoping that I’m wrong, and it’s just anxiety getting the better of me. That somehow I am merely looking through a darkly tinted window.

Having said that, y’all stay safe out there. Please.

blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

2 thoughts on “Making Incentives, Breaking Them, and General Malaise

  1. When I do the weekly shop I see maybe 10-15% of people in masks. Official advice in the UK is still that masks don’t really do anything much but the popular opinion on that is that they’re only saying it because they don’t have enough masks for the people who really need them.

    I can’t find my old mask from last year when i was on chemo so Mrs Bhagpuss made me one. It’s quite spectacualr in blue gingham but no-one bats an eyelid when I wear it. Whether it does any good i have no idea but the one thing it really helps with is stopping me touching my face so it’s worth it for that alone.

    If and when we go back to work I’ll be expecting to wear a mask then but I think I’ll have to get a more official-looking one. I probably should order it now, really. Last time i looked they were taking several weeks to come.

    On the anxiety issue, there’s some interesting research I saw that suggests the pandemic has reduced anxiety levels in some people who suffered from anxiety beforehand. Apparently something people feared would happen actually happening had an ameliorative effect. It’s people who weren’t previously anxious who are feeling it now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, as far as masks go, I’m under the impression that it helps protect other people from me, not so much protect me. I figure it’s not doing much harm as long as I do my best not to touch it. It’s actually an example of a larger problem here, though. Many stores and businesses, where able, have converted entrances to segregated and/or one-way to try and prevent people from passing close to each other traveling through in opposite directions. In some cases, they’ve put up physical barriers between jobs in the workplace. In all cases, compliance is… questionable. I’ve seen plenty of people completely ignoring the divided/one-way entrances, holding the barriers apart or to one side, making physical contact with the surface that’s supposed to “catch” particulate, so they can talk to someone. Just… generally ignoring and subverting all the systems designed to help protect them. People are people, I guess. It was foolish of me to expect anything more.

      I use a variety of different things mask-wise. About 50% cloth rags tied around my head “bandit-style” and the other half are… I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, a neckwarmer maybe? Coworker gave it to me because I can’t breathe efficiently in the surgical mask style that work provides. I’m fine in the morning, but in the afternoon when it’s warm and humid I can’t catch my breath with the mask on. The cloth-based ones probably aren’t as effective, but sitting closer to/on my face they don’t trap the exhaled breath right up against me.

      | “If and when we go back to work”
      So, very little has stopped here. The factory did, for one week about a month ago, to install all these systems and barriers that are being ignored. Sadly enough, the HR department is “socially isolated” while the rest of us are still expected to be here. I got wind after I wrote my post that my schedule is also being reduced/modified for next week, but no isolation for me. Nearly all stores are still open except hair/nail salons, barbers, and gyms. If it sells goods instead of services, still open. Tax prep service in town is doing curb-side service.

      All the little things just add up to a recipe for disaster. The silver lining is that I’ll probably be fine even if I actually got sick, and in the meantime, I guess I’m only working four days a week now. Excelsior?


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