Here’s What Essential Workers Want People Who Work From Home to Understand

I asked essential workers to share what they’re going through

Sick employees are being forced to work

Hygiene and safety protocols are a shallow performance

Customers are demanding a ton of emotional labor

Small businesses aren’t necessarily more humane

Reading through these responses, you might be tempted to think they all come from workers of evil corporate behemoths like Walmart and McDonald’s. Surely the scrappy small businesses you’ve been supporting don’t mistreat their workers in these ways — right? Well, not so fast.

The trauma is inescapable

Far and away the most common response I received from essential workers is that they are living with a degree of dread and fear that we work-from-homers cannot even begin to understand.

Essential workers have a higher “risk tolerance” out of necessity

Finally, many essential workers told me that since they are forced to confront a heightened risk of catching Covid-19 at their jobs, they tend to have greater “risk tolerance” when they’re off the clock as well. This may mean they socialize more than work-from-homers, particularly with their co-workers. After all, they’ve already been forced into a massive “pod” with their co-workers, so why not at least experience the relief and connection of grabbing a drink with them after their shift?

  • “Be kind and patient.”
  • “Wear a mask. Follow stores’ safety protocols religiously.”
  • “Tip generously. Like 40–50%, if you can afford it.”
  • “Don’t go to stores just because you’re bored and want to browse.”
  • “Shop efficiently; don’t waste employees’ time.”
  • “Don’t expect retail workers to give you the royal treatment or to want to socialize with you.”
  • “Don’t shame essential workers for taking more ‘risks’ than you.”
  • “Be grateful for everything essential workers have done to make your cushy work-from-home life possible.”
  • “Fight for your state or city to lock down so essential workers can be paid to stay home.”
  • “Call your political representatives and demand they pass another Covid relief bill.”



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