The Changing World of Work
In recent decades across many sectors of the globe, the once-reliable world of work has become increasingly unstable. With rising unemployment and underemployment rates, dissolving lines between work and family life, and numerous barriers to the world of work for many people whose social identities are marginalized (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, age, disability status), attaining and maintaining decent work is precarious in the modern world (Allan & Kim, 2020; Allan et al., 2021; Blustein, 2019). Additional noteworthy disruptions in the nature of work include loss of jobs due to automation, deterioration of work conditions, and diminishing worker rights (Blustein et al., 2019). For those living in poverty and also facing unemployment, consequences are even more dire due to systemic and social factors such as employment bias, ongoing struggles to gain access to decent education and training, and challenges of living in poverty (Thompson & Dahling, 2019). Ultimately, this widespread loss of decent work – a basic human right – erodes individuals’ ability to meet social connection, survival, and self-determination needs, which in turn, undermines well-being (Duffy et al., 2016).
The Impact of COVID-19 on Unemployment
Crashing upon this already shaky world of work was the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. This crisis resulted in countless intersecting losses (e.g., losses of lives, jobs, community connections, and other aspects of life), highlighting a need for integrative work and mental health interventions (Blustein et al., 2021). The unprecedented nature of unemployment following the pandemic results in a need for a new research agenda, as well as new, meaningful interventions to assist those facing unemployment and underemployment (Autin et al., 2020; Blustein et al, 2020). Now, more than ever, a response to the unemployment and underemployment crisis is crucial.
The Creation of the WIN Workshops
To inform the Work Intervention Network, our team explored theory and research relevant to unemployment and work dislocations more broadly (Allan et al., 2021; Blustein, 2011; Brewster & Molina, 2021; McWhirter & McWa-Hermann, 2021; Sharone, 2013; Wanberg et al., 2020). Psychology of Working Theory (PWT; Blustein, 2006; Duffy et al., 2016) provided a conceptual framework for the development of the WIN workshop. PWT’s emphasis on the centrality of decent work (International Labor Organization, 2008) in achieving positive outcomes such as survival, social connection/contribution, self-determination, and well-being provided a useful perspective for this initiative. From a Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) lens, long-term unemployment can undermine one’s self-efficacy, the context-specific belief in one’s own capabilities that can impact the work recovery process (Thompson et.al. 2016). Finally, we recognize that stigma, shame, and biases can compound the negative experiences of unemployment and must be addressed in these interventions (APA, 2019; Cinamon & Blustein, 2020; Pugh, 2015; Sharone, 2013). Research suggests the presence of biased hiring practices such as age bias, unemployment bias, success bias, and under qualification bias. These employers’ biases result in shame, loss of confidence, self-doubt, and inauthenticity for job seekers (Cinamon & Blustein, 2020; Sharone, 2021). With these research-based frameworks in mind, our aim through WIN is to promote job-search skills, enhance career planning, reduce self-blame, develop critical consciousness, and expand participants’ relational support and psychological resources, paving the way to decent work and improved well-being.