- Paula Routly ©️ Seven Days
- Last Thursday at the Barton Baking Company
In the past month, I've been twice to the Northeast Kingdom — once for a wedding; the second time, to report a story. I found that, like all over the country, many businesses are struggling to hire employees so they can resume normal, pre-pandemic operations. The owner of the Willoughvale Inn and Cottages at Lake Willoughby can't find enough staff to reopen the bar and dining room. The Barton Baking Company was closed last Thursday with no explanation on the front door.
In fancier East Burke, the owners of the Inn at Burklyn are running the front and back of the house. And it's a very big house indeed. Fourteen rooms. High-end nuptials. Jim and Marci Crone say they can't find enough help. At the nearby Inn at Mountain View Farm, where I attended a gorgeous wedding, the servers skewed much older than your typical catering crew. They all did a great job but, by the end of the gig, looked exhausted.
We're halfway through the summer, and I'd wager that milestone might be a comfort to Vermonters in the tourism and hospitality industry. They're under intense pressure to serve customers a high-quality experience so they'll keep coming back — and leaving five-star reviews online. By September, some speculate, employees will be ready to return to work. That's when kids will be back in school and unemployed workers will stop getting an extra $300 a week in benefits.
But the staffing challenge is more complicated than that. Many of the employees who showed up for all those Zoom meetings are calling it quits. A record 4 million Americans left their jobs in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A recent Microsoft survey found that more than 40 percent of workers worldwide are thinking about doing the same thing. "The Great Resignation," as Texas A&M University associate professor Anthony Klotz dubbed it, captures the current trend of people reexamining their lives, their paychecks and their professional priorities — and making big structural changes.
So far, I'm happy to say, the team that creates Seven Days is sticking around. Making a newspaper is hard, but our employees have a lot of freedom to work when, where and how they want. The designers were first to return to the office. They have a great time together and, once reassembled, no one wanted to miss out. Many of our reporters, too, have come back — at least between interviews. Not being able to talk face-to-face with sources and colleagues made their jobs incredibly challenging during the pandemic.
Some of our editorial staffers did want to do something different, and for the most part we have been able to accommodate them. Jordan Adams has moved from music editor to staff culture writer; Sally Pollak, from food to features. Writer Margaret Grayson opted to become a freelancer.
Elizabeth Seyler left the proofreading desk to fill in for departing culture editor Pamela Polston, who will focus on visual art exclusively. Elizabeth will share the job with assistant arts editor Dan Bolles. Alison Novak, former managing editor of Kids VT, is now a full-time Seven Days news reporter covering K-12 education.
No doubt some employers think about change, too, after navigating their businesses through the coronavirus crisis. But, right now, they're probably too busy to do anything about it.