Remote Workers Face a Lonely Wave of Layoffs

At some companies, people noted that their teammates were far more helpful than their employers after a layoff. Shortly after losing her job at an e-commerce marketing company in November, Erika Kwee, 32, heard from a colleague who had crowdsourced a list of opportunities and recruiter contacts to help Ms. Kwee navigate her search process.

But many remote workers don’t even have their colleagues’ phone numbers, and they don’t know who to go to for comfort or information. Beth Anstandig, a psychotherapist in the Bay Area, is seeing her clients bear the mental toll of this period.

“I hear that people are not sleeping, or sleeping two hours at a time on their couches,” said Ms. Anstandig, who is currently working with both clients conducting layoffs and those experiencing them, many of whom are distressed and overworked. “They’re in tears during our meetings together.”

Millions of American workers have never known a world without the specter of mass layoffs. That kind of instability has characterized the economy since the late 1970s and ’80s, when the notion of prioritizing shareholders above all else took root and companies embraced the strategy of growing fast and then cutting down quick. Some executives rushed to frame that tumult as intrinsic to corporate life: In 1996, Robert Eaton, chief executive of Chrysler Corporation, said that downsizing and layoffs are part of the price of becoming more competitive.”. Now 85 percent of workers rank job loss as a top concern, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer.

Last year ended with job cuts across tech behemoths: Meta laid off more than 11,000 workers, or about 13 percent of its work force, and Lyft laid off 13 percent of its workers. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said last week it plans to cut 12,000 jobs, or about 6 percent of its global work force; Microsoft plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or 5 percent of its employees; and Spotify this week said it would cut 6 percent of its work force. For many of these companies, these cuts followed years of free-flowing perks and flexible work arrangements that were part of what was called a “war for talent.”

“That is one of the great contradictions of corporate life,” Ms. Sucher said. “All corporations say ‘People are our most important asset,’ but they don’t really seem to believe that.”

“Calling someone ‘talent’ is quite different from calling them a person,” she added. “People aren’t a resource that can be depleted over time.”