A wild thought: Maybe one of the hidden dangers to future employer productivity is not so much general malingering, or general genuine bad health, but the disappearance of middle managers.
Middle managers were moderately well-paid workers who might not have been superstars and might not have had many ideas to call their own but, in at least some cases, knew something about how their companies worked.
Maybe they worked their way up from entry-level jobs and still remembered some of the pesky little details, such as the code needed to re-program the telephones, or the right way to thump the photocopier to get the “needs toner” light to turn off.
Maybe, if they came up through IT, they knew how to read the COBOL, or the Hollerith cards, or whatever else has been used to kludge mysterious, essential systems together since the days when some voters still weren’t sure whether Kennedy was much of an improvement over Nixon.
When workers with important, unusual jobs and skills got sick or went on vacation, good middle managers could train other staffers or temps to fill in.
Now, at a lot of companies, experienced middle managers have taken buyouts. The remaining managers may have no idea how the company really functions and little ability to identify and hire competent workers with the right skills to fill a job, let alone train rising workers, or fill-in workers.
Employers insist that workers come to a new job knowing the job inside and out because, really, the employers themselves have no idea how those jobs work.