Pandemic Stories

Just Another Day Working At Pandemic-Era Disney World

Face shields, layoffs and reservations for the pool.

Zach Quinn
6 min readMar 9

From 2020 to 2021 I worked in the resorts division of Walt Disney World Orlando, Florida. I was among the roughly 60% of the hourly workforce deemed “essential” and, therefore, dodged layoffs that impacted over 30,000 people.

Disney Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle with people in the foreground.
Disney World, July 2020, days after opening. Making a cameo: The social distancing sticker on the trash can. Photo by the author.

I’m Going To (Pandemic-Era) Disney World

“Hey Zach! Thank you for coming to work!”

This statement, coming from that day’s leader (Disney-speak for manager), was usually punctuated with a “beep” from the hand-held thermometer and a triumphant reading of everyone’s temperature.




Let me be clear. My “leader” wasn’t excited that we were healthy.

They were excited that they didn’t have to send someone home for failing a temp check. If resorts were operating at a reduced capacity, Disney staffing was operating just above empty.

We needed all latex-gloved hands on deck.

The fact that our management thanked us for coming to work when, logically, we should have thanked them for retaining us when 28,000 were unemployed (technically eligible for re-hire due to the extreme circumstances), emphasized how dire the situation was.

As one exasperated leader said, “I just need bodies.” Bodies could carry luggage, wait socially distanced tables or blow a whistle in an empty pool.

And with both the international exchange program and college program internships sending participants home, we no longer had a deep bench of peppy, youthful and somewhat brainwashed labor.

So it fell to us, the full-time and part-time hourly workers, to pick up the slack.

Training was expedited and, while I normally had a “home” resort, suddenly I was a free agent, being loaned to other resort “regions” like I was a spare iPhone charger.

Traditionally stingy on overtime requests, leadership began green-lighting overtime and even double shifts.



Zach Quinn

Journalist—>Data Engineer @ Forbes; helping you target, land and excel in data-driven roles.