Months after the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, it has left an indelible mark on our planet as we all adapt to changes it has forced on us. While the world scampers for respite from the deadly virus, the pandemic is disrupting the workplace in ways no one saw coming.
Dubbed the “Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, the workplace is seeing the mass exodus of employees quitting their jobs in search of more fulfilling alternatives.
But who would have thought? The conventional model of employment has been one where employees put up with anything from their managers or even struggle through burnout simply to earn an income. Now, this work model is reversing gears.
Following the lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions implemented in nearly all countries, many workers lost their jobs while some had to take a pay cut. Financially, it was the worst time for many employees, so one would think lifting the restrictions would see workers sprint back to their offices or dash to fill vacant positions. But neither of these is happening—or not at a pace business owners anticipated.
According to the U.S. Department of Labour, between April and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers resigned from their jobs. In April alone, more than 4 million workers, or 2.7 percent of the workforce quit, the highest rate since 2000. The same number quit in July, and the trend is not abating soon.
A survey of more than 30,000 workers by Microsoft found that 41 percent are considering quitting soon. Gallup found that about 48 percent of employees are actively searching for new opportunities, and many of them say they’ll make this change within the next six months.
According to an analysis on Havard Business Review, the greatest spike in resignation rates have been among employees between 30 and 45 years old, with a sharp increase of 20 percent between 2020 and 2021. These workers represent mid-level employees who seem to be nearing the peak of their careers and require some form of career stability. But they’re moving, and likely not looking back.
While there are several reasons for this paradigm shift, they are mostly variations on a common theme. The Great Resignation has unveiled the deficiencies in employee wellness systems and organizational culture over the years. The pandemic only led the way for the great awakening to the pent-up dissatisfaction with the conventional meaning of work.
According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 74 percent of employees during the lockdowns had to rethink their current work situation and whether they wanted to maintain the status quo or make drastic decisions. More than half of the respondents cite work stress and burnout as the primary reason for looking elsewhere while others decided that their monthly paychecks no longer meets what they truly want out of life.
This comes as no surprise as resignation rates were highest among employees working in fields that had seen a sharp increase in demand during the pandemic, including healthcare and tech, likely due to burnout.
Further, a great many cite the anxiety and trepidation that came with COVID-19-related workplace restrictions. Business owners cut pay, suspended promotions, and laid off workers indiscriminately as knee-jerk responses to the pandemic. These actions demoralized many employees, who felt they were treated unfairly and not included in the decision-making process.
Moreover, business owners had to overwork a smaller workforce to produce near pre-pandemic output. These workplace disruptions went on until the workforce had enough.
At the center of this shift is a great awakening: people are redefining life and success. The pandemic shutdown created a hiatus for employees to re-evaluate what work means to them and what matters most in their lives. More and more people are realizing that résumés, money, status, are not sustainable metrics for defining success.
People now value their mental wellbeing more than a paycheck, and spending time creating experiences with family and friends more than spending eight hours a day depressed at a job they don’t like. It’s not uncommon these days to see former nine-to-fivers exit the lockdowns to open their dream businesses or start a writing career as this gives them more control over their lives.
But there’s a set of people that still love their jobs and feel it’s a big part of their happiness and purpose; these people are not necessarily changing jobs, they are changing how they do it and who employs them.
Indeed, the game has changed and with more than 10 million jobs open right now, employers have no choice but to respond to this Great Awakening or lose out.
It all comes down to workplace culture. The central theme behind this massive shift is a deficient workplace culture. It’s time for business owners and managers to prioritize the wellbeing and happiness of their employees. it’s time to realize that their employees are human beings and not robots trained to execute certain tasks. For smart businesses, the Great Resignation presents a huge opportunity to get and keep the best talents.
It’s about caring a little more. It’s not necessarily about chasing antidotes to workplace stress, for example, or asking workers to work from home if they want to, but it’s about infusing employee wellbeing into the fabric of work. This involves recreating your wellness strategies to provide individualized and employee-centric offerings, prioritizing employees’ financial health, and making concrete plans to build a healthier workforce.
Some companies have already gotten the memo.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that the tech giant would be offering workers extra days off just to help them recharge. Citi also launched a similar move, initiating the “Citi Reset Day” for employees to stay off work and rest. Other companies are maintaining the hybrid work model to allow some flexibility and work-life balance.
Employees who would also love to return to the office are being held back by safety concerns. This is forcing many workplaces to aggressively embed COVID-19 safety strategues into their office buildings to mitigate COVID-19 transmission and keep their workers safe. Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) has launched GHA for Business, a streamlined, easy-to-use framework and accreditation program designed for any organization looking to validate its commitment to safety, health, and well-being while at the same time building a more resilient corporate culture to prepare for any health risk in the future.
For organizations looking to bring employees back to office, attract new employees, and build long term organization resilience, the guidelines and implementation guidance provide a unique and fresh perspective on realigning benefits to a greater corporate purpose, mission, and values around well-being expected in this evolving environment.
In the end, it's a win-win situation for everyone. If employers pay attention to the needs of their employees, business would thrive. Employers just need to listen more.
There’s always a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how we live, and the Great Resignation has presented one. People are waking up from the pandemic lockdown to recognize the value of living life purposefully, enjoying friendships and relationships, and prioritizing their health. These are the new metrics that define success for the post-pandemic era of work, and the metrics that will define a thriving workforce.