By - Sandi Webster

Learnings From The Great Resignation

During the COVID-10 pandemic of 2021-21, a global phenomenon called “The Great Resignation” occurred. What exactly was that? According to Wikipedia, “The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit and the Great Reshuffle, is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse, beginning in early 2021.”

In 2021, COVID requirements were relaxed, and employers wanted people back in the expensive building(s) for which they were paying high overhead costs. The issue was that many employees were experiencing working from home for the first time.

What were some advantages of this flexible work arrangement?

  • Employees without a customer-facing position realized they could do their jobs from home. With today’s technology, it is reasonably inexpensive for the employer or employee to retrofit their home offices with the latest, fastest gadgets to be comfortable in their new work environment.
  • If the employee did not have a customer-facing position, virtual work was more efficient as there was no travel time, no train fare, no extra food bill, and they got to spend time with their children…and (alas) their spouses!
  • Productivity increased in some work areas because the employees focused on getting the job done with little employee distraction.
  • Technology, like Zoom, contributed to the ease of employees inviting you into their homes to have virtual cocktails, play games, and catch up with each.
  • Mobility among industries was high. Skilled employees were able to move to a completely different sector, leveraging the skills they honed over the years.
  • Employees had the opportunity to try out new careers while negotiating better salaries. They were also able to negotiate flexible work arrangements that included being able to home-school their children.

What were some of the disadvantages of this flexible work arrangement?

  • All family members were at home. Some employees had a small studio apartment and became claustrophobic, while others had children who had to be home schooled and a spouse working in the same area, which presented a challenge.
  • There was no clear beginning and end to the work day. Employees turned on their computers as soon as they were awake to check emails. Instead of starting at 8am, if that was their regular work time, they began at 6:30 – 7:00am. The work day extended into the work night.
  • If an employee had a substance abuse issue, it was increased by having no oversight and being locked into their homes for months. Divorce rates escalated, and substance abuse binges increased.
  • Talent competition was high. With so many employees rethinking what they wanted to do, and quitting when an employer demanded their return, talent was at a premium. It became unaffordable to small businesses that needed help the most. Per McKinsey, there were 11.3 million open jobs at the end of May 2021 – an all-time high. Additionally, 40% of workers said they are considering leaving their jobs.
  • Employers continued to use the traditional incentives to try to lure talent. Standard methods were ineffective because employees were now evaluating what they needed from life to make them happy, and money was no longer a factor.

Both employers and employees have made drastic changes. Employers are now clear as to their terms and conditions while employees are in a better position to negotiate salaries.  One of the key findings was that workers were already dissatisfied with their working conditions and felt employers treated them as if they were dispensable.  Employers were unaware of the discord with employees and didn’t realize the level of their distrust.  Now that both parties are at the table, and talking, a large number of employees felt they would return to their jobs if the working conditions changed.

That is good news for everyone!