The Great Resignation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching effects that go well beyond the social and financial. It may be the impact on our workforces and more specifically, our relationship to our work, that has been most surprising. This has highlighted an important relationship that is often overlooked – the one between our work life and our mental health.

Big change is on the horizon for workplaces

In a trend which commentators have dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, workers all over the world are increasingly rejecting pre-COVID-19 work routines and are reassessing their priorities. Many people have already handed in their resignations as they feel reluctant to return to the daily commute and 9-5 office grind, instead craving a more fulfillingly balanced life. Many others are planning to hand in their resignation but have yet to do so. 

This trend is understandably alarming for many workplaces. But there is a silver lining – there are key lessons that we’ve learned over the last 18 months that employers can take on board to create a happier workplace that encourages staff to stay. 

Work-life balance really matters

Work-life balance isn’t a term that was coined during COVID-19. It’s a principle that has been around for a long time – but has rarely taken centre stage. Now, it is a driving factor behind the Great Resignation. The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have been extremely stressful and emotional for many people – and the situation underscored the importance of ensuring we have time in our lives for things that bring us joy. 

It’s true that research has repeatedly proven work to be a key to good mental health. Work can provide us with purpose, drive, pride, and valuable connections with other people. However, this is a double-edged sword. When we feel that we don’t have work life balance, and the stress of our job is overtaking our life, work can have serious negative consequences on our emotional wellbeing. 

When pressure and stress continue, it is physically and mentally draining. Chronic stress can, in turn, have a negative effect on your relationships, work success and general wellbeing. Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can occur after a long period of excessive or stressful work – and it’s not uncommon for people to end up in hospital due to the damage done by burnout. 

Workers crave more flexibility

Office-based workplaces were forced to adopt new ways of working very quickly as lockdowns swept across the country. In a short space of time, entire workplaces were working remotely and connecting via Zoom. While this may have taken some adjustment for people, many have reported that the benefits of remote working outweigh the negatives. In fact, several surveys found that the majority of people who had been working remotely during the pandemic do not want to return to the office full time. 

Contrary to what some concerned employers may believe, studies have shown that flexible workplaces can help improve productivity. A desire to work remotely doesn’t automatically mean your workers are lazy. For some people, it’s a matter of their mental health. Workers feel they are better employees when they work flexibly. They also feel that other aspects of their lives are positively impacted when they can work remotely. For example, the time spent commuting is time they can have back for their hobbies or loved ones. And overall, this can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment. 

 

The power dynamic is shifting

There was a time when a company sold itself primarily on what it could offer in terms of prosperity, success, and career development.  People would gravitate more towards jobs that could help them move up the ladder – and big salary packages were also major selling points. 

But COVID-19 has created a monumental shift in this dynamic. Some people are no longer measuring their worth in terms of career advancement or financial wealth, but according to how much time they’re able to wrest back from work to spend on personal fulfillment. 

What this means for employers is that the way they design their work culture will be pivotal in retaining a workforce. With so many people resigning from their jobs, it’s clear that people feel they have more choice and agency in their work lives – and the onus may now be on workplaces to make some changes.  

Behavioural scientist Aaron McKewen, of Gartner, sums up the quandary that employers now face:

“The pandemic has rewritten the psychological contract or employment deal that was forged during the eras of neoliberalism and austerity. Today’s workers want to be seen as people — complex, messy, colourful, diverse, flawed, fabulous humans. That means that they need to rethink how work is done in the post-COVID world and rethink how they attract, retain and manage their people.”

 

Wise is here to help

As people grapple with change in a post-COVID world, Wise Institute remains here to help. During times of change, our team are available to support in the development of happiness and finding a new sense of purpose. If we can assist, reach out today.