Much has been made of The Great Resignation over the past year. This mass exodus of employees from their jobs has been of great concern to employers looking to retain a workforce. It is also indicitive of the fact that for the first time in decades, employees hold the upper hand in the workplace relationship between themselves and their employer.
Generally, people dedicated themselves to a job at various levels and The Powers That Be would hire or fire as they pleased. Unspoken rules for the workplace cropped up over the years such as being undervalued or overworked was something you simply had to accept. Many people can easily recall times where they were "voluntold" to work overtime or participate in extra parts of their job they did not want to do. COVID has changed the rules of the game and Krister Ungerböck at Business Insider has some insight as to what is going on.
While most people aren't looking to withdraw from the workforce entirely — though opting out certainly has its proponents — they are increasingly ready to explore options that give them the meaning and control they find lacking in their current employment circumstances.Business Insider
In a survey by McKinsey published in September, 40% of employees indicated they were at least considering resigning within the next three to six months. But even this statistic is just the tip of the resignation iceberg. The percentage of employees who have reported being actively disengaged has gone up since 2019.
There is a lack of devotion to their jobs. People are not interested in being "married to their jobs" as I put it. Work has changed from being in an office from 9-5 to be at home 24/7 and a lack of boundaries. Companies that were caught flat-footed with COVID did a poor job of restructuring to remote. Now 'Zoom Fatigue' is a thing. Now people are working all hours of the day and night. Now, you're expected to work as if you're in an office even though you're not and the world is a complete shitshow.
I spoke at great length about this when bosses cried a river about needing Return To Office because they can't hover over their remote employees.
It's also important to note that for years companies have treated employees as disposable. Most states are 'at-will' employment states. If there is no discrimination, you can be fired for any reason. I've seen it and I'm sure you have too. Firings and layoffs were simply unfair to people who didn't deserve what they got. Mostly for dubious reasons. March of 2020 put that unspoken balance of power out in the open.
A 2020 Stanford study showed that many companies responded to COVID-19 with layoffs and pay cuts. Even companies that didn't make such decisions showed a lack of understanding of and sympathy for their workforce.
What a wonderful way to show your employees you're valued by laying them off in order to protect profits. The mantras of "we're a family here" and "we take care of our people" which we all knew were bullshit, were proven as such when the unemployment rate skyrocketed.
What needs to be done is a top-down rethinking of how a company operates in a hybrid or fully-remote setup. Boundaries, new company culture, asynchronous communications, and realistic expectations on how to NOT be available 24/7 are vital. Workers are sick of being treated like crap and now have power. Based on how things are going, they're certainly exercising it. Rightfully so.