The world experienced a recession in 2020 after the initial spread of COVID-19, as businesses everywhere came to a halt, workers lost income and consumers ceased spending for fear of imminent economic collapse. Fortunately, the recession was brief, and now the economy is roughly as healthy as it was before COVID made its debut.
Yet, one year into a post-COVID world, another great movement is affecting the American workforce: the Great Resignation. Beginning in April 2021, workers have been resigning from their positions in droves, leading to a massive labour shortage in many industries.
Why are employees quitting now, and what should employers do about it?
COVID Provided Lessons About Employment
From the very beginning of the COVID pandemic, most organizations’ operations deviated significantly from normal. Within the course of a couple of weeks, over one-third of the U.S. workforce transitioned to fully remote work — a radical increase from the roughly 6 per cent of American workers who worked primarily from home before the pandemic.
As the pandemic progressed, many workers gained a new perspective on their position and experience as employees.
First, many employees learned that they are capable of working remotely. Before the pandemic, many organizations kept workers in the office; due to a popular claim that suggested some tasks were impossible to complete on a remote basis or that remote workers were less productive than those on site.
Employees, too, once believed that they would not thrive in a remote work environment, offering reasons such as their need for social contact throughout the day or their lack of self-motivation.
Despite these claims, evidence has long pointed to the positives of remote work for employers and employees. Pre-pandemic studies demonstrate that by instituting remote work policies, organizations can dramatically cut costs while improving productivity and well-being in the workforce.
Indeed, before COVID, remote work opportunities were slowly increasing in number, but both organizations and employees were reluctant to make major changes in this area.
The COVID pandemic has proven to employees that they are fully capable of remote work — but many organizations are still clinging to outdated models of employment. Instead of acquiescing to employers’ demands, many workers are requesting more autonomy and flexibility in where and how they fulfil their responsibilities — which is providing another vital post-COVID insight fueling the Great Resignation.
Employers who demand workers return to the office, despite the costs of commuting, the disinterest in working onsite and the significant health risks of doing so, demonstrate that many organizations don’t have employees’ best interests at heart.
Fed up with workplaces that value their labour but not their physical or emotional well-being, many employees are quitting and looking for opportunities that centre the worker instead of the work.
The organizations that are surviving the Great Resignation with little or no turnover are those that endeavour to listen to their workforce and provide adequate support.
Especially during the pandemic, employers should offer resources to help workers remain mentally and physically healthy, like training to achieve a stress management certificate, the ability to create employee resource groups and appropriate salaries and job perks. Business leaders need to have empathy for their workers to retain their staff in the midst of such significant employment upheaval.
There Are Prime Opportunities for Self-employment
As employers drive their workers away from less-than-favourable employment environments, ex-employees are looking for new ways to use their professional skills — and employment is no longer the only option for many workers.
Self-employment isn’t just on the rise; the numbers of self-employed workers, be that freelancers or new business owners have exploded, with so many new self-employed workers that economists aren’t certain how the economy will function in the coming years.
Experts provide many reasons for this shift to self-employment, but thanks must be given to the U.S. government, which radically expanded its resources for small business owners during the pandemic. As a result, employees dreaming of running their own business might see the shift as less risky than they did before COVID.
Though income from self-employment might be lower — at least at the outset — self-employment provides noteworthy advantages over working for an employer, and the current environment is ripe for enterprising endeavours.
The Great Resignation is a legitimate threat to workplaces, which could suffer exceedingly low productivity and high costs as a result of unprecedented staff turnover. Business leaders should do everything they can to inspire loyalty in their workforce — which means learning the same lessons about employment that are driving so many workers to resign.