In the world of employment, there’s a term sweeping from the water cooler to the waves of social media and its name is the ‘Great Resignation.’
While it might sound like a literary work, it is far more than fiction. Roughly 4.4 million people left their jobs in September last year as workers began to resign at historic rates according to The Guardian. Mac Donald’s workers put down the fryers. People (and laws) are saying ‘not tonight’ to after-hours phone calls from their bosses, and a terrific shift has taken place that’s given workers a sense of something almost priceless – self-worth. Here’s what influenced the movement:
The last two years put the world through enough collective stress to power another planet. However, the 21st century’s pandemic phase gave us something invaluable: the ability to reflect.
While the pandemic did not cause the Great Resignation and the 21st century’s historic resignation rates, it certainly acted as a springboard for thought.
When the pandemic hit, people were forced to change the way they saw the working world. For some, this inspired previous grievances to grow – leading to some millions of people cutting ties with their workplaces.
Time and space led people to look inward collectively, and for quite some time. A global emphasis on keeping one’s self and others safe caused people to reconnect with empathetic values which pertained as much to the ‘other’ as to ‘the self’ in many cases. For many, work was at the centre of their inner gaze.
2. Mental health became a priority
The mental health movement was already beginning to rise before the pandemic. However, isolation, fear and social media content not only erupted mental health disturbances but also ignited a more fervent focus on the mind. Arguments surrounding workers’ mental health rights started to come more powerfully into effect – including the famous debate that mental health ‘sick days’ are just as important as regular ‘sick days’.
What has effectively been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to mental health in the workplace is becoming instead “do ask, do tell, let’s talk.” There is a coming revolution in how companies (and public-policy makers) think about, talk about, and cope with all forms of mental health issues writes Jeffrey Pfeffer and Leanne Williams in a lengthy paper on the subject.
The focus on one’s inner well-being became a huge thorn in the side of employees who realised that their company’s simply did not pay mind to their state of minds.
3. Alternative means proved fruitful, and going back to tradition just didn’t make sense
Many industries realised that remote work saw an increase in productivity. A large survey studied employees who worked remotely and traditionally in the U.S, and discovered that in many cases remote workers were more productive than their office-based counterparts, as per BusinessNewsDaily.
Working remotely spurred semigrations around the world. In South Africa, this mindset is a reason that Cape Town is the new destination for many workers.
When companies tried to do U-turns and go back to their traditional ways of work, many employees were displeased after seeing that actually, there is another way to hustle and the old ways of the dog simply weren’t cutting it anymore. Additionally, people decided to set metaphorical sail in seeking opportunities for remote work – which are now more accessible than ever.
4. Hierarchies changed
The pandemic saw many in leadership positions shifting the way they dealt with staff members. The World Economic Forum noted that leadership styles had to change as the lines between personal and work life changed drastically and demanded flexibility. Largely due to empathy surrounding the pandemic, and partly due to crisis management, channels of hierarchy shifted to collaborative efforts in many ways. However, in other ways, poor leadership was rapidly exposed. For some, said poor leadership spurred resignation decisions.