Last March, many of us started a week going into the office and finished it in lockdown trying to figure out what working from home for the “next few weeks” would look like, only to find ourselves at home for over a year. The change came fast with little to no planning or direction. Now we are on the precipice of change again, we can all feel it and know it’s coming, countries are opening up, our social life is starting to resemble what it once was and restrictions are becoming few and far between – so what does this mean for work? 

Well for ⅓ of Millenials and Gen Z, this looks like a career change and at a larger level – this looks like something economists are calling “The Great Resignation”. A survey from global staffing firm Robert Half reveals that Gen Z is looking for a higher salary and Millenials are struggling with low morale. Everyone is asking themselves “What will things look like for me at work when life moves back to the new-normal?”

I spoke to HOLR more about returning to the office here. For some workers, it isn’t a question of returning but of leaving. The pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, leading some to pursue a ‘dream job’, or transition to being a stay-at-home parent. For many, the decision to leave their jobs was not guided by going elsewhere but came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic. Many employees would rather quit and start somewhere else than continue to feel unheard, undervalued and in some cases underpaid. As well, the pandemic has shown many businesses that they can operate with a fully remote team. This has made some companies, once desired by workers but not possible due to location, a viable option to work for. This change and greater choice for employees has put pressure on companies and employers to reevaluate what they are bringing their employees back to in the return to the “new-normal”. 

If you are in a position of leadership or a business owner it’s important to acknowledge that the pandemic increased what your employees are expecting from you. The early days of the pandemic reminded us that people are not machines and that If you’re worried about your family, your health, financial insecurity and covering your bills, and all the things that come with being human, you’re less likely to be productive. The pandemic made us all worry or, at the very least, evaluate these things.

Your employees, especially millennials and Gen Z, expect you to help alleviate, or at the bare minimum acknowledge those concerns. Businesses that fail to do so will, if they haven’t already, suffer. A Personio (Holistic HR Software Company) study showed that more than half of the respondents who were planning to quit wanted to do so because of a reduction in benefits, a worsening work-life balance or a toxic workplace culture. All of those things are within a company’s control to change for the better.

Companies and leadership are in a unique position to design a model of work that not only addresses their business needs but centres their employee’s needs and wellbeing. When done correctly, productivity greatly increases, along with employee satisfaction, retention, purpose and the bottom line. I have had the privilege of working with many businesses throughout the pandemic that are asking themselves the tough questions and putting in the effort to make sure their employees are returning to work in a way that best serves them and the work they do. 

So what does this mean for you if you are an employee? You are in a position of power. Remind your boss about the impact you have in your role and the value you will continue to bring. Think about which incremental changes, such as hybrid work options, more flexibility in time off or working hours, budget for personal development, things that will set you up for success and communicate this to your employer. 

At the end of the day though ask yourself this, “when I wake up in the morning, is there any inner drive to start work?” and at the end of the day, “do I feel any level of satisfaction or do I feel total apathy towards how I spent my day?” If your answers to those questions leave you wanting more. I would suggest that you probably have an inner knowing that’s telling you that either the work you are doing or where/who you are doing it for isn’t working for you. Maybe this is the time to make a change because whether you stay or you go, the world of work is changing for employers and employees and the Great Resignation is shaping it.