The last couple years have been draining. An ongoing pandemic has put people on edge and lacking a level of social interaction they took for granted before. Societal and political roller coasters have often brought division and gloom. Work and schooling done at home (and then, maybe, back in person with new constraints) have caused reflection about how we do our daily routines and why. Many people are worried, dissatisfied…burnt out. The result: an urge to leave. Breakups and divorces have gone up, congresspeople are making a big exodus, and—perhaps on the most massive scale of all—employees want to quit their jobs. This is the Great Resignation, and it’s turned out to be one of the memorable happenings of 2021. (Though you can arguably use the term broadly for all of the above departures, it’s mainly meant to describe the modern workforce.) What exactly is going on here, and what can employers do about it?
The Great Resignation
We might be tempted to attribute this Great Resignation to the effect of working from home due to Covid-19. But the term was originally coined in 2019, showing that it was already a trend worth noting before the pandemic. To be sure, though, the health crisis has put an additional strain on it, as it’s done in just about all aspects of life. Those who hadn’t already realized they were miserable in their jobs (or who were sort of willing to hang in there with less than perfect conditions) got the final, clear push that it was time to leave. As Stephen Webster notes in our podcast on the topic, 41% of employees surveyed said they were considering quitting. If you look just at Gen Z employees, there are actually 54% who want to leave. Younger generations are especially aware that there are other options are out there and are thus less willing to stay in positions they don’t feel well in.
The Crisis of Work Today
What is it that’s making employees feel unwell? Over half of those surveyed cited stress and burnout. Long hours and demanding expectations can cause tension for anyone. But there are many other elements to happy workers that leaders often overlook. Are managers listening to their employees? Do they care about them as human beings? Do they value their input and support their passions? Good leadership is crucial, and at the heart of it is a genuine appreciation of who your employees really are and how they want to contribute. Leaders that aren’t taking the time for this emotional investment are facing a crisis that will not fix itself.
Is the Work Environment Really So Bad?
Does today’s fast-paced, dynamic world mean that workers will inevitably be stressed out all the time? Not necessarily, and in fact the options we have today can be used to make work a more friendly place. It needs to be done intentionally, though—new habits need to be made and kept. Today’s environment is challenging, but this same environment is one that allows for flexibility, growth, and the evolution of an organization. Even with a fully remote setting, there are new opportunities for connection and personal fulfillment that work teams can and should take advantage of.
Tools & Tips for Success
To really create a well-rounded and satisfying work environment is not a simple task: it involves good communication, respect, training, and an active effort to build a company culture that employees feel good in. These are things that will never be complete—it’s important to have an outlook of growth and embrace the idea that you will always be taking steps to improve a little more. If you’re stuck on where to start, though, here are some tools that organizations can tap into to make their workplaces (even remote ones) welcoming and fulfilling.
- Communication: Help team members stay on the same page with a central, do-it-all communication app like Microsoft Teams. And with your communication resources, be sure to use them: ask your employees how they’re feeling, what they’d like, what they want to contribute. Then keep the conversation going.
- Productivity boosters: Use automation to save employees’ time, and check with them on whether accessibility tools might make things easier for them. (Also, consider a broader understanding of what productivity means in your company.)
- Employee well-being: Allow your employees training and wellness opportunities with something like Microsoft Viva Learning & Insights or Everyone Wellness. Also, let them follow their passions and pursue their own ideas for innovation.
- Fun! Finally, don’t forget the helpful element that serves the double purpose of team connection and de-stressing: fun. Host virtual games and activities—a platform like Confetti has everything from “Coworker Feud” to delving together into the history of chocolate. Or get to know your team members better with a flexible guessing game like Quizbreaker. Whichever activities you choose, let your employees know that you promote a well-rounded approach to your organization, where everyone enjoys being part of the team.