2021 has been one of the most interesting years in the world of business. Most of this interest is a result of the continued presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have had to develop innovative ways of doing business and have also had to be adaptable to the times.
Under these conditions, an interesting phenomenon has been taking place: The Great Resignation. This term was introduced to us from an article by Bloomberg Businessweek. This article explored and revealed the large numbers of employees resigning from their places of work at a rate unseen since the great depression. This occurrence was reflected and noticed in many other developed nations, suggesting a global shift in how gainful employment is viewed and valued.
What started this resignation
When this year (2021) began, several things had changed. The shock and fear of the pandemic had started to subside as people got used to masking mandates and new health and safety regulations. Many businesses began to open again, and a semblance of normality seemed likelier by the day. A significant step that also propelled companies and people back into a positive state of mind was the advent of the somewhat controversial COVID-19 vaccine. This meant that travel, public gatherings, and other social activities were possible again. However, it also meant that many businesses expected employees to slowly get back to working in the office. For some, working from home had become one of the few positives to have come out of the pandemic; it became a luxury that many grew to love. Working from home meant that employees could be home to make dinner, see their children, run errands, and do many other personal activities previously limited by working in an office. Losing this work model led many to reevaluate their working conditions, and most importantly, to introspect about the kind of life they would like to lead outside of the workplace. The hustle and grind mentality that had permeated our culture was collectively questioned as many contemplated their mortality and value in the early days of the pandemic. A massive societal shift has since occurred, with many people valuing human life and personal joy over financial gain.
The result of this shift has been the great resignation; many people with challenging jobs have chosen to quit their jobs in exchange for a simpler life in an affordable suburb outside the city. Some have started new businesses; some have chosen to follow their passions, and others have taken on less demanding jobs that ensure significant personal time. The largest group to have left the workforce are the elderly, who have decided to take their pensions and retire a few years early. This soup of circumstance is what has brought us here.
Who has been impacted
When it comes to the Great Resignation, no industry was left untouched, from major conglomerates losing highly skilled people to smaller businesses like retail and hospitality losing low-income wage workers. It has shaken up the workplace dynamics, where employers had all the power and leverage. What has happened now is that we have a candidate-driven market, where the job seeker determines the conditions under which they will work.
The most common of these conditions is continuing the remote work model; this is only the case for corporate level jobs. In retail and hospitality, a major shock has hit the industry; many of these employees no longer tolerate low wages and bad treatment that have permeated the industry. Many now know that if they quit, they can quickly get another job due to scarcity and negotiate higher pay. This has been the case with waiters and service staff.
The new modern workplace
Due to this shift in cultural consciousness, many businesses have had to adapt. Some have kept the remote work model; others have decided to institute a split home/office model where some days can be at the office and others can be from home. An even more exciting phenomenon has also taken place; diversity and inclusion have increased in the workplace. This shortage has led to certain employees getting hired that would otherwise not be considered.
An excellent example of this is disabled jobseekers. Previously employers would not consider disabled candidates because the office building did not have disability features, like ramps and elevators. Now that top candidates can work from home, that aspect of a candidate is made moot.
Another factor is that employing international talent has become a viable option, teams have now become diverse by default, and team members are now exposed to various perspectives.
The way forward
With many businesses at a crossroads, some radical changes have started appearing. Numerous companies have decided to eliminate the office altogether, choosing instead to be online based.
Three main factors impact this decision;
- Company expenses are reduced
- Employee retention is maintained
- Workflow and output are not sacrificed
In some places like South Africa, a new style of work location has emerged: Zoom Towns -some mid to high-income earners have entirely left the city and the hustle and bustle and moved to sleepy beach towns. This is because many have realised that the value of life is imperative and have taken this opportunity to restructure how they live with a manageable work-life balance. Of the employees who have decided not to return to the workplace, most have moved to the city outskirts or have relocated to more affordable cities that have a low cost of living. These individuals started small businesses or pursued their passions over financial gain. As a result, small towns and suburbs have begun to develop a micro-business hub. All these new startups and business owners, coupled with the lessons from the pandemic, might breed a new business/employee ecosystem and set a new standard for what is expected from an employer.
No need to panic! The world is changing and so are the rules of the game, if you are playing to win then it is best you stack the odds in your favour as much as possible; adapt with the times.
Adopting the remote work model is definitely one of the major takeaways and is something that can be implemented by businesses across industries.
Here, at The SEO Agency, remote work and flexible work hours are standard practice, this has resulted in a team made up of diverse individuals from all across the country. This has brought a variety of opinions and worldviews that have only helped enhance the working environment and the ultimate output of work.
Another advantage has been the opportunity to reach clients from all over the world, this is due to the online nature of the business. Since we are not physically bound to a specific location we have managed to appear everywhere and also appeal to potential clients who would otherwise not have considered us. These are benefits that any business can have and should be striving towards.
As we enter the new year and leave behind 2021, it is wise to consider what we will be bringing along with us into this new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.