The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be one of those historic hinge points when certain things change irrevocably. One of those transformations could be a permanent realignment in how work gets done—a change that could also provide an opening for entrepreneurs and others searching for a different future and a better path to fulfillment.
From Manhattan to Mumbai, 4 out of 10 workers are thinking of quitting.
Complaining about dead-end or thankless jobs is as old as employment itself. But workers around the world are now taking the next step and calling it quits in the wake of a global pandemic that gave them a new perspective on the importance of a fulfilling work/life balance. It’s being called “The Great Resignation”, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, Professor of Management at Texas A&M University.
The figures are sobering. The US Labor Department estimated that in April 2021, within the span of just a single month, a record 4 million people left their jobs, putting job vacancies at a 20-year high. This occurred in the midst of an acute labor shortage. Meanwhile, a recent Work Trends Index published by Microsoft found 41% of the global workforce—4 out of every 10 employees—are considering quitting their jobs. 54% of the over 30,000 workers surveyed said they were overworked; 39% said they were just plain exhausted.
Admittedly, many of those workers were in high-stress, low-pay service industries that were hit particularly hard by the conditions brought on by the pandemic. But a significant number were also in financially secure corporate, educational and other professional environments. Regardless of the type of job, people seem to be having a serious reckoning with how they want to spend the rest of their work lives.
Making a life, not just a living.
According to Sid Mohasseb, former National Strategic Innovation Leader for Strategy at KPMG, “‘Generation COVID’ is primarily driven by ‘creation, curation, connection and community’. This is not a generation who is drawn to the beast of corporate America.”
As a result, the “new normal” appears to be a workforce that refuses to settle for the same long commutes to the same office cubicles for the same paychecks. Working remotely gave them a taste of freedom and flexibility. They are also rethinking how they are valued—and whether there may be a better and smarter way to not just make a living, but make a life.
An increasing number of workers have found the answer within, turning discontent with an employer into a passion to succeed on their own—and on their own terms. In 2020, 4.35 million people applied to start new businesses, compared to 3.5 million the previous year. 2021 could see that trend continue as more independent-minded start-ups see the value of branching out into a brave new post-pandemic world.
Coming soon: A fresh talent pool with a shared commitment to new thinking.
Among the advantages waiting for them could well be a fresh new talent pool of like-minded exiles from the status quo. A team assembled from emigrants of The Great Resignation would likely have a shared commitment to new thinking and a shared aversion to outdated processes and ideas.
New thinking and new ideas are certainly what is called for today. The pandemic exposed lots of vulnerabilities in the system, from supply chain logistics to the viral spread of dangerous misinformation. Those with a commitment to proactive problem solving and seeking answers to the crises facing a changing world could be the ones who help the global community turn The Great Resignation into something closer to a 21st century Renaissance.