It is probably unwise to pin the big resignation on one cause. The reality is that workers are frustrated by many factors, including the lack of good benefits, limited development opportunities, poor COVID protocols and vaccination policies, and stagnant wages.
That being said, there is no denying that remote working is a factor. Not only is this a major force in the massive resignation that is happening right now, but it will also be clear that it is a big factor in getting people back to the workplace.
Workers are frustrated by the pressure to return
Some companies have embraced remote working altogether and are offering this flexible option to employees who work in jobs they can do remotely. However, this does not happen in all areas. Many business leaders are pressuring workers to return to the office full time.
This surge is causing frustration among workers who are enjoying the benefits of remote working and now know that their job does not require them to be in the office. As a result, the rhetoric about needing to be in the office to communicate, collaborate, or be productive lacks credibility.
The executives who advocate the return seem deaf
Additionally, executives and business owners who advocate for returning employees to the office often speak of a position of economic privilege. Many of them don’t have to deal with the complexities of returning to work in a post-pandemic economy, such as child care and transportation costs.
Workers see this as an example of more people at the management level being detached from the worker level and not particularly interested in the welfare of their employees.
This issue shows a generational divide
Remote work is increasingly attractive to workers of all age groups. However, more and more Millennials and Zoomers have indicated that they would be willing to quit their current jobs in favor of remote work opportunities. Additionally, baby boomers tend to resist remote work policies and advocate a return to work.
This cleavage has highlighted already existing generational frictions. Young workers feel like this is an attempt by older generations to continue to control the culture of the workplace, including the idea that people who work remotely can somehow work less .
They find the idea that they can “cheat” their employers if they are not under the watchful eye of their managers to be offensive and infantilizing.
Lack of back-to-work support drives people away
Most workers would indeed prefer to work remotely. However, many understand that there are positions that require an office presence, at least some of the time. Employers are certainly not being unreasonable in demanding a return to work in these cases.
However, it is also a matter of frustration for the workers. While employers insist that staff return to the office, they are not doing enough to make this transition possible.
Instead, employees are expected to return to the office without the stability of knowing they will have the supports in place to deal with time off if a family member becomes ill or during school closings.
COVID is still a concern
As more people get vaccinated and receive their booster shots, the fear of COVID begins to fade. However, most workers do not feel that the risk has completely disappeared.
Many deal with clients who may or may not follow security protocols. Workplace vaccination policies can vary widely, and the application of these policies tends to be even more uneven. This is of particular concern for workers who have young children at home or who care for vulnerable family members.
Brands that offer remote work are at an advantage
The big resignation has left many companies struggling to meet their productivity goals and serve their customers. However, it has also created a pool of talented job seekers looking for employers willing to provide the culture and compensation they want.
These potential employees made it clear that remote working was a key selling point for them. Brands that pay attention to it and strive to offer remote work will attract more applicants. They will also attract a better quality of applicants.
What companies need to keep in mind is that simply offering remote work may not be enough. They have to work hard to create a culture that embraces remote workers and keeps them engaged.
Do employers have the right to recall workers?
In some cases, it is quite understandable for business leaders to demand that workers return to the office. However, those who do would benefit from taking a return-to-work approach that emphasizes empathy.
In addition, the management which plans to make this request must verify its motivations. For example, are workers really less productive working from home, or are business leaders stubbornly clinging to notions of work ethics that are simply outdated?
If your business decides that workers should return to the office, you can avoid staff turnover by working hard to meet workers’ needs in other ways. This approach could include offering employees hybrid options such as remote working one or two days a week.
Providing financial incentives to returning workers is also something to consider. Essentially, companies can bring workers back to the office while maintaining a positive work culture by being aware of workers’ needs and responding with policies that help them address issues they face when they return to work.