- Lesley Labarba is one of many millennials who are part of the “Great Reshuffle.”
- COVID-19 made her realize she wanted fully remote work options, pandemic or no pandemic.
- In addition to now working from home, she earns $500 more per week than in 2020.
Lesley Labarba, 28, had a revelation during the pandemic: she no longer wanted to enter an office.
“When I worked at work where I went to the office every day, I thought it was perfect,” she told Insider. “As soon as I started working remotely and clawed back the two hour commute in my life, I suddenly had more time than I knew what to do with.”
Labarba, who lives in Texas and is now director of human resources at healthcare company Chopra Global, reassessed what she expected from a job in 2020 and has been scouring workplaces since then. She’s held three different jobs since the end of 2020, moving from position to position as workplaces with better pay, more benefits and more flexibility presented themselves. The starting offer at her current job was a net 39% increase from what she earned in 2020, which Insider verified via pay stubs. And since then, she got another raise. Overall, Labarba earns 65% more than at the start of the pandemic.
“As all of these baby boomers leave the market and it’s filled with Gen Z people, you start to see time as a commodity,” she said, explaining that she thinks young people who step into the workplace value their time more than generations past.
Labarba is one of the more or less 47 million people who joined the “Great Resignation” in search of a better career, or as LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky called last year, the “Great Reshuffle”. Many people are looking for higher salaries, especially women. And many are also looking to remote options due to changing work preferences, fear of being exposed to COVID-19, or lack of accessible childcare. On top of all this, people are also giving up to explore their passions outside of work, a flexibility that makes a workplace more appealing to people like Labarba.
“Giving people the most time for themselves and their families is all it really takes to attract really good people,” Labarba said.
Better pay, remote flexibility and opportunities for advancement
For most of 2020, Labarba worked as a human resources manager at a small company that does marketing for bigger brands like Frito Lay. She describes their handling of the pandemic as “poor” and said she didn’t like them forcing her to work in person. Labarba asked that the names of the companies she worked for in 2020 remain confidential, although they are known to Insider.
“It was never going to be completely out of the way, they made that pretty clear,” she said of the small agency. “They had a COVID year where they had exceptional sales…but my bonus was significantly lower.”
When she was recruited to work at a large digital agency at the end of the year as an operations manager, she jumped at the chance. They promised her that the work would be mostly remote and offered her a 30% pay raise.
Labarba was not alone. About 31% of women who changed jobs in the last two years received compensation, including salaries and bonuses, that was more than 30% of that of their previous positions, the conference boarda private research group, uncovered last month.
But a pay rise and working remotely aren’t necessarily a step forward, she said.
“I had fewer responsibilities,” she said. “I got a little unhappy in the seven months I was there, so in July I decided to move on to something that gave me more to do.”
She said the company was flexible in theory, letting employees shorten their workweek, for example, but the demands of the workday rarely allowed it in practice.
“If your employees can’t actually leave at noon on a Friday due to the amount of work they have, then what good is this policy?” she says. “Even the thought of going there once a week started to make me miserable.”
In 2021, she started working in the human resources department of ChopraGlobal, which she says has been more fulfilling. She got another pay raise, earning $1,343 in take-home pay per week. A year earlier, she was earning nearly $500 less a week.
Labarba says that at Chopra, she feels a company-wide commitment to work-life balance, something she’s been looking for in an employer since the pandemic began.
“If I say I’m sick, they’re extremely flexible in moving meetings…and there’s no pressure to go to work,” she said. “95% of the people I talk to who want to work for Chopra are looking for this model because they don’t want to be pushed into a term office, even if the pandemic completely subsides.”