Software organisation CocoDoc has experienced the effects of the Great Resignation first hand. Alina, co-founder of the company, says that it has fundamentally altered the way that the company now operates.
“Losing five employees within two days was a jolt back to reality for us. We had never, in all our imaginations, thought that we'd have to reconfigure our business model to accommodate missing employees and find new ways to fill the spots that they left,” she says.
As well as altering the internal structure of the workplace, losing employees has led to Alina’s company having to readjust plans for future growth.
“Ultimately, the Great Resignation made it harder for us to scale our business as we had planned to. After all, we couldn't attempt to go into intense scaling mode when we were short-handed.” she says.
Why is the Great Resignation happening?
Well, to put it bluntly, no-one really knows. There are some theories though.
One school of thought is that the Great Resignation is a consequence of the decisions that employers took at the start of the pandemic with regards to their staff, and that the long-term impact of these decisions are now only just beginning to be felt.
When lockdowns hit and businesses were squeezed, employers desperately tried to shore up their bottom lines. To prevent their businesses completely going under, many owners laid off their employees or took advantage of the government furlough scheme.
Sometimes, even this drastic action wasn’t enough to ward off disaster – in the period March 2020 to April 2021 at least 800,000 employees lost their jobs. Sectors like hospitality, retail and leisure were particularly affected, with over 600,000 hospitality workers in the UK losing their jobs in 2020 alone.
Losing your job, or worrying that you may be about to, can often act as an impetus for taking stock of your career – where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there. The current thinking is that people have used their time during lockdown to assess how their careers have been serving them.
And with sectors like hospitality and retail notorious for their low pay and long hours, the answer appears to be: not well.
Anthony Martin, CEO and Founder of Choice Mutual, interprets the Great Resignation as being caused by a change in what employees want, and expect, from work.
“A shift in employees’ priorities is causing the Great Resignation,” he says. “People want a job that provides what they need – whether that’s more lucrative and thorough benefits (benefits for their family) or meets their new work/life schedule needs (caring for kids). Being used to remote and flexible schedules changed things, so employees are willing to find it elsewhere when put back into strict schedules.”
With COVID-19 having opened up existential questions about the meaning of and nature of work in the 21st century, it’s no surprise that employees have been thinking about how they can make their careers serve them and not the other way around.
After having worked from home for nearly two years, with all the freedom, flexibility and autonomy that entails, many people are now being asked (or forced) to return to the office – and many are finding themselves reluctant to give up their new-found liberty.
The answer, for many, is to resign from their current role and seek a more flexible and fulfilling one.
Stephen Connolly, a content writer who now works for Interact Software, was one of these employees. “The company I worked for before I joined Interact was not explicitly set up for remote working and it was hard for them to immediately put processes in place which would effectively balance life and work,” he says.
“There was a creep of work into daily life (longer hours, too much screen time) and this led to greater feelings of stress and a difficulty in switching off. At a certain point that became unmanageable and I had to take a step back and decide what was in my own best interests over the long term.”
In Stephen’s case, that meant finding a new job where he felt his worth as a worker was celebrated. “I realised that I needed to make a change and be part of a company where workplace communication was more effective and everyone felt recognised and valued.
“I think my experience is typical of what many people have felt, and which has led to so many people voluntarily changing jobs.”