The global economy has been through a lot recently, and it appears to be facing another challenge in an ongoing uphill battle. As the pandemic carries on, there is ever more uncertainty, and the progress made due to the vaccine rollout seems to have hit a snag. As we enter the winter months, we already see a rise in COVID-19 cases in the US and Europe. Yet, the challenge companies face is not solely that of another viral mutation; it is all about human capital. Or rather the lack of it, as millions of workers are leaving their jobs.
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By Sascha Fahrbach, Cybersecurity and Technology Expert
If we look at recent data from the US Labor Department, it paints a striking picture. Over 4.3 million individuals quit their jobs in August 2021, in contrast 4 million left their posts in July. In fact, there has been a consistently rising trend of workers resigning since the onset of the pandemic. So, what is going on here? Is this a temporary phase, or a trend that is set to stay? Many are asking what the catalyst for this significant shift in the labour market has been. The “Great Resignation” has surprised the US and other parts of global business.
Great Resignation or Great Realignment?
As the world entered the pandemic at the beginning of 2020, there was mounting fear and complete uncertainty of what would happen next. Social distancing and lockdowns were the order of the day. The world’s governments and companies scrambled to contain the virus and shift millions of people to remote work (WFH) setups. This saw the dawn of the Zoom age; web meetings - and hiccups - and it still is the reality today for many. It was an incredible feat, led by tech giants like Google, Apple, and others. Soon every other primary industry followed, confident that employees could do their jobs from home.
This rush to remote WFH environments presented a double-edged sword to employers, workers, and the economy. Although not ideal for some, especially in cybersecurity, this “new normal” exposed countless people to new cyber threats and has seen a surge in cybercrime like phishing and other vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, this pivot to WFH would not have been possible a decade ago and highlights our progress in terms of the digital tools and technology that we have at our disposal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but it has provided many of us an opportunity for introspection. Although technology has enabled us to work from home (or anywhere else for that matter), there has also been a darker side to the way we work. The isolation from colleagues and friends has harmed people’s mental health. Once bustling offices and collaborative spaces have been replaced with web meetings, zoom calls, and social distance.
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In recent surveys conducted by numerous companies, many workers have cited that their work-life balance has been upended and wholly lost. Constant connectivity meant that some employees could work much more and for many long hours beyond what they were used to in a typical 9-5 pre-pandemic.
A study by Adobe discovered that over 41 percent of US workers find it difficult to set work and personal life boundaries. All this means that burnout is on the rise and affecting workers more than ever, with over 44 percent of respondents feeling pressure to be reachable at all times of the day. Add to that virtual schooling, as well as the pressures of childcare. Families and women, in particular, have experienced an added layer of stress, which has negatively impacted their lives.
Yet despite all the problems and burdens, it is precisely these trying times that have led countless workers to take stock of their lives and careers. The digital transformation has given us the ability and tools to achieve our goals in ways we did not think of before, as Wi-Fi connectivity and faster connections through 5G enable an entirely new work dynamic. The pandemic has enabled people to see a broader spectrum of opportunities and begin to assess what really matters to them.
For the moment, many organisations and businesses are being shaken by the wave of resignations. In the US, there are now more openings that can be filled, and turnover and re-training can be costly for many companies.
It also seems that this shift has affected several sectors, primarily hospitality and leisure and other areas of the economy like tech, finance, and consulting. With millions of people quitting, does this signal the end for many companies? Not likely.
It pivots the balance of power towards jobseekers. Companies and organisations must now do their utmost to not only attract key human talent but also to retain it. Many potential workers are looking for flexibility, better opportunities for training and know that the typical office commute is a thing of the past. It is a jobseeker’s market, and people realise they do not want to give up their autonomy and a new sense of freedom.
It can be said that businesses worldwide must confront the idea that the traditional work paradigm has shifted, yet many are still uncertain of what is to come.
However, it is not all doom and gloom, the good news is that millions of potential workers are now on the lookout for jobs that give them a sense of meaning. This is not a strike; it is a transformation. The talent pool will be rich with intelligent and engaged people who, at their core, want a job that has purpose and where they can flourish in this new digital age.