The pandemic put into perspective how short and fragile life is. It has also completely redefined not only how professionals work, but why they do it as well.
Employees are increasingly concerned with how they can make the time between adulthood and retirement worth it.
As a result, the ‘Great Resignation‘ has been a main topic of conversation since early 2021, particularly in the US and UK.
To be on the winning side of this war, employers need to understand what their people actually need in the new world of work. If there’s ever been the right time to get to know how people actually think and feel, it’s now.
People feel more empowered than ever
For better or for worse, the pandemic prompted us to hit the reset button in many different parts of our lives.
It not only spurred digital innovation for businesses, but somewhere in the background it also contributed to something of personal innovation.
It gave us all the time we needed to reflect and reassess our priorities and find out what ultimately makes us happy. Though this kind of soul-searching isn’t unheard of, especially following a traumatic event, what we’re seeing today are seismic changes in the collective mindset.
At the same time, the percentage of those describing themselves as thrifty (11%), driven (8%), or dutiful (7%) decreased.
The change in attitudes we’re seeing speaks to a sense of empowerment and boldness, coupled with a diminishing need to be sensible or careful.
We’re also seeing consumer priorities changing in line with these attitudes.
Just above three in ten in the UK and US say treating themselves when they feel like it has become more important to them in the past year – ranking above things like saving for retirement (28%) or reconnecting with people they’ve lost touch with (19%).
Put simply, there’s a pent-up desire to give in to temptations and live life to the fullest – something that strongly resembles a YOLO (You only live once) mentality.
In practice, this may mean a number of things – from letting go of the safety net and normalizing quitting to pursuing new experiences, ventures, and passions.
In the workplace, it means employers need to be prepared for major shifts in how their employees see work and adapt accordingly.
Work is more than just making a living
This YOLO mentality is already being manifested in people’s professional lives.
But fully grasping the real picture is somewhat overshadowed by what look like exaggerated statements about mass workplace exodus.
Yes, the pandemic created uncertainty during which people tend to stay put, inevitably leading to pent-up resignations when confidence is on the up again. After all, we’ve seen a 55% spike in optimism around US consumers’ personal finances since Q2 2020.
And from our Work research (LINK needed) in the US and UK, we know 30% of professionals are planning to look for a new job in the next six months.
Meanwhile, employees are still pretty satisfied with their jobs. In fact, the number of workers saying this remains largely unchanged and quite high since early 2020 (77%).
The key message here is that these are groups of YOLOers who don’t necessarily quit because of an underlying issue, but simply because they’re looking for a change.
Put simply, in the new world of work, security and stability are no longer enough to keep professionals content.
It’s important to remember that not all of these job-hunters will actually take the leap; that’ll depend on two main things.
Firstly, how businesses manage operational challenges arising from new workplace arrangements like remote and hybrid working.
Secondly, how well they manage to cater to the new worker mentality, whereby professionals demand more than just a life of making a living.
Our data is well-placed to help with both of these points. In both the UK and US among the most common challenges working from home (WFH) professionals face are difficulties bonding with colleagues (23% say this), something that’s just behind having trouble disconnecting from work (24%).
Despite its numerous benefits, WFH stripped our work-life of socializing and collaborating.
On top of this, we see a strong link between new work arrangements and employee turnover. In the US, for example, those looking for a new job in the next six months are much more likely than average to feel more stressed and nervous about work than they used to (20% vs 13%), and to work late at least once a week (52% vs 45%).
Similarly, in the UK job-hunters are more likely to say they have five or more meetings a day (19% vs 13%). It’s clear leaving a job is somewhat linked to WFH burnout and workplace disconnect.
As workers feel increasingly empowered to explore new opportunities, failing to address such challenges could mean facing a drop in productivity, morale, or a spike in employee turnover.
But these are all things of the past year that should already be on employers’ radar. The other part of the equation, and the real differentiator in the year ahead, will be nailing the post-pandemic worker mentality.
The rise of YOLOers manifests itself in the workplace through the search for meaning and happiness.
UK and US job-hunters are 58% more likely than average to want to do more meaningful work and 57% more likely to want work that makes them happier. Simply put, working just for the sake of it is now largely seen as a waste of valuable time.
To retain their talent in the year ahead, business leaders need to reduce the mundane tasks typically given to younger employees and focus on nurturing a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
The fact that 64% of those at risk from quitting are actually satisfied with their current role means the desire for novelty trumps security.
Creating a culture where employees are given the freedom to blend their passions with their work regardless of seniority is key.