The Great Resignation, which was marked by a record-high number of workers quitting their jobs since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, is now considered to be over.
This is according to a BBC article published earlier this month. The article suggests that many people who made significant career decisions during the height of The Great Resignation are now settled in new roles that they are holding onto. What's more, job satisfaction is reportedly higher than it has been in nearly four decades.
But is the Great Resignation really over in the UK? And how can employees retain staff in the midst of uncertainty?
The Great Resignation phenomenon
The Great Resignation, a term coined in the US, became a global phenomenon in the wake of the pandemic, impacting various industries and countries around the world, including the UK.
Among the most cited reasons for this mass exodus included wage stagnation amid rising living costs, limited opportunities for career advancement, hostile work environments, lack of benefits, inflexible remote-work policies, and long-lasting job dissatisfaction.
Many surveys indicated that a significant proportion of the global workforce were contemplating leaving their jobs:
Microsoft's Work Trend Index 2021 found 41% of the global workforce were considering leaving their current job. This trend was even higher among younger workers, with 54% of Gen Z and 50% of Millennial workers planning to look for a new job.
Research by the CIPD found that between April and June 2021, 3.2% of the UK working population made a job-to-job move.
Various reports show that in the UK, The Great Resignation has significantly impacted organisations. And data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that although job vacancies are in decline, they still outnumber pre-pandemic levels.
What's happening now in the UK?
Companies have made efforts to stem attrition, such as introducing flexible and hybrid work policies. And there is evidence to suggest that these efforts have been successful, with turnover rates normalising.
However, while the overall picture suggests that The Great Resignation may be winding down, some industries are still experiencing high resignation rates. Resignation rates in the healthcare, manufacturing and construction industries are well above 2019 levels.
There are also reports that the UK may be facing a 'Great Resignation 2.0'. According to research by Unum, up to one-fifth of the UK workforce is predicted to look for a new job in 2023 in search of better benefits or a higher salary in light of the cost-of-living crisis.
Another recent BBC article suggests that the cost-of-living crisis is pushing workers to move around the job market and, in some cases, leave it entirely. This is contrary to past patterns where people would cling to what's familiar to them, including their jobs, during periods of stress and economic uncertainty.
Sarah Moore, head of people and organisation at PwC UK, suggests that more employees may consider finding a better salary through a new role than they perhaps would have done before the pandemic:
"We're still seeing elevated quit rates following Covid-19, and pay is typically the main factor for finding a new role: in a time of crisis, people may vote with their feet."
Yet, as the article acknowledges, not everyone is able to change roles to put them in a better financial position. For many, it's simply a luxury they can't afford.
Creating a better workplace experience
Understanding the current state of The Great Resignation in the UK can provide valuable insights for companies looking to retain their staff, including the importance of employee satisfaction and workplace experience.
As we've seen, better pay, improved working conditions, and more flexibility have driven many employees to seek new opportunities. This suggests that companies can potentially mitigate the effects of The Great Resignation by focusing on these areas.
Reimagining the physical workplace
Amidst the ongoing uncertainty, creating a workplace where employees feel valued, comfortable, and productive is more crucial than ever. By focusing on these strategies, companies can create a physical workplace that retains existing employees and attracts new talent.
These four factors are crucial in creating a better workplace experience:
- Designing for comfort and productivity - The office layout and design can significantly impact employee productivity and satisfaction. Companies can create a comfortable and inspiring environment by incorporating ergonomic furniture, natural lighting, and quiet spaces for focused work. Additionally, providing areas for collaboration and social interaction can foster a sense of community that employees crave.
- Prioritising wellbeing - Offices should be designed with features that nurture physical health, such as natural lighting, ergonomic furniture, and on-site wellness amenities. Mental wellbeing is equally important, with biophilic design elements and aesthetic touches contributing to a stress-reducing and mood-boosting environment. By integrating personal development spaces and promoting a balanced lifestyle, companies can create a supportive environment that helps retain staff.
- Creating flexible spaces - The future of work is flexible, and the physical workplace should reflect this. Companies can create a mix of spaces to accommodate different work styles and tasks, such as quiet areas for focused work, collaborative spaces for team meetings, and casual spaces for relaxation and social interaction.
- Focusing on sustainability - A commitment to sustainability can also enhance the workplace experience. This could include implementing green practices like recycling, using energy-efficient appliances, choosing sustainable office furniture, and incorporating biophilic elements and green spaces into the office design.
Moreover, the most forward thinking companies are creating 'destination offices' that offer more than just a physical workplace for employees. These spaces are designed to blend work and lifestyle and add value to people's lives.
While the intensity of The Great Resignation may be diminishing, its impact is still evident in the UK. The situation is fluid and will likely continue to evolve in response to various factors, including economic conditions, changes in workplace policies, and shifts in employee expectations and preferences.
Companies can mitigate the effects of The Great Resignation by focusing on improving the workplace experience. This includes creating a physical workplace environment that enhances comfort and productivity, prioritises employee wellbeing, creates flexible spaces catering to different work styles, and committing to sustainability. In doing so, companies can create an environment where employees feel valued and satisfied, helping to retain existing staff and attract new talent.