The Great Resignation Is Over. Will the Big Stay Become the Great Stagnation?

Will the Big Stay Become the Great Stagnation?
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The Great Resignation is at an end and The Big Stay is upon us. In a world of shrinking face-to-face contact, how do you stop hybrid working encouraging worker hibernation?

 

The ‘great resignation’ and the ‘great reshuffle’ were trends in the job market following the global pandemic. They described how workers frustrated by COVID-19 were looking for profound change and greater satisfaction in their personal and professional lives.

Identifying these shifts captured the desire for new horizons and the need for business to rebuild fractured teams following years of furlough and inactivity.  

Across the world, as economies looked to spring back into life, workers felt a new sense of empowerment. They wanted new challenges and improved life/work balance just as businesses began competing intensely to fill their skills gaps.

Between April and June 2021, 3.2% of the UK working population made a job-to-job move (source: Research by the CIPD)

In 2022, there were 1.16 million job vacancies in the UK a 44% increase from pre-pandemic levels​.

In response to this movement, there was a flurry of activity to introduce new work from home policies and more attractive workplace packages. Hybrid became the fashion. There was a striking emphasis on supporting wellness in the office itself. offering perks such as on-site cafeterias, mobile massage and all the rest  

The Wall Street Journal even reported the return of the ‘office slide’ as one of the ‘fun features’ that businesses were planning to bring staff into the workplace more often.

Really.

 

Quitting is now at an all-time low.

So, have these measures worked?

Now, a few years after Covid, American commentators have reported that quitting is at an all-time low. In the UK, the CIPD has announced the final demise of the mass trend to leave:

The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is well and truly over. It has been replaced by ‘The Big Stay.

James Cockett, Labour Market Economist for the CIPD

Welcome to the Big Stay

Figures are showing more and more workers are simply staying where they are. And that’s great news, right?

In one sense, businesses are seeing the big stay as evidence of the success of their retention strategies, particularly their embrace of hybrid working, which has seen a spike in job satisfaction.

However, some see the big stay as evidence of uncertainty, causing workers to hunker down. With business costs escalating, companies are not hiring. And as automation and AI begins to take the place of knowledge workers, some employers are staying put, rather than taking a leap into the unknown.

One generation bucks the trend

But before we continue, it should be noted not every generation in the workplace are definitely staying put.

In 2024, Deloitte reported that one out of three Gen Z employees plans to quit their existing job this year…

What does the Great Stay mean for you?

The Great Stay is not necessarily great news for employers. While it can speak of loyalty and satisfaction within your team, it can also reflect an atrophying workforce that is simply sheltering from the upcoming storm.

Businesses may just be relieved they're hanging on to staff rather than having to actively recruit replacements with bigger wage offers. But, without focusing on employee engagement they may end up with bigger problems on their hands, such as stalling productivity and ‘quiet quitting’.

So, if your most successful post-Covid support strategy has been to implement a hybrid working policy, you might want to explore how else you can improve your employee experience before the great stay turns into the ‘great stagnation’.

3 ways the workplace can reanimate your employee experience

1. Supporting active learning

Your team and their skills are key to business innovation and continual improvement. But if you aren’t helping your team expand and share their professional knowledge then you risk stagnating at a time when skill-stacking is key to success.

Make sure you offer training opportunities to your team and create environments where continual, ‘active learning’ is part of the fabric of the site. In the words of Nuno Correia, Senior Workplace Designer at Insightful Environments:

‘A culture of learning should spill out from meeting rooms and presentation areas. It needs to flood into the in-between spaces of the workplace to ignite and inspire the thoughts and actions of everyone who uses it.’

Read Nuno’s blog for top design tips to enable continuous, active learning and knowledge sharing in your workplace.

2. Strengthen your culture

Where a business has a strong sense of identity and purpose, your chances of energising (and hanging on to) your workers are seriously enhanced.  

Up to 90% of Gen Z and millennials say having a sense of purpose is important to their overall job satisfaction and well-being

But you can’t truly galvanise and inspire your teams at arm’s length.  Hybrid is definitely here to stay, but the office still has a pivotal role to play in establishing your culture and business belief system.  

"When people can choose to work from home or anywhere else, offices need to be a vibrant destination where people will want to work and where cohesion happens. People come to the office to be a part of a community and to find what they can’t find anywhere else – people to connect with and high-performing workspaces and technology"​​.

Noga Lasser, Steelcase EMEA interior design director

The office is an example of what NYU Professor Eric Klinenberg calls ‘social infrastructure’, the physical embodiment of your business values of support and collaboration.

So, plan days where teams can come together and enjoy a space purpose-built for connection:

  • Organise team-building activities, encourage social interactions, and create spaces where employees can connect and collaborate informally​​​​.  

  • Emphasise inclusion in your design. Make sure you have created areas where people can come together but also control their environment when they need to. Ensure you have different settings in your office, including quiet rooms and booths for privacy, respite and 121 meetings

3. Make it easy to work

Some of the most successful workplace designs of recent years have focused on making collaboration work. With fewer days of face-to-face in our working lives, our buildings must help us profit more from the time we spend together.

The ARC building at Glasgow University provides a template for a modern working space where teams can come together purposefully to share progress and work in shorter, more intensive bursts.

It is an amazing multi-level experience, where different working postures are always possible; the ARC allows teams to meet in different configurations to push forward new initiatives - while providing enough space for large-scale ‘town halls’ and seminars.

“The ARC building reflects new ways of working in the context of hybrid, making it easy for people to choose where they want to work depending on the type of work they’re doing. Teams are housed in neighbourhoods with hot desks. Canteens combined with open, flexible social areas on each floor create the ideal environment for people from different teams to chat. There are both owned and agile offices that offer privacy for focus work.”

Nuno Correia, Senior Workplace Designer at Insightful Environments

Watch the tour of the ARC building:

Flexible working vs face-to-face. Who wins?

Flexibility in working arrangements remains massively important. Recent UK trials suggest the four-day week has had a profound effect on productivity and happiness in the workforce.  

But with teams spending more time apart from each other, we need to find ways to strengthen bonds and accelerate sharing and collaboration when we are together.

Neglecting the office experience risks established team members stagnating in their job roles and discouraging graduates and new joiners as they try to find their feet.

As Marc Aston, Director of Strategic Accounts at Insightful Environments, points out:

“The education sector has done an amazing job of creating dynamic learning environments in the last few years. But this has meant many graduates entering the workplace are often disappointed at how far behind our offices are when compared with the educational facilities they’ve come from. If we aren’t meeting their expectations in terms of workplace experience, research shows, this younger generation are more likely to move on.”

Hybrid shouldn’t mean hibernation

People can burn out fast when presenteeism is ruthlessly demanded, and hybrid has certainly helped alleviate a high turnover working culture. But innovation and culture risk stagnation when we fail to find ways to connect in the real world. Businesses should be taking steps to ensure hybrid working doesn’t lead to worker hibernation - as they look to ramp up productivity.

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