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The Great Employee Shift: Coming to Your Workplace?


Illustration of employee being pulled back to his place of employment
Image: Valery -
One of the major outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce appears be a major movement of people into new jobs, according to results from a 2021 Harris Poll conducted for Fast Company. Whether or not this is driven by an employer’s return-to-work policy or remote/hybrid work opportunity, workplace leaders need to take the trend into consideration as they plan for the future.
In the Harris/Fast Company survey, 52% of U.S. respondents said they are considering a job change this year, and as many as 44% said they have actual plans in place to make the leap. Remote work and work-from-home options are important factors in considering a job change, with 68% of workers noting their value.
In some respects, companies adopting a remote/hybrid work environment are making the decision to change jobs easier than ever. With remote work, an employer can be in another town, state, or even country. Commute time, once a primary job factor for many people, becomes a nonissue.
Companies that decide to force their workers back into the office on a daily basis run the risk of losing key employees. And confused messaging can be problematic, too. Consider the memo Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg reportedly sent to workers saying he expected them to return to the office once they’ve been vaccinated, as reported by Business Insider. Is that an order or an invitation? What’s the expectation going forward?
Likewise, the coming “where will you make me work” question may be even more critical than previous discussions about appealing to Millennial workers. Employers that decide to mandate an in-office presence exclusively may find that this choice becomes a major issue in recruiting the right employees.
In many ways, the pandemic exposed poor/bad managers and supervisors. Many managers who relied on the antiquated “butts in seats” analysis of employee performance have been challenged to move to a more outcomes-focused management style. For those longing to return to having all their employees visible, the end of the pandemic is a panacea.
For the employees, many of whom have grown used to having more time (less commute), and the proximity to the rest of their lives, a mandatory return to the office can be crushing. A return to two- to three-hour commutes and being evaluated based on hours in the office feels like a return to the last century or earlier. One has to wonder what percentage of those 44% of workers who have put plans in motion to change jobs are driven by their expectations of their work-life location and balance post-pandemic.