The Great Resignation: New Employee Expectations Post-Covid

employee putting their office desk things into a cardboard box

The global pandemic forced us into radically different ways of working overnight. Many were forced to switch to remote working whether they wanted to or not due to government lockdowns and restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. This situation has made people re-evaluate how they want to work.

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As a result, people are leaving their jobs in large numbers to pursue alternative careers. So much so that it has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation.’ In this post, we will explore what is driving the shift and what employers can do to prevent the impact of this change on their organization.

Employee expectations in the post-COVID workplace

When many were thrown into remote working overnight, it gave them a taste of alternative ways of working. Where conventional office-based work was broadly accepted as the norm before COVID-19, people now have a point of comparison.

Remote work brought many benefits for both employees and the organizations they work for. From the employee perspective, it gave them much greater freedom over their schedules in many cases and greater autonomy over their work. It provided many with several hours of free time per day that would previously have been spent commuting. There were also cost savings as it was no longer necessary to pay for travel or lunch on the go. For some, these aspects led to reduced stress and a greater work-life balance.

However, remote work is not without its downsides. While some were enjoying the newfound freedoms remote working gave, others found that it blurred the lines between home and office and work and free time. Many struggled to juggle the demands of family life with home working. Lone working took its toll on many employees, and mental health suffered.

Some struggled to adapt to new processes and technologies. Many people felt increased pressure to work outside of their regular hours and be available anytime. For some, this offset the time gains they made by not having to commute to work.  For these reasons, remote working added to many people’s stresses.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that expectations of the post-covid workplace generally center around a hybrid of the old and new. People want the best of both worlds, maintaining the ability to go into the office at times while gaining the freedom to work remotely with others. The challenge for employers is to facilitate this in a cost-effective way that works for the organization and employees.

How different generations want different things

One thing that stands out from the research is the stark difference between age groups regarding how they would prefer to work in the post-COVID world. Recent research by Adobe revealed that over half of Gen Z respondents indicated they planned to change jobs in the next year. Of all age groups, the research showed that Gen Z is the least satisfied with their overall jobs and work-life balance.

In contrast, older age groups are keener to return to ‘normal’ post-COVID, with many keen to get back into the office as soon as possible. This presents a challenge for employers who must find ways to balance the diverse needs of their workforce. This is essential in the post-COVID workplace to ensure the retention of experienced, older employees while appealing to new, often younger, talent.

While older generations are often satisfied with the status quo, younger generations do not view work in the same way as those before them. They want meaning, passion, and purpose in their work. They were born into the technological age and have come to expect all the conveniences this brings. As a result, they are not satisfied being bogged down with menial, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks.

How to incentivize talent recruitment and ensure retention

Employers must create working environments that bring together the best aspects of the old and the new. Doing away with the office entirely may save costs, but it is not the solution. Organizations would do better by creating innovative workspaces cleverly designed to maximize productivity, efficiency, and employee wellbeing.

This can be done by implementing contemporary hotdesking practices – such as activity-based workspaces – while facilitating remote working where appropriate and supporting all of this with the right technologies. Workers will then get the best of both worlds, working part-time in the office and part-time remotely.

To attract and retain employees, regardless of the age group they fall into, employers must create social workspaces that allow their workers to get the benefit of connecting with colleagues. They must involve their workforce in designing new workspaces and demonstrate that they are listening to, and actively seeking to meet, their needs.

To attract Gen Z talent, organizations must deploy technologies that automate monotonous tasks. This generation does not want to be bogged down with mundane, time-consuming admin. Similarly, Gen Z’s desire greater control over their working schedule instead of the old expectations of a 9-5 working day. Companies expecting workers to rigidly adhere to these working hours, filling time with mundane admin for the sake of looking busy, will neither attract nor retain this age group.

Corporate responsibility: How organizations can set themselves apart from the competition

A record 4 million American workers quit their jobs in April of this year alone. 35% of enterprise workers surveyed by Adobe stated that they plan to switch jobs in the next year. These figures are just a snapshot of the problem companies will face if they do not attract and retain employees.

The global pandemic sorted the supportive employers from those that made decisions solely in line with company interest. In tough times, it became clear to many workers whether their employer was supportive or not. Many of those who have since left or plan to leave their jobs do so for this reason. People do not want to work in unsupportive environments with poor company culture.

To set themselves apart from the competition, companies must create a solid and supportive culture within their organization. The organization and its employees must stand for something more than the core business purpose.

Organizations can begin this process by listening to their existing workforce’s needs, desires, and concerns and responding to these. To demonstrate that they are supportive, companies must place mental health and wellbeing at the forefront, invest in this area and implement initiatives that promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Companies must create working environments that people want to be in. People should look forward to going into the office on days where this is necessary while enjoying the freedom of remote working the rest of the time. This can be achieved by creating an activity-based work environment with different areas for different purposes.

Investment in the right technology is crucial for companies that want to set themselves apart from the competition. The right technologies can make working life so much easier and more enjoyable. Automation of menial tasks is key to freeing people to focus on the more creative and meaningful aspects of their work.

Employers must implement the right tools and practices to manage hybrid workspaces effectively so that people feel valued and supported. Cloud-based solutions can ensure everyone remains connected and can access the workspaces they need when they need them. Managers must avoid appearing as though they don’t trust remote workers to be productive while providing adequate support where required.

Standing out from the competition when recruiting the best talent and retaining employees is not simply about financial incentives. Through their company culture, companies must demonstrate that their priorities align with the expectations and desires of the modern workforce.

This is something that will need to be monitored and managed over time. Organizations should continually seek input and feedback from their employees. They must be ready and willing to make changes when the feedback indicates that they are needed. Today’s workforce is fickle and unwilling to tolerate undesirable circumstances for long. To combat this, companies must shift towards a people-centric approach that prioritizes their employees.

Final thoughts

It is easier than ever before for people to work for themselves; they no longer necessarily depend on an employer for their livelihood. Younger generations, in particular, are acutely aware of this and much less willing than those who came before them to tolerate unfavorable circumstances at work.

If employers want to remain attractive to workers, they must be willing to shift their priorities and change the way they operate to meet the expectations of the modern workforce. While this may take time and investment in the short term, it will pay off long-term through increased employee retention, productivity, and efficiency gains.

Technology will be central in supporting the necessary culture shift within organizations. Companies must be willing to invest in technologies that automate menial tasks, easily connect people, and help manage the agile workplace effectively for all.


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