Even if a business provides an all-expense-paid vacation, they still may become a casualty as employees leave for greener pastures; a one-time break isn’t going to make up for the stress and overwork of the other 51 weeks in the year. Many will find out that being paid to be miserable simply isn’t worth it.
Employers’ reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic were a mixed bag; while some organizations expanded their healthcare coverage offerings, like fully covering therapy and other physical and mental health services, or allowed employees extra time off, many employees lost their jobs and those who didn’t nevertheless reported feeling burnt out, overworked, and ill-used by their companies.
“If Zoom and other technologies made many jobs technically possible throughout a year of death and isolation, they also promoted the idea that continuing to work as usual amid unrelenting global suffering was emotionally and spiritually feasible,” explains Katie Heaney of The Cut. “For many people, it turns out, it wasn’t.”
As the vaccines roll out and stability seems more realistically in reach, a new trend is emerging within the workforce: an employee exodus. Some workers, usually the financially fortunate who can afford the enormous risk, are leaving to pursue passion projects. Others are simply searching for an organization where they feel valued and see a viable future. While their new 9 to 5 may be travel blogging, it’s important that even the most privileged are not simply running to something enticing, they’re also running away from the constraints of their previous employer. In his research on the “YOLO Economy” (You Only Live Once), Kevin Roose found that the recurring theme of those quitting their jobs was, “The pandemic changed my priorities, and I realized I didn’t have to live like this.”
This isn’t a short-lived “phase” either; Bloomberg Businessweek ran an article entitled “How to Quit Your Job in the Great Post-Pandemic Resignation Boom” and a survey by Bemery found that “59% of Americans are considering quitting their job this year, with 71% saying it was due to poor leadership and management.”
One factor that workers seem to prioritize is remote work capabilities. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that despite the feeling shared by many that “working from home” simply meant “living at work,” with longer work hours and heightened stress levels, 87% of the 2,000 workers polled would like to continue working from home at least one day per week. Close to half (42%) said if their current employer declined to offer long-term remote work options that they would seek employment elsewhere, and 80% of those looking for new jobs said they were concerned about their career growth. Prudential predicts a “talent war” with employers vying for employee retention, and with quitting in the air, employers are going to have to work hard to distinguish themselves and persuade workers back into their unique corporate settings.
Sponsors will now have to take a hard look at their workplace culture, expectations, and benefits to not only advertise the areas in which they outshine their competitors, but also what’s holding them back. While workplace surveys may at first seem like a great way to gather employee feedback, the data they generate can be greatly flawed. A lack of transparency may lead employees to provide feedback more positive than what they really believe, out of a fear of being fired or otherwise reprimanded. Amazon employees cite fears of retaliation, lack of anonymity, and management pressure as a few of the reasons that individuals provide favorable but inaccurate feedback.
While Forbes has a list of guidelines to generate honest feedback, it’s important to know that there is of course a time for anonymous feedback and identifiable feedback, so not all suggestions will work in all situations. For example, many of these personalized approaches like reaching out to employees individually (or even tracking participation) may make employees feel as if they’re being watched and prevent anonymity and honesty. Regardless, if done appropriately, organizational introspection, strong HR policies, and excellent benefits and compensation packages can help lead the way to a more welcoming work environment that assists plan sponsors is both employee retention as well as recruitment. Workers leave for a reason; if employees feel valued, respected, and have opportunities for growth and development, the whole organization prospers. Without that, even if a business provides an all-expense-paid vacation, they still may become a casualty as employees leave for greener pastures; a one-time break isn’t going to make up for the stress and overwork of the other 51 weeks in the year. Many will find out that being paid to be miserable simply isn’t worth it.
These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.
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