The Great Resignation: Why Australians are looking to quit their jobs
If you’ve just come out of yet another stint of working from home through a lockdown, and you’re feeling both physically and mentally exhausted, you are not alone.
If your boss is behaving like the last two years were just a bump in the road and is asking you to turn your attention to chasing down new targets and performance goals, you are not alone. 56 per cent of CEOs are gearing up for growth next year.
For many of us, it will feel like reaching the finishing line of a marathon, then being asked to start a triathlon.
The unrelenting pressure on already burnt out and psychologically damaged knowledge workers has prompted a phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’, and it will lead to the biggest movement of talent that Australia, and the rest of the world, has ever seen.
Aussies are sick of being overworked and are on the lookout for new opportunities. Picture: iStock
Fight or flight: is your job a threat to your wellbeing?
The question that keeps coming up is ‘why’? Why are we feeling this way? Why does it feel like it will be easier to just cut and run?
It’s ironic that in a time when our lives are so reliant on technology, the answer is somewhat primal.
When exhausted or threatened, people go into fight or flight mode, and most knowledge workers will know this feeling.
We fought hard to save our jobs and our way of life from the economic threat in front of us. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Australians and their APAC colleagues have worked longer hours, taken on more additional tasks and worked on days off more than in any other part of the world.
Decompression will send employees out the door, unless work culture changes
This instinctive human response to threats makes room for bold choices that will play out in one of two ways, but both ultimately end with a mass movement of talent in the workforce.
Many workers in Australia feel their relationship with their job is irreparably broken and will flee from what feels like a toxic relationship. For others, the simple desire for change, to say, “it’s not you, it’s me” and draw a line under the past two years will be overwhelming.
In the coming months we’re likely to see an emancipation on a scale we’ve never seen before as people change roles or start entirely new careers.
If this feels like you, be aware that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Starting a new role, establishing new networks and developing new skills takes time and energy, of which Aussies have precious little.
Organisations who do not meet those needs will lose staff. Those willing to embrace radical flexibility, human-centric work design and progressive social causes will become talent magnets.
It’s worth reminding your boss of this if you choose to have a discussion about the future of your role. The best place to start is examining what you need to change about your job and be firm about what you’ll accept as minimum.
Rewriting the social contract: the rise of the four-day work week?
When economic conditions swing wildly in the favour of workers, it tends to pave the way for massive societal change. Take the introduction of the 40-hour work week, or how WWII paved the way for women to enter jobs previously reserved only for men.
We’re seeing the same thing in 2021. With the job market heavily favouring jobseekers, the premiums being offered to secure talent make a job change are an alluring prospect for most workers.
Combine that with an increased desire for flexibility in a role and Australians’ willingness to change jobs, and companies will be forced to come up with solutions that don’t involve a pay rise.
Imagine staying on the salary you’re on, but only working four days. Sounds appealing, right?
Whether you choose to flee or to fight for better, the future of Australia’s work practices are in your hands. There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australians to transform how we work and seize the lifestyle we want, but it won’t come from a job-switch alone.
As we enter this new era, it’s important to remember that we work to live, we don’t live to work. Prioritise your wellbeing and be clear with your employer about what you need. After the last two years, we all deserve at least that.
Aaron McEwan is a behavioural scientist, coaching psychologist and vice president for global research and advisory firm, Gartner | @aaronmcewan
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