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Workers Leaving Jobs: Understanding the ‘Great Resignation’

Workers Leaving Jobs: Understanding the ‘Great Resignation’

By: Ashley Fell 

‘The Great Resignation’ describes the predicted trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs in the coming months. It happened in the United States, and many are wondering if it will also take place in Australia. 

Our research suggests that more than two in five workers (45%) plan on looking for a new job in the next 12 months1. So, in this article we investigate the context and motives for The Great Resignation and how organisations can respond. Why is it occurring?

There are some macro-economic reasons why the context is ripe for The Great Resignation to occur. Australia is a nation that relies on overseas, skilled workers. Due to closed borders, no one has been filling a lot of those gaps. As the economy has continued to grow, there has been an increase in demand for that labour, but not the supply. An ageing workforce also means that more people leave the workforce than join it. Consequently, there are more jobs available than people to fill them. This creates an employee’s market where if people are not happy with their role, they have more leverage in the employment transaction to move on or resign. Additionally, the last two years have not been an ideal environment for voluntary turnover, or rather, people willingly choosing to resign. As the economy stabilises and we move away from lockdowns, there is greater confidence for people to make a job change.

The Great Reprioritisation

Over the last two years, life has dramatically shifted. With increased time spent at home, plans cancelled, and regular routines disrupted, a reprioritisation of what is important has occurred for many people. Perhaps, the silver lining of the pandemic is that it has given people time to pause, reflect and reassess what is important to them. Including how their work fits into their life. In fact, 78% of employed Australians say they prioritise their personal life over their work life . People have reassessed their priorities and are expecting more of a holistic and balanced approach to life and their work.

The expectation of flexibility in a work-from-home era

COVID-19 facilitated one of the biggest transformations to work in a century when overnight, the global workforce relocated to working from their homes. When asked about their ideal way of working, 56% of employed Australians say a hybrid of work from home and the workplace is their ideal mix, compared to 30% who prefer everyone working from the workplace all the time and 15% working from home all the time. That means that 71% of employed Australians expect to work from home at least some of the time, even if that is only one or two days per week.

When asked about why people enjoy working from home, the top reasons included better work/life balance (54%), opportunity to save money (51%), the opportunity to wear more comfortable clothing (49%), more time in the day (44%) and more freedom (40%).i

Just as there are benefits to working from home, it is important for employers to also be aware of the challenges to working from home such as social isolation, the blurring of work and home boundaries and missed opportunities for collaboration. It is true that different types of work are best suited to different environments. Deep work and thinking may be better suited to working from home, while collaboration and team culture is better fostered in the workplace with colleagues together. While the office is not dead and it has a role to play, employees today and in the future will be expecting greater flexibility and won’t be afraid to leave an organisation if they don’t find it.

The Great Retention

‘The Great Resignation’ does create a challenge for employers to make sure they recognise the reality of it and find ways to attract and retain staff in this new shortage and economic reality. However, employers facing an impending great resignation also have an opportunity to focus on The Great Retention and ask, ‘What are we going to do to retain our team?’ It means employers need to check the culture, ensure there is good communication and that wins are celebrated, so that they can have a collegiate, collaborative, and positive workplace environment. As they provide that, that will lead to The Great Retention.


Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

Feature image:  Photo by Laura Davidson on Unsplash  

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