Now that we’ve been enduring the pandemic for what feels like an eternity (almost) many of us have been reevaluating things we spend our time on, that we put effort into, that we care for and what brings us joy. A big one being our work.
The toll of the pandemic has seen increasing feelings of burnout and deterioration in our mental health. Maybe you’ve noticed feeling more cynical towards your job, or exhausted at the thought of your workload? According to a new survey by Microsoft, 41% of workers globally are considering quitting their jobs, and 42% said they would quit if they had to return to the office .
Across the UK, China, the US, Japan and Germany (to name a few), younger generations are rethinking the pursuit of wealth, how they work and live and how to find more balance. The Great Resignation has people quitting their jobs in record numbers - more than 24 million quit in the US from April to September this year.
Is it just the young ’uns?
With millennials and Gen Z’ers taking the lead in this new view on working, some have criticised them for being ‘privileged’ or ‘lazy’, but the reality is that working hours have been dropping in richer countries for decades across all ages. Prince Harry recently commented that this is not a bad thing, many people have been stuck in jobs that don’t bring them joy.
“People putting their mental health and happiness first should be celebrated!”
Facing existential threats (not to sound dramatic), such as the pandemic, climate change, the Great Resignation, has the potential to spark deeper discussions about how we view work, success, wealth - and how we pursue those, at the individual level and for the nation as a whole. Because people are looking at work through a very different lens, do we want to spend our time grafting and pouring effort into things we don’t truly care about, or that aren’t in tune with our values?
We need to cultivate a new working culture as a society that brings mental health and wellbeing into focus - further than ‘relaxation pods’, yoga sessions or a decent coffee machine in the workspace. There’s more to workplace wellbeing than encouraging good sleep habits, improving our fitness levels or eating well. We need something to keep us driven, to find purpose, to spark passions, do you wake up excited for work? Or at least willing to roll out of bed knowing that after that first coffee you’ll be raring to go!
So, with the research showing such large numbers of us willing to leave our jobs, how can we support our employees in finding pleasure in their work?
1. Create a healthy working culture
As a society we’re still clinging onto this ‘grind culture’ that sees us working out of hours, in the middle of the night, unable to switch off and leaves us feeling drained and far from eager to work. If we want to increase the pleasure we find in work, we need to make the working environment more pleasing - both literally and figuratively.
Cultivate a workplace that respects boundaries, where we’re not expected to answer every email immediately, where there’s trust between employers and colleagues, where we’ve got a good sense of autonomy. It helps people to implement a more productive work-life balance, where we can actually switch off at the end of the day.
Encourage employees to talk about how they are, it doesn’t need to be deep but this belief that we must remain professional and therefore hide how we are is quite toxic - we all face ups and downs every day why pretend like we’re fine and allow these challenges to distract us or cloud our judgements.
2. Communication is key
You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again. Communication is key in most places, in the workplace we’d be surprised how many of us find this one of the leading causes of workplace stress. Even though we know it, it remains one of those challenges most of us face.
Communicate with employees for feedback, for general concerns, or to check-in. Speak to your employees about their working experiences, what they’d like to see available or changes they’d be interested in. When it comes to internal communication, be clear and concise, make good use of tools (phone calls for urgent things, one-line emails for quick questions, meetings for discussions), don’t get caught up in Zooming for every possible communication, we're zoom-fatigued and even more so since the pandemic.
3. Encourage progression and passion in careers
Employees who feel passionate and are encouraged to seek progressions, be that through building knowledge, networking at events, taking the lead in tasks, academic courses even, tend to feel more motivated and driven, possibly even excited by the prospect of work. It can boost morale in employees, which keeps us feeling generally more positive and supported in our roles.
Make time for feedback and support with individual employees, check-in to offer support or help with anything, give appreciation generously - everyone likes a compliment or ego boost (even if we can’t do so without blushing). Constructive feedback is helpful but so is rewarding people, and it’ll help to keep burnout at bay.
Workforce woes: On an individual level, these figures and this info might be inspiring - quitting your job to follow your passions, or simply because it doesn’t bring you joy, how empowering. On a workforce level, slightly more concerning - are we all going to end up as social media influencers because we could be our own boss?! We do need to change up how we view work as a society and bring the whole picture of wellbeing into it to keep workers positive, motivated and purposeful. But even work can’t be wonderful all the time, even those living their dream will face lulls and dull moments, disputes and disagreements, face tasks that are downright boring - someone’s gotta do them.
1. The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? (2021). Microsoft.