The pandemic has made a lot of employees question the role work plays in their lives. In the US, COVID has seen millions of people, from frontline workers to senior executives, voluntarily leaving their jobs. This mass exodus has been dubbed the Great Resignation.

Has Australia been impacted?

A recent article in The Herald Sun, showed figures collated via LinkedIn, that saw a 26 per cent jump in Australian workers moving from one company to another in October, compared with the same time in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Yes, the pandemic has been a time for reflection and change in attitudes to work life.

What can Australian employers learn from this trend?

We asked Stephen Bell, iHR Australia Managing Director about how employers should approach these times of changing attitudes.

‘This is a time for employers to remain calm and learn that extraordinary times create extraordinary reactions.  The COVID period has been traumatic for many Australians – especially those whose work paradigm is based on traditional frameworks. Further to this, for much of the pandemic, worker rights in many industries were well protected with support strategies including ‘Job keeper’ and ‘Job Saver’. There was also an opportunity for many Australians to access super payments to temporarily support their lifestyles.

Globally we saw employees being encouraged or ordered to work from home. This has forced employers to accommodate for new, flexible working requirements.

‘Higher salaries in some sectors, greater tolerance for a flexible work arrangement and, in some cases, acceptance of often lower productivity and communication levels became the reality that put further pressure on employers. But for how long?

‘The answer is, we don’t know. What we have learned is that the wider environment shifts attitudes and expectations about work. As employees have adapted to new rules and paradigms, employers have found themselves needing to be agile in relation to their employment proposition.’

It’s important to consider another factor that occurred as a result of the pandemic that had a major impact on staffing.

‘As the borders closed so too did the opportunity for employers to access workers from overseas and graduating international students. This contributed to a growing shortage of both skilled and non-skilled labour. This has seen members of the Australian workforce becoming ‘spoilt for choice’, resulting in movement to match work circumstances with lifestyle needs.’

Predictions as Australian businesses return to a ‘new normal’

‘My greatest fear for employers is that they over accommodate for workers who have been through extraordinary times without properly thinking through what the organisation and employees really need. For example, advertising key leadership roles as a work from home opportunity when it requires regular face to face contact with employees. It must be remembered also that working from home is not roses for everyone. For example, many younger workers have craved the socialisation associated with working in an office. There are definitely many mental health and workplace culture reasons to work in an office.

‘In my view, the jury is out on what the new normal will actually look like. There is no doubt that, for now, many office workers and employers are wedded to the idea of a hybrid model; work from home some days and the office others. Some even offer individualised solutions depending on personal needs.

‘Probably the biggest lesson for employers is that agility wins the day. But that agility needs to be win/win and if the adapted model doesn’t match the needs of the organisation the health of long-term performance and culture will be at risk.’

As organisations adapt to the changing workplace environment, iHR Australia can provide HR Support to help employers in areas such as Policies & Procedures, Contacts and Advisory Services.


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