Conducting research at the start of 2019, employment website Indeed found that 68% of Australian employers had remote workers on their staff. Of these employers, 69% claimed that increased productivity was the biggest benefit of remote working, followed by improved morale, lower absenteeism and reduced employee turnover.
Data for Indeed’s survey was captured nearly a year before Coronavirus came into effect, with Australia’s first case confirmed on the 25th of January 2020 and restrictions beginning a few months later in March. A world of change has been presided over since the report’s publication. A more up-to-date study would document a much larger proportion of Australian companies facilitating remote roles.
Large parts of Australian industry were locked down in response to the pandemic, with the Australian Computer Society (ACS) reporting the loss of 850,000 jobs throughout March and April in 2020. Meanwhile, Australia’s borders were closed to non-residents as of the 20th of March in the same year and the education sector was dramatically impacted. ACS pinpoints education as the nation’s fourth largest export earner. Like so many other companies and institutions, Australian education and training providers with a progressive mindset have upped their resourcefulness and continued to provide in-demand skills solutions online.
Though homeworking has been a cultural and economic necessity throughout coronavirus restrictions, it seems more than likely that a number of businesses who’ve sampled its benefits will move toward a larger remit of remote work permanently.
As well as the personnel improvements noted by Indeed, a remote workforce offers the added financial incentive of less bricks-and-mortar office space. However, not every company’s activities will have translated well into an online infrastructure and some will revert to business-as-usual operations as soon as possible.
But what about companies that already had their sights set on remote horizons before the pandemic? For those businesses that made the leap into fully remote operations, it seems unlikely that many will find themselves looking back once the lockdown landscape is cleared.
A large number of organisations will have tested elements of a remote system throughout the pandemic and found it not only cost-effective, but also highly productive. This means many companies will emerge from the pandemic determined to maintain or even build out hybrid structures, with certain roles and responsibilities fulfilled from afar.
Teams of people might have found virtual meetings to be an unfamiliar substitute for in-person interactions. However, many will have realised that online meets work perfectly well and will continue to hold them because it saves time and money. For similar reasons, executives might think twice before booking a long distance flight on company expenses. Many top level professionals will hold future board meetings virtually, thrashing out deals and wielding their power in crisp white shirts and wrinkled pyjama bottoms.
Mismatched clothing has become an in-joke shared between remote workers throughout the pandemic. It’s a sign of the times, when everyone has thrown everything they can muster together, or done unusual things to deal with unusual circumstances.
There’s a widespread notion that the pandemic has made the vast majority of people resourceful and adaptable. That said, the spectrum of social and economic effects brought about by Coronavirus exist on a scale. Nobody could reasonably claim that a pyjama wearing executive has been pushed too far beyond their comfort zone.
Countless workers employed in retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure industries will have found themselves in tough situations. It comes as no surprise that many have quit these kinds of industries and professions, never to return.
A recent US Labor Department report documented that 740,000 employees working in leisure and hospitality industries resigned in April 2021. These people had staffed diners, roadside motels, sports bars and theme parks, before the venues of the iconic American experience were transformed into a temporary ghost town. Many of these employees have taken themselves to a newer haunt, which is very much alive and kicking.
Digital industries and an expanding online workspace have been the driving force behind ‘The Great Resignation’, also known as ‘The Big Quit’. A record-breaking 4 million Americans left their jobs throughout April this year, with a large proportion of them leaving low-paid, inflexible roles and seeking to reposition themselves in digital careers (US Labor Department Report, 2021).
More recent statistics indicate that the mindset of the quit movement has been influential in all levels of employment. A poll conducted by Forbes in late June 2021 found that nearly 40% of white-collar workers would move to another company offering remote work rather than go back to an old office job. Forbes notes that “even highly sought after companies like Apple are scrambling to avoid mass-resignations from return-to-office policies”.
In a similar vein, a survey captured by insurance and financial services giant Prudential established that “one in three American workers would not want to work for an employer that required them to work on site full time” (Forbes, 2021). With this statistic in mind, Prudential vice chair Rob Falzon confessed, “If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s the talent flight risk.”
A precise percentage of how many resignees are following new career paths into the digital space will only become clearer with time. However, this mass exodus of staff, which stretches far beyond the US and into global employment markets, has been fundamentally linked to the enhanced possibilities of remote work.
A 2021 report by Harvard Business School examined the records of 9 million employees from 4,000 companies, discovering that staff in tech and healthcare industries were most likely to resign. This is especially true for employees of companies that experienced increased demand for products and services. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to conclude that some of these staff members must have felt overworked, or undervalued.
Many industry specialists believe that a version of the Great Resignation is already taking shape in Australia, with the conditions for a major employment shift already aligning. A recent large-scale salary survey by Hays, a worldwide recruitment specialist with offices in most of Australia’s major cities, concluded 40% of Australians are seriously considering career changes. Interviewed by Yahoo Finance, Hays Australia managing director, Nick Deligiannis, forecasts the Australian big quit in these terms.
“There are signs that there could be a ‘Great Resignation’ in Australia soon, too. The pandemic has been a rude intrusion to many Australians’ career plans. They have put their career plans on hold to help their organisation through the crisis. Now, they are focused on their career again and have begun prioritising advancement. But while career progression is valued, just 16 per cent of employees expect to receive a promotion in the next 12 months.” – Nick Deligiannis (Hays Australia)
All this represents a power-shift, as a perfect storm of pandemic conditions is changing the hearts and minds of an Australian workforce. On a global scale, more people than ever before want and expect flexible working conditions, as well as better all round lifestyles. In some cases, they’re prepared to turn their backs on senior roles with blue chip companies in order to make this happen.
For anyone who values their own work-life balance, resigning, upskilling and pursuing a remote career is a process that’s perfectly relatable. What’s trickier to understand is the timing with which a whole raft of employees are throwing themselves into a sea change of career diversification.
The Great Resignation was coined by Texas A&M Management Professor, Anthony Klotz, whose research acknowledges that people voluntarily quitting jobs in large numbers amid an ongoing recession represents a longstanding economic trend ‘turned on its head’. In short, people have always resigned in greater numbers when the economy is stable and job opportunities are relatively high. In times of recession, people tend to ‘stay put’ and resignation rates drop and remain low.
From December 2000 to the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, resignation among the total US workforce never surpassed 2.4% (The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, 2021). The first year of the pandemic played out as expected, with a seven-year resignation low of 1.6% throughout 2020. From the Spring of this year, everything changed and long standing resignation records have been shattered, peaking at 4%. In the eye of the nation’s worst ever economic storm, more Americans than ever before have lept ship and searched for new opportunities in digital industries.
The Great Resignation is a clear indication that many employees are becoming more proactive and savvy in their career moves. 49% of students that study with Academy Xi expect to secure a new role at a different company upon completion of their studies. Many of our students have realised that more enjoyable and stable opportunities have already presented and will continue to arise as the effects of the pandemic ease off.
When Covid conditions pass completely, hiring rates are anticipated to continue moving upward, following a steady trajectory in the medium-term and replicating the growth patterns of previous post-recession economies. By upskilling through workshops and preparing to latch on to an upturn in remote work opportunities, millions of people are realising the value of staying ahead of the curve.
A Great Resignation thought-piece article published in recent weeks by Forbes has argued that too many people are resigning without a new role lined-up. In doing so, they’re throwing themselves into limbo and losing the salary bargaining leverage that comes with keeping their current job contract. There’s a simple but failsafe solution to this problem, whereby people seeking better work opportunities can re-skill part-time, enter into the jobs market formally prepared for a new role and hand in their notice once a new position is secured. Before you make the leap into a digital career, get the skills and experience needed to land that new role and hit the ground running.
What does an increase in remote work opportunities mean for the next generation of employees? In short, it means absolutely everything. Remote workers have a better chance of balancing hard work, health and happiness – that all important trio of variables that contribute to individual productivity.
Throughout the pandemic, companies and employees have learned that embracing the overlapping nature of work life and life-in-general can bring about real results. Here, it’s useful to circle back to the findings of the Indeed report. The numbers don’t lie. Those people who are able to fulfil at least some of their job’s remit remotely tend to be more productive. The flexible scheduling of remote work also gives people a better chance to meet all of life’s other responsibilities. As a result, they’ll likely be more content in their work and remain loyal to their company. This is backed-up by the reduced staff turnover and absenteeism reported by Indeed.
When properly supported by training and skills development, digital industries give people more time and space to evolve their careers, perform their best work and realise their full professional potential.
What does this look like? Well, some people like to work in bursts of an hour, broken-up by ten-minute periods of lying on the ground and doing everything possible to think of nothing. Meditating in the office should not be frowned-upon socially but does represent a trip hazard. Others are more zen working at 1am, after returning from a 24hour convenience store with a bottle of Mountain Dew, ready to start a graveyard shift of coding.
Giving talented people greater freedom to work in ways that suit their lifestyles will normally ensure maximum individual output and high quality work, helping a company as a whole achieve a healthier bottom line. As long as a remote employee manages their time, prioritises, keeps teammates ‘in the loop’ and hits deadlines, no one in a senior position will spend too much time thinking about how and when things got done.
It comes as no surprise that increased freedom means trust is a core component of the employer-employee relationships which oversee remote roles. The starting assumption will be that people are just as productive somewhere else as they are in the office. If they aren’t, or they struggle to juggle tasks effectively, most managers will treat that as an exception and course-correct when it’s necessary. It’s an arrangement that cuts both ways. Employers have an obligation to ensure that a workforce is properly trained for all the responsibilities that a remote role demands. More and more companies developing remote operations will contract the help of online trainers who practice what they preach. The best academies will offer flexible online course options that move fluidly with the times, providing up-to-date remote solutions for remote work problems.
With rapidly evolving digital infrastructure, a record breaking demand for working remotely, and online skills development providers preparing a ‘next generation’ workforce, the question on many people’s minds is not “Can remote work go the distance?”, but instead “Can I?”.
The Great Resignation has shown us all that the toughest of times can make people bolder. Millions of people with digital career ambitions have immediately flipped the two words of this question into a new order, forming a simple but priceless statement of post-pandemic intent. “I Can”.