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People are quick to blame those lazy millennials; forgetting that even the older generation are seeing that there’s more to life than being chained to a desk. The traditional 9-5 is no longer appealing. Nowadays, employment options are endless and people value their time over money. The great resignation is in full swing, amplified by the pandemic and causing havoc for employers everywhere. The workers of the UK are finally throwing in the towel, fed up of the mental health problems triggered by workplace stress and hours of commutes. Is the classic 9-5 dead and what can employers do to stop their workforce from leaving in droves?

The phenomenon of the great resignation can be attributed to many factors: people staying in jobs they hated over the pandemic just for the financial security, a nationwide shift in priorities, a preference for remote working, or perhaps a dissatisfaction with the way their job makes them feel. More and more people have been realising that they give too much of their life and energy to their job and we’ve witnessed a cultural shift where people are prioritising work-life balance over the pursuit of wealth.

Employers must be willing to change practices and expectations in line with the changes we’ve experienced over the past couple of years. According to a poll of 1000 UK workers by EY as part of its 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, four in five wanted flexibility, and 47% went as far as to say they would consider changing jobs if flexible working wasn’t an option. The workers of the UK are asserting their right to flexible working, the best thing that you can do as an employer is to approve and support flexible working where feasible. This particularly helps working parents who have significant responsibilities outside of work such as caregiving for family members or general organisation of the household; offering flexible working arrangements encourages this demographic to take up certain positions that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to access.

Similarly, since pandemic-induced work from home orders, many people have directly experienced the benefits of remote working. By allowing remote work, companies directly improve employee wellbeing as their workforce will have more free time to spend as they wish, rather than spending it on commuting. This can also be a factor that retains employees and even attracts new, top talent. According to a recent TUC study, commuters spend around 221 hours per year getting to and from work; a figure that has increased drastically from past statistics. 2020 research of the UK workforce by Owl Labs found that 45% of people would be willing to take a pay cut to continue working remotely post-pandemic and 41% would consider resigning if working from home wasn’t an option, especially amid the health concerns caused by developments in the pandemic. This shows that having a remote working policy in place can go a significant way in keeping employees happy and preventing them from leaving. 

While flexible and remote working are key factors in facilitating employee wellbeing, internal employee welfare systems form the backbone of ensuring the physical and mental health of employees. Ensuring mental health is, therefore, a vital framework for growing companies, not just financially but also ethically. This can be done through improving in-house occupational health or outsourcing to external services. 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace and evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days can be attributed to mental health problems. Absenteeism and presenteeism pose a massive threat to the productivity of the business, and therefore profit turnover. 

By implementing systems to assure wellbeing at work, these can be massively reduced. According to research, it costs around £80 per employee to promote wellbeing at work through a tailored approach. For a company with 500 employees, this would mean an initial investment of £40,000 but would result in a net return of £347,722 in savings due to a reduced rate of absenteeism and presenteeism.  Companies that care generally see a higher employee retention rate; but with more employees than ever working from home, they also need to adapt their wellbeing policies to be inclusive of this group. One way of making wellbeing more accessible to remote workers is by going digital and taking advantage of online platforms that offer wellness services.  

The great resignation poses a threat to even the most well-developed businesses, with employees leaving to join new positions that align with their goals and needs better or even starting their own businesses. The pandemic forced us to take a long hard look at the way we’re living our lives, and as a result, many people are opting for new, bold decisions that they wouldn’t have made previously. By implementing good processes surrounding mental health, businesses of the future can assure employee retention as well as their wellbeing.