Amid Great Resignation, a new 'life-work balance' mentality has emerged

As high resignation rates continue to affect the US and Israel, it is clear that workers are looking for something more substantial than they may have been offered before the outset of the pandemic.

 Working from home (photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)
Working from home
(photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)

So far, the 2020s have been off to an eventful start, already having gained a staunch historical character thanks to the slew of quirky, mildly catastrophic events that have been squeezed into just three short years.

From a rapidly spreading disease to a war in Eastern Europe to the stall of the global international supply chain, this decade has no shortage of headlines; however, residing just beneath those top-level occurrences is something that is actively present and stands to make its own mark on the decade: The Great Resignation.

Following the widespread deployment of work-from-home policies due to the social distancing restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 saw a wave of reports of workers resigning en masse due to burnout, lack of connection to work and the dream of greener pastures to work in. In the US, an average of 3.98 million workers left their jobs every single month throughout 2021, per a report from Zippia.

And while it was set off in 2021, the Great Resignation continues to plague the business sector. According to a recent Gloat Research Group survey of over 1,300 workers and HR leaders in the US, employee sentiment remains largely the same as when surveyed in 2021, with respondents citing high burnout rates, disengagement and the belief that better opportunities exist outside their organization as primary reasons behind their consideration of leaving their current workplaces.

In fact, 52% of US workers stated that they are currently looking for another job, or plan to start within the next 3 months. 40% of workers say they’d look outside of their current organization for their next work opportunity.

And not only in the US: in Israel, the rate of resignations in 2021 sat at about 13%, almost double the 6.8% rate of 2020, according to a Zviran study.

 Ronni Zehavi, HiBob CEO and co-founder (credit: ROTEM LAHAV) Ronni Zehavi, HiBob CEO and co-founder (credit: ROTEM LAHAV)

HR people are scrambling

At the same time, the employee talent pool is notoriously low at present, so a loss of any number of employees poses a significant threat to a business’ productive viability. This, understandably, has Human Resources representatives a little nervous. More than half (56%) of the surveyed HR leaders reported to Gloat that they are struggling to retain employees, meet recruiting targets, and fill future skill needs.

In order to prevent employees from performing an Exodus act from their companies, HR workers are now working hard to ensure that critical employee needs are met in a satisfactory way, with three out of four HR reps reporting that they are either studying or implementing new “systems of agile work” in order to engage their workforce, according to Gloat.

As well, Israel has seen a surge in salaries as companies struggle to keep their employees content with their wages and prevent their flight to better opportunities: in 2021, 90% of Israeli hi-tech companies raised wages by an average of 6.5%, compared to 2020’s 2.3%

A large part of the Great Resignation’s effect on employees’ work mentality is a shift in their relation to work, with an increased emphasis on the importance of opportunities, the alignment of company goals and personal values and the demand for flexible work options.

What are workers looking for?

There are a few main ideas that can have a huge influence on a company’s employee retention rate, according to Ronni Zehavi, HiBob CEO and co-founder. HiBob is a start-up developing an HR management platform which is used by companies around the world, and was recently awarded a position on TIME magazine’s Best Inventions 2022 for its innovative offering to the Human Resources industry.

“The number one driver for people to change their job and look for alternatives is the company's culture. If the DNA of a business is built on trust, transparency, teamwork, putting its people first and investing in their well being, that company would be likely to have very high retention,” said Zehavi.

“Number two is career development. Am I surrounded by great people that I can learn from? Do I feel that they have an impact on the business? Only last on the list is compensation.”

According to Zehavi, the Great Resignation has forever changed the way workers view their work (at least in hi-tech). “It’s a new era. Instead of work-life balance, it's life-work balance,” he said. “Life goes first, work goes after.”

This is certainly an evolution from the work ethics and mentalities of past generations. “I look at my father and my grandfather, we’ve all followed the same work patterns for decades. We work full time, in an office, in main cities. When my father got home, he wasn’t connected to his job. There was full isolation between work and life. All of a sudden, that’s changed because of the new mindset that the new generation brought to the market,” Zehavi explained.

That new generation of workers and their “life first, work second” mentality will dictate the future of the labor market, Zehavi believes. “They will dominate the market in the next five, ten years. They will be the managers that will set the tone and from their perspective, it is all about well-being,” he said.

“If someone asks your father what his identity is at a social event, he will talk about this profession first: ‘I'm an engineer. I'm a doctor. Whatever.’ Today there is no direct correlation between your identity and work.”

“Hybrid work is working very well and there is no turning back. Employers who are forcing their people to come back to the office will lose the battle. You cannot force it. The train left the station. This is a practice for the new era, for who knows how long.”

Ronni Zehavi

Work from home is here to stay

Another facet of the new employee mindset is the deadset demand of hybrid work models. “Hybrid work is working very well and there is no turning back. Employers who are forcing their people to come back to the office will lose the battle. You cannot force it. The train left the station. This is a practice for the new era, for who knows how long,” said Zehavi.

Indeed, it seems that around the world, the hybrid work model has rooted itself deeply in the expectation of office workers. This was reinforced by several leading experts during a panel at a conference held earlier this month by Herzog Law Firm and DLA Piper, an international firm with a decade-long Israeli presence, led by Jeremy Lustman.

At the panel, several DLA Piper representatives from around the world explained the lasting impact of COVID on the work-from-home mentality.

"In Holland there are flexible labour regulations prior to covid which still exist to date. An employee can submit a request to work remotely and the employer can't refuse without a sufficient reason to a worker who wishes to work from home. The interest of the employee usually goes over the interest of the employer. We see that this becomes a tool to attract people – a hiring tool," said Jasper de Bok, Senior Associate, DLA Piper Amsterdam.

Daniel Turinsky, a partner at DLA Piper New York echoed the sentiment made by de Bok, noting that "In the U.S. remote working is very well established and there to stay. Most firms have adopted remote or hybrid options as it is not COVID-related anymore. Rather, it's a recruitment tool."

Also at the panel was Attorney Moriah Tam-Harshoshanim, a partner in Herzog’s Labor and Employment Department. She explained that “In Israel, remote work is here to stay, while the norm is in the hi-tech sector. In the public sector, working remotely has been addressed in a collective agreement. Most employers use a hybrid model in which the employer can decide how much and when employees work remotely. The collective agreement states that employees will be entitled to all salary and benefits in remote work as well,” she explained, noting that in the current era, “remote work is part of the employer’s prerogative.”