Employees Rather Quit Than Give Up Remote Work
According to a Morning Consult poll conducted on behalf of Bloomberg, close to 40% of employees would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work.
Undoubtedly, the acceleration towards remote work caused by the pandemic has sobered many employees to the limitations of the nine-to-five office. Instead of building work-life balance around the confines of the conventional workday, remote work has provided employees with the flexibility to better manage their day-to-day responsibilities while fulfilling their obligations at work.
To many, particularly to younger employees (Millennials and Gen Z), workplace flexibility has become a personal requisite. Employers adamant about the concept of the traditional workplace are likely to be dismissed as outdated and rigid. This places businesses at risk of losing out on this new talent pool of incoming professionals. As bluntly expressed by a Bloomberg interviewee, the notion that employers need to keep employees where they can be monitored on-site is seen to be nothing short of ‘a boomer* power-play’.
Covid-19: Employee Health and Safety
Covid-19 has been an ever-extending tunnel over the past year and a half. Just as lockdowns across the world were eased, the global community was hit with new Covid-19 variants and infection waves. While the pandemic crisis in Singapore has remained relatively stable and closely regulated, the third wave of inflections in June highlighted how quickly caseloads could get out of hand.
Resultantly, many employees have been placed in a state of hypervigilance and anxiety surrounding their health. Many aren’t keen on returning to crowded offices where they are put in close contact with their co-workers on a daily basis. A TODAY Singapore interviewee described being expected to return to the office despite heightened government Covid-19 measures – she also cited a poor adherence to Covid-19 safety measures and insufficient disinfection efforts at the office.
This eventually compelled her to quit her job because she ‘didn’t want to get Covid because of (her) bosses’ ignorance or complacency or just really ‘zero’ care for employees’. Her experience parallels those of professionals across the world who have similarly quit over the lack of regard for employee safety amidst the pandemic.
I didn’t want to get Covid because of my bosses’ ignorance or complacency or just really ‘zero’ care for employees– ‘Rachel’, TODAY Singapore
Employers need to seriously consider the prolonged uncertainty and severity of the current crisis. Pressuring employees to operate on the pre-pandemic normal only creates unnecessary risk and signals to employees that their health and safety is clearly secondary to the company’s interests. In current times, the choice of remote work isn’t a luxury, it remains a necessity for many.
Sold on the Flexible Lifestyle
The arrows are all pointing in the same direction – remote work is here to stay. A Flexjobs poll in April found that ‘65% (of employees) want to keep working remotely full-time even after Covid ends…A mere two percent saying they are looking forward to working in an office full-time again’. Keen on retaining remote work, 58% of employees indicated that they would ‘absolutely’ look for a new job if they couldn’t continue remote work in their current role’.
58% of employees indicated that they would ‘absolutely look for a new job if they couldn’t continue remote work in their current roleStudyfinds.org
Amidst the rise of intersectoral worker migration rates, work-life balance emerged as one of the top determinants of job migration. Fundamentally, employees simply want more autonomy over their work schedules. They want more time with their families, friends and pets without feeling that they risk being penalised for being off-site.
A 2015 study found that ‘women (who had just given birth)…reported a statistically significant decrease in depression scores over time’ when working from home. Similarly Forbes recognised how other caregivers and employees that needed time-off were less likely to ‘worry…about upsetting the boss when stepping away from work for a few hours’ to tend to the needs of their loved ones.
With employment rates picking up in 2021 after last year’s dismal state of affairs, workers are more confident about finding jobs that are better suited to their demands. The cumulative stress and burnout caused by the pandemic has made job seekers more likely to prioritise their mental health and well-being when applying for positions. What might seem to employers to be a basic return to the office norms of daily in-person meetings and 8-hour workdays can be overwhelming to many during these abnormal times.
Saved time and costs
Needless to say, remote work arrangements save employees huge amounts of time and commuting costs. In fact, according to a Flexjobs poll, cutting out the tiring morning commute to work was listed as the top benefit remote workers enjoyed.
It was estimated that remote workers could save between $2000 to $5000 per year on transportation costs. In the context of Singapore, Value Champion estimates found that ‘the median household in Singapore spent about S$781 per month on transportation’ or about $9000 per year. Imagine the sheer amount of money remote workers could save by either working from home or commuting to nearby workspaces within their neighbourhoods.
Furthermore, the long commute to work often has employees feeling exhausted. People have reported feeling burnout and mentally drained from having to balance long working hours, dealing with colleagues and family affairs – all on top of rush hour traffic. As explained by a CNBC interviewee, ‘when you’re tired from the day before and wake up to a monotonous cycle of working for someone else until you fall asleep, it (gets) draining. I couldn’t do it anymore’.
Instead of commuting between home and the office, employees can use the extra hour to finish up errand runs or pick up lunch for the kids right before hopping onto a work meeting. In short, by providing employees with ample time to work, unwind and rest, businesses are investing in a healthier, happier productive workforce and lower turnover rates.
Whether it’s childcare, more autonomy over work hours or not wanting to deal with office politics, employees don’t want to be trapped in an office cubicle where they ‘work and work and work — and then…die’. Covid-19 hasn’t only altered workplace operations, it’s also fundamentally transformed the way employees view work-life balance. In the end, it’s the businesses that navigate the future of work with compassion and consideration that will emerge as magnets of talent and innovation.
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