Should I stay or should I go? This week we're scrutinising the post pandemic workplace - what is it that candidates want nowadays?

The Great Meditation

Heard the term 'The Great Resignation' thrown around recently? Employee values are changing and here's how your business can keep up.

Anne Gately



4 minute read

Thought about quitting your job? You’re not alone. According to Microsoft, 41% of the global workforce will consider changing employer in the next 12 months.1 The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way employees evaluate their happiness in the workplace – some are burnt out, others are just putting their needs first. It’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, but I think it’s more apt to call it ‘The Great Meditation’.
In short
  • The white collar workforce is on the move, with more choice than ever.
  • Investing in employee engagement has benefits for both companies and employees.
  • Beware of the ping-pong-table-approach to employee happiness and engagement.
How COVID created the perfect resignation storm
Despite endless lockdowns this year, some industries have rebounded, coming back just as strong, if not stronger than before COVID. Intense growth, coupled with the flexibility of remote work, means that laptop-armed white collar workers have more choice than ever.

What’s more, the friction to move companies has completely eroded.2 Send off your laptop after your goodbye Zoom on Friday night, and start a new job on Monday morning, all from the comfort of your home. And it’s these circumstances that have fueled the movement.
So what exactly are employees after?
Retention is the new fight for bosses as they struggle to manage employee engagement. But what does this look like? Companies like Gallup have been tracking employee engagement for over a decade and say that the clear qualifiers for engagement are:3

  • Feeling clear about your role.
  • Having the right materials and equipment to do your job.
  • Being given the opportunity to do what you do best.
  • Having strongly committed co-workers.
  • Working with a common mission or purpose.

As an HR recruiter, I talk to people who are considering a new job. And every day, I hear the same thing. They are looking for:


  • Collaboration & connection. 
  • Interesting & fulfilling work. 
  • Opportunities for growth. 
  • Nice people. 
  • Good systems & processes.

Now that sounds a lot like engagement to me.

In my experience, these themes are no different from what people were looking for prior to Covid. Employees aren’t asking for anything new, they just want what they’ve always wanted, and that’s to feel engaged.

“Intense growth, coupled with the flexibility of remote work, means that laptop-armed white collar workers have more choice than ever.”

We’re all after the same thing, just delivered differently
What COVID has changed however, is the ways an employer can facilitate engagement. That ping pong table? Collecting just as much dust in pandemic life. Online trivia? Perfect. In marketing speak, the strategy is still the same; businesses just need to update their tactics.

But beware the Shiny Object Syndrome! Don’t just introduce a lot of new initiatives for the sake of it. A good place to start is to identify what drove employee engagement prior to COVID and then evaluate if it still delivers in a hybrid work model.

But if you do nothing else, at least communicate on an ongoing basis your detailed plans, policies and approaches for remote working and you’ll reap the benefits. Employees will be twice as likely to feel supported, three times more likely to feel included and their productivity will improve by a factor of five.4
So what can your business do to keep up?
The pandemic afforded people more time to meditate on what they value in the workplace, and as a result, candidates are scrutinising company policies like no tomorrow. Think about offering incentives such as flexible working arrangements – after all, they are no longer a gift reserved for the big dogs. Because if nothing else, working from home in lockdown has shown employers that the era of micromanagement is paling and employee autonomy is brightening.

on four day work weeks
With the pandemic drastically shaking up traditional working models, a recent study of 2,500 workers across various workplaces in Iceland confirmed shortened workdays led to more productivity and a happier workforce. This resulted in reduced work hours for Icelandic employees and sparked a global reassessment of working models championing flexibility and balance.
A ping pong table doth not maketh an agency
Creative spaces and agencies are often known for their cool-kid vibes and playground atmosphere. But is this just a layover stereotype from the Golden Days of advertising? 

According to our informal study, only 30% of Sydney agencies still have a ping pong table, because unsurprisingly, a piece of furniture doesn’t actually influence office culture. On the other hand, having a strong managerial team does. So next time you think about forking out for more ping pong balls (where the hell have they all disappeared to anyway?), think about allocating that budget to other team building and leadership experiences.
  1. Microsoft, The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? (March 2021) Microsoft.
  2. Alex Christian, The Great Resignation is here and no one is prepared (August 2021) Wired.
  3. Gallup, What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It? (2021) Gallup.
  4. Andrea Alexander, What employees are saying about the future of remote work (April 2021) McKinsely & Company.
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