Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has changed how we work. Millions of companies went remote for months, and many plan to stay remote for the foreseeable future. But there’s a more profound shift many companies fail to notice, and it will have long-term implications.
In August of 2021, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, according to a Bureau of Labor and Statistics report. There are several reasons for this shift — many parents have previously struggled to find reliable childcare, workers realized they value the flexibility of remote work and preferred quitting over returning to the office, while others were re-trained and left their jobs in retail, restaurants, and other hospitality sectors for more secure, higher-paying or more comfortable office jobs.
However, I believe the real reason employees are quitting in droves is much simpler.
Related: Remote Work is Here to Stay
The pandemic changed what work means to us
Employees are no longer willing to work two or three jobs or put in 60+ hours for a company they know doesn’t care about them. Why? Because they’ve realized that they don’t have to, and they’d rather get by on less than work themselves to the bone.
What we want from a job, where we work, and how we interact with coworkers is undergoing a massive transformation, with employees reveling in shifting to a worker’s market and quitting low-paying, toxic jobs in droves. The lie-flat movement encourages younger workers in China to do just enough to get by but not work themselves to death, and the r/anitwork movement is similarly empowering American employees.
The (aptly named) great resignation has important implications for businesses of all sizes and industries. When employers are unwilling to offer workers the flexibility of remote work or the pay they deserve, those workers can, and will, go elsewhere.
Remote work isn’t the enemy
Some leaders are pushing back, insisting that remote work is killing company culture. In my experience, that isn’t true. Remote does require being more intentional, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
At Panther, for example, we have a kind of a virtual office, where we can see everybody popping into certain rooms, who’s in focus work and who is open to chat. We also have a clubhouse channel where one person gets to DJ and play whatever type of music they’re interested in, and everyone else can let their Spotify sync up.
Every week we host what we call Panther Playground, where we all hang out in a virtual room, sometimes playing games and sometimes talking about where we come from, getting to know one another on a deeper level.
It is also important to acknowledge that fully remote companies don’t have to be separated one hundred percent of the time. There is a good use case for remote teams occasionally getting together for networking and having the often-needed hard conversations.
Coworkers aren’t family, and they shouldn’t be
In response to this idea that remote work causes isolation, I think it’s time to push back on the narrative that our coworkers are family. At the end of the day, a job is a job. Work can’t, and shouldn’t, meet all of our social and emotional needs.
This generation of companies needs to realize that allowing their teammates to have more flexibility and a life-work balance, as we call it internally (instead of the other way around), is the new priority. With more time for family, friends, and outside hobbies, workers are happier in their lives, and thus happier and more productive while performing their work duties.
Remote work is changing where and how we work, but it’s also changing our relationship with work, and that is a good thing.