Image credits: Steve Buissinne, Pixabay

How Can Companies Face Employee Desertion?

By Andrea Villar | Wed, 07/07/2021 - 05:00

Thousands of workers are slowly migrating back to the office as the pandemic winds down. In Mexico, vaccination plans are advancing and some states have started to lift restrictions, which prompted companies to ask their employees to return. Instead of the expected reunion, however, some employees are deciding to quit. 

Called 'The Great Resignation' by many economists, this wave of workers leaving or preparing to change jobs is driven by a number of factors that have been building up since the pandemic hit. According to a study conducted by HR software company Personio, for some workers, the decision to resign and change jobs came as a result of their relationship with employers during the pandemic. Many companies with a bad environment scaled up decisions that were not supportive of workers, including layoffs. Those who survived the layoffs only found that they were working in unsupportive environments, showed a Stanford study published in mid-June.

A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers showed that 41 percent of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year due to non-flexible labor policies. In Mexico alone, three out of four employers in the country will require at least 50 percent of their workforce to go to the office full time or most of the time, given the type of roles they perform, reports specialist human capital consultancy ManpowerGroup. According to the survey, after health problems, workers' main concern is going back to how things were, meaning losing their newfound flexibility and being tied to a five-day on-site workdays plan. Results show that eight out of 10 workers in Mexico seek a better life-career balance in the future.

A Foregone Conclusion?

While workers have always been mindful about the environment in which they work, the pandemic brought a new perspective: employees now expect more from companies, Chief Strategy Officer of research firm JUST Capital Alison Omens told the BBC. How an employee measures the way they are treated by employers considers several variables, including wages, benefits and security, career development opportunities and commitment to equity in the workplace. “If you are worried about your kids, about your health, financial insecurity and covering your bills, plus all the things that come with being human, you are less likely to be productive. We were all worried about those things,” Omens pointed out. 

In late March 2020, entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban warned companies against forcing employees to return to work too early in an interview with CNBC. “How companies respond to that very question is going to define their brand for decades. If you rushed in and somebody got sick, you were that company. If you did not take care of your employees or stakeholders nor put them first, you were that company.” He added that for many employees, “that is going to be unforgivable.”

In June, following Apple CEO Tim Cook’s email announcing employees’ return to the offices three days a week starting in early September, a group of employees wrote an internal letter to executive leadership teams requesting support in continuing to work remotely or in location-flexible ways. Employees said many of them have successfully worked outside the office and urged Apple’s upper management to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for everyone. They also mentioned that the current policy and the communication around it had already led some Apple employees to quit.

“Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being and being empowered to do our best work or being a part of Apple,” the letter stated. “This is a decision none of us make lightly and a decision many would prefer not to make.” The letter, signed by about 80 employees, also mentioned that Apple’s workforce has felt “not only unheard but sometimes actively ignored” over the past year when it comes to communication between the company and its staff about remote working.

Other tech companies including Uber have also struggled to find the perfect balance between company and employee needs. In late June, less than three months after announcing that employees would have to return to the office at least three days a week, the ride-hailing company changed its mind. Chief People Officer Nikki Krishnamurthy said in a blog post the company will give its workers the option to apply for a fully remote job or to choose from a list of positions tied to a pre-pandemic site, asking them to spend at least 50 percent of their time there. In an interview with CNN this year, Krishnamurthy said Uber was willing to give up some of the advantages of remote working in an effort to attract talent from across the country to not “give up its magic.”

Hybrid: Most Suitable Approach

With companies unwilling to adopt a hybrid work system and others choosing to remain fully remote, CEO of iOS Offices Javier García says that “one extreme can be as detrimental as the other.” “Humans need face-to-face interaction. Most of all, certain aspects of the workplace are only great when you collaborate with another face to face. A stiff system at either end can hinder a company's productivity,” he told MBN. “CEOs will have to be great managers, even if hybrid work is not their prime choice. There will be managers very much in favor of purely remote working, which will be much more challenging for the company,” García notes.  

The benefits of working face-to-face are clear to García, as this kind of interaction not only requires less time but generates better results. “When people gather under the same roof, in addition to official agenda items, parallel fundamental issues are touched on in the corridor or in casual meetings, which significantly enhances collaboration. That casual, social and human touch can never be replaced by telecommunications. Human connections are the engine of true collaboration, resulting in better team and company performance and productivity.” Companies have always vied for the best talent. Now, “talent chooses the best employer,” added García.

Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst