The Great Technology Resignation of 2020 (GTTR2020) is a phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. In the past, we have seen many employees dissatisfied with their company’s technology and submitting their resignations, but this time it is different. We see a higher number of resignations than ever before, and those resignations are due to the same reason: Covid-19.
As the pandemic continues to spread across the United States, companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft realize that they cannot meet the demand for workers in their physical location while keeping their workers safe. Consequently, they have decided to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.
The problem is that some companies have not been able to keep up with the growing demand for remote workers. They are not equipped with the right technology or resources for remote work. This has led many employees to resign from their positions because they do not want to jeopardize their health by working in an unhealthy work environment.
Of course, some might argue that GTTR2020 is nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled employees taking advantage of a bad situation to get what they want from their employer, but we would argue that this is not true at all.
It’s been said that history repeats itself, and never has that been more true than in the past two years.
We’ve just seen a wave of resignations in the tech industry as people adjust to new economic realities and look for work elsewhere. It’s a trend that has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.”
But how did we get here? And what meaning can we draw from this phenomenon?
The “Great Resignation,” a term coined by economists Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane in their 2004 book The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market, refers to a widespread resignation among U.S. workers to income stagnation and job loss after 1980.
What do we make of today’s technology professionals, then? They certainly don’t appear resigned to the state of affairs, nor do they seem likely to be a part of a “great restructuring” in which they are replaced by robots. If anything, they are driving that restructuring themselves.
The parallels between these two events are striking—and serve as inspiration for this post.
How did things change so fast?
COVID was the spark, though technology had been paving the way for more worker flexibility for some time. It seemed that companies were split into two categories: those that treated remote work as a privilege and those that treated it as an inevitability. The former group was more likely to revert back to in-person work once the pandemic was over.
But what’s the difference between remote work as a privilege and remote work as an inevitability?
It starts with how managers treat their teams. A manager who thinks of remote work as a privilege is constantly evaluating productivity based on metrics such as Slack messages sent and emails replied to on a per-hour or per-day basis, rather than whether or not employees are hitting their goals.
That manager will also use remote time as a threat when employees don’t meet productivity metrics: “If you keep answering emails at this rate, I’ll have to give you more time to work remotely.” This type of management is essentially treating remote workers like they’re children who have to be constantly monitored—which tends to backfire, since it makes employees feel less trusted and less motivated.
A manager who sees remote work as inevitable will treat it not like a privilege but a fact of life.
In fact, the idea of working from home has been around for over a century, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that we embraced it at a large scale. A 2020 survey by Gartner found that 74% of companies plan to allow employees to work at least some of the time remotely after the pandemic ends.
A study by Upwork found that 41% of Americans started working remotely in 2020, and even more—58%—predict that they will work at least some of the time remotely in 2021. Forbes reports that an estimated 1 in 10 U.S. workers transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, and most say they want to keep doing so.
For decades, working from home was a romanticized idea. People dreamed of having the freedom to work in their pajamas, or not having to deal with the hassle of driving to the office. But until recently, very few people were able to make that dream a reality.
In part because it was hard for companies to trust their employees enough to let them work outside of an office environment. How could they be sure that workers would stay on task and not take advantage of the system?
The pandemic has been a game-changer. It forced most companies that had never considered remote work before to embrace it as a necessity. And as you know, necessity is the mother of invention!
Are technology workers part of the “great resignation” that Paul Ryan evoked when he announced his retirement or something more akin to the “great restructuring” that Naomi Klein describes? From our perspective, it’s clear: It’s both.
These terms are used to describe the increasing number of tech workers who are leaving their jobs, as well as the more recent trend of companies restructuring their workforce in order to adapt to changing demands of an increasingly automated world.
Consider when tech leaders like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have made headlines by renouncing their own work. Musk described his involvement with Facebook as “time well spent” but said that he had a “complicated relationship with social media. It is a double-edged sword. If you’re using it to promote your company, it is definitely useful, but if you’re using it for other purposes, then it could be bad at times.”
Technology workers around the country are embracing a new hybrid work model, and it’s affecting more than just their commute.
The ability to work from home full-time has led many workers to make decisions about their living space that they would never have made before. They’re moving closer to nature and further away from big cities, choosing to live in rural areas where they can enjoy the peace of the country while still being able to easily drive into the city or hop on a train when necessary.
But this industry shift is also leading many people—especially those who are working in big cities—to spend more time in cities than they used to. By not having to spend all day there—and sometimes not even half the day there—people are finding themselves free to enjoy the entertainment, culture, and diversity that those cities offer.
Some employees feel more productive since they can focus on individual tasks rather than being distracted by co-workers. In contrast, others feel that they aren’t getting enough feedback from their bosses or teammates because they’re not in the office together. Some workers find that they’re able to be more efficient by having all of their work tools and resources at home, while others are arguing that this is all a temporary fix and that soon, we will all go back to working in offices.
However, hybrid work models aren’t necessarily about where an employee does their work, but about how their work is structured.
Some companies have found success giving employees weekly blocks of time to focus on individual tasks, as well as setting up regular times for group projects and collaboration. While others have created more fluid structures with less rigid requirements when it comes to time spent in the office.
Yet, the traditional office isn’t always the most effective or efficient place to get stuff done—especially when you consider that 70% are working from home at least one day per week and spending almost 4 hours a week commuting, according to Gallup. In addition, 63% of high-growth companies already use a hybrid work arrangement.
Is remote work here to stay?
Just two years ago, the idea was pretty far-fetched. But thanks to the pandemic, the entire world has had a chance to try out working from home, and—as it turns out—it might be here to stay.
In a study conducted by IBM, over 75% of respondents said they wanted to continue working remotely at least part of the time. But overall, it’s a surprise that so many people would like to keep working from home after things go back to normal.
The main reason for this shift in preference is a simple one: Having more time with family or hobbies. After all, when you only have to commute from the bedroom to your desk (or wherever your designated workspace is), you can use that extra time however you’d like. And who doesn’t want more time in their day?
But most people also said they were getting more done while at home than they did before the pandemic started. Workers who specialize in front-end development, UI/UX design, and data science/engineering have experienced job growth since COVID-19 started. The tech workforce has grown by 13% in the past year. Also, roles that do not require a traditional office environment have remained relatively stable.
The pandemic has affected all industries in many different ways. This is especially true for the technology industry. Before the pandemic, most people thought of tech professionals as people who worked in offices and on computers. However, this is no longer the case.
Thousands of technology companies have forced their employees to work from home since the pandemic began. This has resulted in a huge change in the way we view tech workers. Now, many people think of them as home-based workers who spend most of their time on their phones and computers. These changes are reflected in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
According to BLS data, there were more than 1 million tech jobs in 2019. However, there are now around 2 million tech jobs today due to an increase in remote work during COVID-19.
This is just one example of how the workforce has changed since the pandemic began. Some other things we’ve noticed include:
Increased demand for collaboration software –With many working remotely, platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Microsoft Teams have become commonplace. These platforms allow teams to collaborate with their peers and hold meetings with clients. In addition, these platforms allow technology workers to feel more connected even though they’re not in the office together.
Increased demand for cybersecurity – With so many people working from home, there’s been an increase in cyberattacks against businesses. This has led to an increased demand for cybersecurity experts as more companies try to protect themselves from these threats.
Increased demand for AI – The pandemic has sped up the shift to automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
Still, there are some tech services jobs that have been lost. For instance, tech companies that sell products and services to restaurants and small businesses that have had to shutter have also seen a drop in sales and are laying off workers.
For example, DoorDash—a food delivery app—announced in May 2020 that it would lay off about 10% of its workforce because of decreased demand from restaurants and customers. Another food delivery app, Grubhub, has laid off hundreds of employees as well. Meanwhile, Airbnb has reportedly laid off 25% of its staff amid declining demand from travelers.
Remote work is here to stay. The pandemic may have expedited its adoption, but the benefits of remote work to the company and employees alike made it inevitable. By 2021, 46% of the workforce was already working remotely at least part-time, and that number has only increased since.
The pros for employees are obvious: lower costs of living, no commute time, less stress from commuting or dealing with office politics, more time to spend with family or do things they care about. The pros for companies are less obvious but just as important: Increased productivity due to reduced stress, access to a larger pool of talent regardless of location, reduced overhead costs due to less office space needed and increased ability to retain top talent that would otherwise be lost due to relocation or other circumstances.
Remote work is here to stay. But how will your company adapt?
For many businesses, remote working is the new normal. Even as business owners and employees alike are craving a return to “business as usual,” it’s unlikely that this will be the case anytime soon. But have no fear!
In our next two posts, we will discuss how to implement remote working and decentralization strategies within your organization.
Here are some questions we’ll be answering:
- How do you find the right recruits for your decentralized workforce?
- How do you train them?
- How do you measure success?
- What tools can help you achieve these goals?
These topics are crucial to keeping your business running efficiently, no matter what the world throws at you.