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The Great Resignation

I wish I could push a giant reset button and we could all pause and catch our breath. Almost everyone I speak to, whether a leader or a staff member shares the same challenge – not enough time to get everything done. Since there’s not a magic button to push, our only solution seems to be to change either what we’re doing or how we’re doing it.

Many seem to be choosing to change what they’re doing. The “Great Resignation” is well under way, and it is estimated that over 2/3rds of all workers in the U.S. are looking for new jobs and tens of millions have already quit their jobs. One in four have voluntarily resigned in 2021 so far and that number is expected to increase by the end of the year. Similar trends are occurring across the globe and the worldwide nature of the pandemic is a major reason so many are quitting at once. According to Brooks Holtom, a professor of management and senior associate dean at Georgetown University, “Most people don’t evaluate their job satisfaction every one of 365 days in a year. Those shocks usually happen idiosyncratically for people. But with the pandemic, it’s happened en masse.”

One of the top reasons for this shift is the seemingly endless struggle with time and the impact that has on work/life balance. According to the Beamery Talent Index, the pandemic gave some employees a taste of an improved work-life balance thanks to remote working, and they don't want to give it up. More than a third of respondents in the poll believed their work-life balance was better during the pandemic, while 42% want flexible working to continue as they return to the office.

We’ve done many workshops on work/life balance, or work/life harmony as I call it, since you can’t really ever have a perfect balance. A few participants believe they have to do everything they’re doing, the way they’re doing it, but for the majority of us, the problem seems to be too many priorities. And while working parents and those taking care of family members definitely have challenges that employers may not be empathetic to, for many of us, we simply over-extend ourselves which ultimately leads to burn-out.

With clients who feel their lives are out of balance, I always recommend that they start with their values. What’s the most important thing to you in life? What’s the second most important? The third? Start with those and compare what you’re doing with how it aligns with those values. If it doesn’t align with your values, consider why you’re doing it or if there are any adjustments that could be made to ease some pressure.

I’ve had clients tell me that their work is so demanding, they can’t get to anything else. That could be true, but again, I would spend some time reflecting on values. If you value your work or money as your top priority, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working all of the time if it’s bringing you pleasure. But I’m assuming that’s not really the case or I wouldn’t be asked about balancing things out.

I was certainly in that position earlier in life. Working 80 hours a week, worrying about work when I wasn’t there, running ragged getting kids where they had to be, assisting extended family, volunteering at church and working on my degree was pretty miserable because I was stressed out all of the time. I absolutely felt like I didn’t have a choice and frankly, at one point I didn’t, because I had obligated myself to my company, my church, my family and more, plus invested the money in school, so I got myself into quite the mess.

Notice that I said I got myself into that mess. No one can set 8 or 10 top priorities and not expect to be stretched thin. Once I realized I had done this to myself, I started evaluating my values. A lot of what I was doing back then was people-pleasing. Not everyone worked 80 hours a week in my company even though it was a demanding environment. There were lots of other people who could teach Sunday school at church. Other than my grandparents who really needed assistance, most of my family members could figure things out on their own or get help from someone else. I started slashing and burning my to-do list.

Before you walk off your current job, you may want to take all of this into consideration, because if you’re creating your problem, you’re going to take it along with you into a new job. And if you’ve decided working remotely is your new future, work/life balance is a skill that needs to be honed so that you don’t burnout from the blur between the two.

In light of all of this, I thought instead of talking to an expert in mindfulness or industrial/organizational psychology, it might be beneficial to talk to someone with experience in successfully working from home. Phil Strazzulla is an entrepreneur and the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and recruiting teams find the right software for their needs. Phil started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School.

We can all take some time to revisit our values, goals and priorities, which shift over time. By focusing on our values, we can better ensure that we’re in alignment with what we’re pursuing in our careers. We can definitely avoid getting to the burnout stage at work and instead, avoid over-committing, people pleasing and running ourselves ragged in the first place. If you’re juggling too many balls in the air at once, you’re setting yourself up for fatigue, burnout or illness and you’re probably not feeling too happy. Why not try scaling back a bit where you can and pay attention to the difference in how you feel? If you’re already over-committed, make a list of those commitments and identify when you can responsibly drop any.

If you’re considering joining the Great Resignation, make sure you’ve cleaned your internal house before you make the leap so you don’t take any bad habits with you. You might also consider talking to your current supervisor about possible changes in your schedule or work location to see if there are opportunities available where you already work, saving your benefits and accrued perks in the process.

For all of the negatives of the pandemic, there are also positives, including the opportunity to reflect on how we want to spend our time and energy, what our career goals are and if they’re in alignment with what makes us feel fulfilled or satisfied, and what we want our work/life balance to look like going forward. Millions of people seem to have done just that and we’re seeing the results in this Great Resignation.

If you’re joining this unprecedented trend because your workplace is toxic, you’re being underpaid or because you want to change industries to better utilize your skills, a few of the most common reasons other than work/life balance that people are switching, then by all means take some time to celebrate honoring yourself.

We’re definitely in a period of significant transition and that can cause stress. But if we remain mindful, we can make the best decisions possible to enhance our wellness, our sense of purpose, and our futures, while doing so in a thoughtful and calm manner. When feeling stressed, we can also remember that there is positive stress, which motivates us to take action and that’s definitely a plus. We can deal with negative stress through mindfulness and meditation. We can weather another great change as our societies continue to shift and adjust because we’ve had lots of practice. And we can be compassionate with ourselves as we face more uncertainty. Just don’t forget to breathe.

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