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Pandemic Gives Employees Leverage with Bosses Starving for Workers

From telling their bosses they want to work remotely to flat-out quitting their jobs, employees are exercising their leverage to demand a workplace that better suits their lifestyle.

work from home man 1866784 640The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shutdown that forced staff to work from home have embolden employees and seems to be reshaping the workplace post-pandemic. Many white-collar employees have told their bosses that they don’t want to come back to the office full-time and have spurred some to search out other employers who will listen to them, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Many employers have also promised returning workers that they will be able to work remotely for most of the workweek and, according to recruiters, this comes as the U.S. is seeing a huge amount of employees quitting their jobs. Carrie Blair, chief human resources officer for insurance company Allstate, says it has had to reconsider their workplace protocol.

“Why can’t this be done remotely?” Blair says, noting this is the first question she hears for every new job. “It’s a big workforce shift for us.”

For Allstate, that shift means it will see very few of its employees coming back to its offices full-time, Blair says, after workers told the company in a survey that they were ready for a change. Allstate has determined that three-quarters of positions can be done outside the office and 24% can be a split between home and office. The remaining 1% who will report back to the office full-time are leading executives and certain field office employers who have big in-person customer engagement roles.

Job-search site Ladders is finding that more flexibility is a desired perk that savvy employers can capitalize on in trying to woo top talent, its founder and chief executive Marc Cenedella says. The site targets jobs that pay more than $100,000 annually. “Remote is going to be the new signing bonus,” Cenedella says. “Instead of dangling, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 if you sign for this job,’ it’ll be: ‘Instead of having to commute 35 minutes every day, go to work, and get in your car and drive 35 minutes home, you can work from your home office all the time.’ ”

The U.S. Labor Department notes that nearly four million Americans walked away from their jobs in April, which is the highest number recorded since the DOL began tracking turnover in 2000, CNBC reports. Wanting better pay, maintaining a remote working arrangement that started during the pandemic and just dissatisfaction and being burned out were some of the reasons workers quit their old jobs.

The immediate satisfaction that comes from quitting your job, however, may not be long-lasting, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology and vice chair at the University of California, Riverside. “We focus on the immediate change and how it will make us feels but not what will happen a month later,” Lyubomirsky notes. She has studied happiness for 30+ years. “When we think of, ‘Oh the day I quit, it’s going to be so amazing,” Lyubomirsky says. “I don’t have to deal with that boss anymore or that work anymore, it is amazing.’”

Annie McKee, a senior fellow and director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education Penn CLO Executive Doctoral Program, says it is crucial for people to understand what is making them unhappy about the job they want to leave. “You also need to know what you want and what you’d like to find in this new chapter of your life,” McKee says.

“So it’s really not a question of, ‘Can you be happy when you quit your job?’ You definitely can,” she says. “Rather it’s more of a question of: What are you leaving? What do you no longer want in your work life? And more importantly, what do you want?”

More than 700,000 white-collar workers left their jobs in April, the highest number in any month, The Atlantic reports, with many who experienced burnout during the pandemic saying they will only stay on if changes are made. Workers on the lower-end of the wage scale also are making demands. “Lower-wage workers who benefited from enhanced unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic may have returned to the job and realized they’re not being paid enough,” The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson writes. “Now they’re putting their foot down, forcing restaurants and clothing stores to fork over a higher wage to keep people on staff.”

A recent survey by Blind, a professional networking firm, found that 64% of the 3,000 U.S. workers polled would opt for a permanent work-from-home situation rather than a $30,000 pay hike, Human Resource Executive reports. Employees polled were from companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

Airbnb, Lyft and Twitter realized the largest percentages with 71%, 81% and 89%, respectively, preferring to work from home, while 100% of Zillow Group workers said the same. In all, about 45 companies were part of the survey and employees from only two companies, JPMorgan Chase and Qualcomm, favored the raise over work-at-home by 53% and 58%, respectively.

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