As the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on over the past 16 months, Vanessa Staniforth experienced both burnout and career stagnation in her job.
“I started to feel stuck,” said the 30-year-old Ottawa-based software developer. “There weren’t many opportunities to step out of daily work to expand skills. I had to commit to learning new skills outside of work to satisfy that desire and gain the confidence to even apply for other positions.”
Staniforth, who left her job in April to start a career in a new industry, says she believes the pandemic gave many people a chance to reflect on their work life.
“People are asking themselves: ‘Is this really where I want to be? Is this the right direction for me?’” she said.
Her experience is part of a phenomenon being dubbed the Great Resignation, a wave of workers in Canada and the U.S. who are leaving their jobs, and younger Canadians are contributing to the trend.
According to a recent survey in Canada from global staffing firm Robert Half, 33 per cent of employed generation Z and millennial professionals polled reported plans to pursue a new job. The survey revealed that gen Z mostly wants a change so they can earn a higher salary (40 per cent) while millennials are struggling with low morale (31 per cent).
Staniforth’s former employer was in talks to bring employees back to the office eventually, either full time or with a hybrid work model, but her preference was to remain working from home. She was also looking for a company that could maintain a good company culture for remote workers.
What stood out to Staniforth about her new employer, aside from a fully remote work environment, was that the company promotes diversity and inclusion, offers continuous learning opportunities, celebrates and recognizes good work and encourages rest among its employees.
The position also offered other perks, including a higher salary, flexible time off, restricted stock units, a generous yearly “lifestyle” spending allowance and supplemented parental leave.
Yiorgos Boudouris, a self-employed career coach and head of recruitment at Toronto-based software company Forma AI, said he is constantly having conversations with young professionals who are anxious about their employers’ return-to-office policies.
“I think the pressure is building for folks in that they’re wondering, ‘What will things look like for me and my role once life moves back into some form of normalcy?’” Boudouris said.
With the rise of remote work, many people are also quitting right now because they have the option to work for companies that they never thought possible, Boudouris added. As a result, employers are feeling the pressure to retain employees.
“Employers are going to have to be accommodating to employee needs. That’s why I think if you’re employed right now and there might be some things that you hope to see evolve in your workplace, that accommodation factor might be greater because it’s going to be really hard to find replacements for all the folks who have thoughts about leaving. That retention piece is where I think employees have a lot of power,” he said.
Boudouris’ advice for young professionals is to remind employers about the level of impact that they’ve had and will continue to have on the organization, and explain how certain incremental changes, such as introducing hybrid work options, flexible paid time off, flexible working hours, and employee-directed budgets that support learning and growth, will make them perform even better in their role.
That said, it’s not always worth asking for a change if you’re ready to go.
“When you wake up in the morning, is there a level of enthusiasm for starting your work? And, when you close your laptop that night, do you look back at the day and think it was a good day, or do you think you misplaced your time?” Boudouris said.
“If you’re answering those questions and it’s not looking like you’re deriving satisfaction for what you’ve done that day, then I think it probably tells you that either working for that organization or doing the type of work that you’re doing isn’t what you should be spending your time on.”
Leah Golob, The Canadian Press