If bosses thought “quiet quitting” and “bare-minimum Mondays” were bad, then they will hate the trend experts predict will take over workplaces this year.
In 2023, we saw numerous work trends gain popularity as younger employees looked to embrace a better work-life balance and reject hustle culture and the toxic “work hard, play hard” mentality spouted by older generations.
Employers who have been banking on these trends losing steam could be in for a rude shock, with experts warning they could be at risk of a mass staff exodus if they don’t change their perspective in 2024.
Covid and widespread lockdowns ushered in a new era of working from home. Flexible working expectations are now heavily ingrained in the Australian workforce.
Employees now know they can work remotely either full time or part time and still get their work done while achieving a better work-life balance.
Despite this, an increasing number of industry leaders and CEOs have been pushing for remote workers to return to the office, sparking pushback from employees.
This power struggle between bosses and workers has experts warning a “flexidus” could be on the cards.
The term combines the phrases flexible work and exodus. Bosses are being warned they could see a huge number of workers leaving a job rather than give up their remote working arrangements.
Employment Hero CEO and co-founder Ben Thompson told news.com.au calls for flexible work will likely become louder this year in response to more companies trying to force people back into the office.
“It seems an increasing number of employees are now leaving jobs that don’t offer the flexibility they’ve become accustomed to, and as revealed in a recent study from RMIT, a potential mass ‘flexidus’ is approaching,” he said.
“The expectations of Australian workers have changed. Many employers may have to adapt their strategies to accommodate these changing needs.”
Mr Thompson said implementing effective flexible work policies that supporting employee wellbeing while also maintaining a strong company culture will be key to keeping staff.
He warned managers who disregard flexibility should be prepared to see negative impacts on productivity, team dynamics and compliance.
“The flexidus represents a wake-up call for businesses to consider how they can get the best from their employees, all while serving their needs,” he said.
“Embracing flexibility and supporting employees is an opportunity to foster greater engagement, satisfaction and drive business success.”
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RMIT Australia University senior lecturer in business administration, Melissa Wheeler, agreed, saying many Aussie workers won’t be willing to be forced back into pre-Covid working conditions and commutes.
“Poor relationships between employers and employees have likely developed through a disconnect between preferences, needs, and expectations – both feel exploited and taken advantage of,” she said.
Dr Wheeler said employees who demonstrated their capacity to work remotely and deliver when lockdowns and travel restrictions were mandated said they had a better work-life balance, less time commuting, and more physical activity.
On the flip side, there were worries from employers about the dissipation of their old work culture, drops in innovation from not having people physically in the same room and less bonding between co-workers.
“For many, work has become less important, and they prefer to focus more time on their personal life than appeasing their employer,” she said.
“Trends like quiet quitting are symptoms of a gap in respect between both employee and employer, and something must be done to restore trust from employers, and protection and fulfilment for employees.”
Aussies bust flexible work misconceptions
Employment Hero employee Maddie hit back at the idea that workers who want flexible work arrangements are “lazy” or want to “avoid working”. She said they want a better quality of life and to balance their career with their life goals.
Her company’s “remote-first” approach allows her to relocate to London without having to find new work.
“The decision to relocate was driven by my passion to travel and experience a new city and culture. Employment Hero’s unique remote-working landscape played a crucial role in making this decision a no-brainer, allowing me to blend my love for travel with my commitment to professional growth and development,” she said.
Maddie said the benefits of being able to relocate while still working have been “transformative” and provided her with a safety net that made the move far less daunting.
“Since the move to London, my work/life balance has significantly improved. It’s allowed me to follow a work routine that aligns with my personal interests and empowers me to be more productive,” she said.
“It’s given me the freedom to explore while not being constrained to a traditional office set-up and instead, choosing my preferred environment or city resulting in a more fulfilling lifestyle.”
Another Employment Hero employee who chose to make the most of the company’s flexible work policy by packing up and moving overseas is Georgie Lambert.
“I would confidently claim that I have an incredible work-life balance. Working remotely from home, I truly can squeeze so much into my day – from a morning coffee catch-up with my housemates before kicking off my work day to a walk through the common at lunch or popping into my local gym,” she said.
“Beyond the day-to-day, I have the opportunity to work from elsewhere, taking my laptop with me and working truly remotely from culturally rich pockets of the UK and Europe.”