It started with the Great Resignation. In 2021, over 74 million Americans quit their jobs in search of something new. Many wanted better pay. Others wanted more flexibility and the freedom to work from home. Some were weary of their company’s culture and wanted a change. Whatever the reason, the shift was massive.
Most media outlets assumed that people simply wanted more from their employers. For a while, this appeared to be true. But there’s a second, perhaps more fundamental, shift making its way through the workforce. It’s not just about the workplace anymore but a person’s life as a whole.
Welcome to the Great Revaluation.
People Are Tired of Hustle Culture
For many years, employees were motivated by the promise of more. Hard work was rewarded with bigger paychecks, fancier offices, and more panache. Ambition was the greatest virtue of all. If you hustled hard enough, you could retire wealthy, with all the time and resources you want to pursue what makes you happy — after you had put in your work.
Then the pandemic swept across the globe, dramatically altering everyone’s day-to-day lives. Those early days, weeks, and months were defined by fear, anger, and grief. We reached desperately for any shred of joy and comfort we could find.
Then something unexpected happened: We discovered small, meaningful pockets of joy. Those long hours at home gave people space to pursue their creative hobbies, discover new pastimes, and enjoy simple pleasures. Even amidst the hard days and the overwhelming emotions, we got a taste of what it could be like to pursue what makes us happy now.
It is tempting to categorize this shift as the latest flash-in-the-plan development in the quest for work/life balance, but people aren’t just calling for tweaks to the current system — they are walking away from “hustle culture” entirely.
High-profile leaders are stepping down, citing burnout, stress, and a desire for more fulfilling pursuits. The siren song of a fat paycheck, an illustrious title, and a corner office is growing dimmer. In the words of one young worker, “Now I’d actually rather go and watch the sunset.” Many are happy with a more reasonable salary in exchange for extra time to be with their family and friends, play around with hobbies, and simply rest. The age of ambition may be fading away.
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How Employers Are Responding to the Great Revaluation
While the Great Revaluation may feel like a young movement, its roots go back several years. Workers of all ages were tiring of this culture of ambition well before 2020. The pandemic simply brought these existing feelings to the surface — and then accelerated them.
Now there’s a third movement stirring: The Great Regret. About one-third of people who recently quit their jobs have admitted to feeling regret over their choice. Developing complementary strategies for dealing with the Great Resignation, the Great Revaluation, and the Great Regret can feel incredibly overwhelming. But some companies have made fairly drastic changes to their operations — and they are seeing positive results.
Siemens announced that it would begin allowing total location flexibility for its employees for two or three days every week. Many others followed suit. Spotify made the decision to allow its employees to work from virtually anywhere and reported “lower turnover compared to pre-pandemic levels and increased diverse representation” as a result.
Before the pandemic, that type of flexibility was considered a luxury. Now it’s rapidly becoming a table-stakes expectation, especially among young workers. Seventy-five percent of employees between the ages of 18 and 38 prefer remote or hybrid work. However, there is a disparity between what young workers want and what their leaders think they want: 58% of leaders believe that their younger employees do want to be in the office most of the time. The long-term outcome of these conflicting viewpoints is yet to be seen.
Central Themes of the Great Revaluation
Understanding the key themes of this change may be beneficial to leaders seeking to hire younger talent:
- Flexibility and good pay are no longer perks. They are expectations. A majority of young workers, 75%, want the option to work remotely. And survey data shows that Gen Z has much higher salary expectations than their predecessors. With so many major employers offering competitive salaries, flexible work policies, and other dramatic changes, younger workers have more and more options that meet their expectations. They are simply unwilling to settle for a job whose requirements they deem too rigid.
- Young people tend to be critical of capitalism. The Washington Post reported back in 2016 that many Millennials hold a negative view toward capitalism. Gen Z is following closely in their footsteps. In other words, the traditional values of capitalism — wealth accumulation, competition, and consumerism — are far less meaningful and motivating to up-and-coming generations.
- Young workers want to be seen and valued as whole people, not just workers. According to one recruiter, younger generations do not “want to work 60 hours a week like their parents and grandparents did … I’m just hearing a lot of people who need to be valued.” This demographic is looking for employers who support their whole selves, not just their workplace capacity. That may include the flexibility and freedom to pursue other interests, such as creative hobbies, travel, and time spent with loved ones.
Are we in the middle of this shift, or is it just beginning? That remains to be seen. But a meaningful change is occurring in the American workforce, one that may have a lasting impact on how we think about work. Balance may not be enough anymore. Employees want more life.