Answering emails on a Sunday.
Staying in the office past 8 pm.
Missing loved ones’ events to attend “important” meetings.
Working longer hours to prepare for a vacation (and returning to an overflowing inbox).
Your employees might have been doing this, no questions asked, before their mindset shifted during and post-pandemic. They might have been willing to go the extra mile, even if that meant sacrificing their well-being and their families.
However, after years of intermittent lockdowns, health crises, and remote work, employees are reshuffling their priorities from wealth to wellness acquisition. They are reassessing their personal and professional lives, questioning what work looks like, and redefining their values.
Perhaps they let that email sit until Monday.
Maybe they stop work at 5 pm, even if they haven’t finished everything.
They may reschedule meetings to attend their kid’s recital.
And they might set clear boundaries around their time off.
This workforce change may respond to a profound desire to protect what truly matters: health, family, and building a life worth living.
As leaders, you must face this inevitable and ongoing transformation, reflect on why it’s happening, and support your employees by making work more human. Your actions may aid their welfare and your capacity to retain talent.
How the Workforce Mindset Shift Started
This revolution had a long time coming.
Before COVID-19 turned our world upside down, workplaces faced numerous challenges: leaders who rewarded overperformers and perpetuated burnout, controlling bosses who micromanaged employees, toxic work environments, disconnected and underappreciated teams, the tendency to prioritize technology vs. human capital, and more.
When the pandemic hit, mindful leaders surfed the waves and stayed resilient. Yet, reactive leaders resorted to impulsivity and misaligned choices that made matters worse for their organizations and people.
Companies switched to remote work. And toward the end of 2021, Statistics Canada estimated that 39% of Canadian jobs could be done from home. While this work model brought valuable benefits (same or more productivity, flexibility), some employees encountered further hardship (lack of interaction with colleagues, juggling childcare, inadequate workspaces).
The brewing workplace crisis, COVID-19 implications, workers’ strained mental health, and the telework era drastically impacted employee experience. They motivated people to take a hard look at their reality.
All the money in the world may not suffice when your health, quality of life, and family are at risk.
Employees Are Redefining What Matters
What’s the meaning of work?
Am I fulfilling my purpose at my job?
Is it worth it to overwork at the expense of my well-being?
Employees started asking these questions, looking to reassess their version of success.
For many, the focal point moved from their paychecks to their wellness. While fair compensation remains essential, they want to reinvent when, where, and how they work. They want freedom, ownership of their choices, and improved health to reclaim their lives.
Some have changed jobs or started business ventures. Others are “quiet quitting,” the new Gen Z buzzword for only performing the minimum work required.
Robert Half’s Job Optimism Survey of 500+ Canadian workers shows that 31% of participants were looking or planning to look for a new job in the second half of 2022. While a salary boost and greater opportunities were the main reasons, more than half were seeking hybrid or fully remote positions.
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey agrees, stating that “the number of Canadians who are considering a job change is on the rise.” In August 2022, more than 1 in 10 permanent employees (11.9%) were planning to leave their jobs within the next 12 months, almost double the level in January 2022 (6.4%). Salary and benefits seemed to be top attributes as well, yet workplace health and safety, autonomy, enriching work, flex schedule and work location were also featured.
This is the time to not only attract talent that may be looking for better options but to uplift and retain the talent you already have.
How Can Leaders Navigate the Workforce Mindset Shift and Support Their Teams?
Before taking clear actions to support workers along this transition, you must shift your leadership mindset. Stop looking at your employees as replaceable labourers but as the lifeblood of your company. Put them first.
Instead of blaming your workforce for disengaging, quiet quitting, or resigning, ask yourself why this is happening. Is it about low compensation or burnout? Is it a response to your workplace culture? Or is there something else at play?
With that in mind, here are some steps to care for your employees during this process:
Reconnect With Your Team
Schedule ongoing conversations and safe spaces for reflection and feedback. Connect with your team to understand who they are, their values, and their needs.
Bring elements of mindfulness into the workplace to strengthen this effort:
- Have mindful discussions — Stay present and listen with intention
- Be compassionate — Put yourself in your employees’ shoes and empathize with their situations (e.g., health concerns, family issues)
- Practice gratitude — Show them your appreciation for their contributions
Adapt + Reinvent
Based on your team’s insight, find creative ways to adapt and reinvent your work models, workflows, and tools. Use technology as a resource without relying 100% on it.
For example, if they struggle to prioritize tasks remotely, implement software or improve your project management system to provide clear deadlines.
Offer Options + Growth Resources
Your employees are complex human beings with full lives outside of work, so a blanket approach may not help them. Create customized employee plans, providing options, accommodations, and resources to meet their needs.
Explore a hybrid approach (part in-person, part remote), flex schedules, compressed work weeks, unlimited vacation days, part-time positions, or changing roles. You can also offer training and education to develop their career and personal interests (e.g., tuition, certifications, courses, workshops).
The key is to find a balance between job requirements, opportunities for growth, and flexibility, where employees feel satisfied, valued, and motivated to excel.
Design a Supportive Exit Strategy
Leaving a job or a company is never easy. Supporting your workforce throughout this shift also means helping them transition within or outside your organization when the time comes.
Have an exit strategy in place, including HR assistance, exit interviews, referrals, letters of recommendation, and CV reviews.
Collaborate with them to determine their next step and connect them with other leaders and possibilities in their field. Don’t think of this as a “betrayal,” but as them moving on to new heights.
Remember: People Are Your Company
Healthier and happier employees may be more likely to stay and help you succeed, especially now that they are focusing on their wellness.
They do not work for you but with you. As a leader, you are responsible for supporting their well-being, fulfilling their needs, and fostering a culture where they can thrive.
Need Help Surfing This Transition?
If you need guidance on navigating this workforce shift or want to bolster your workplace wellness program, we can help.
Senses Mindfulness Coaching offers 1-1 leadership coaching and team coaching to build mindful organizations.
Book a complimentary call to find out more!