Madhu Chamarty, CEO and Co-founder at BeyondHQ, contributed this piece to the Forbes Technology Council, published January 3, 2022. Read it in full here.
Over the past 18 months, there has been relentless attention around workforce and workplace themes like the “Great Resignation” and the “Great Migration,” which has raised some important questions: What was real? What was overblown? What did we get just plain wrong in 2021?
Most crucially, with a clearer understanding of that 2021 baseline, what can we expect regarding an ever-changing world of work in 2022 and beyond?
Was the “Great Resignation” strictly voluntary?
It seems that every month in 2020-2021 saw record numbers of “unanticipated resignations” in the U.S. While data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows monthly rates of 185,000 to 290,000 in the decade prior to 2020, those numbers nearly doubled to 553,000 in July 2020 and were above 400,000 in September 2021. Beyond actual departures, 4 in 10 employees have stated a consideration about leaving their current place of work.
But “resignation” can be a misnomer in this context, as it connotes more of a decision made by those with the economic power to pull up stakes and take another position. It glosses over the individual experiences of those forced out of the workplace — whose decisions were more related to physical safety and family survival than the self-actualization motivation of others.
Truths About Worker Flight
From the volume of stories about largely white-collar tech workers, you would think that everyone moved from NYC to Florida or Silicon Valley to Austin and that California was in its economic death throes. While pandemic lockdowns thrust the appeal of less densely populated areas into the forefront of many urban workers’ minds, the story is not that simple.
Movement out of major urban centers in California was predominantly to other less dense parts of the state — usually within 200 miles — and Texas and Arizona were the top draws outside the state. Manhattanites may have initially fled — but, for a growing number, the move was not permanent, as many have returned to the urban core for at least part of their work lives.
Contrary to much of the “Great Migration” narrative, the vast majority of those “working from home” stayed in place or nearby. But what became clear in 2021 was that this helped some much more than others — with the big winners being (not surprisingly) high-income men in their 30s and 40s, according to the survey of 30,000 U.S. workers.
Companies Reconsider Their Physical Footprint In Surprising Ways
Tales of downtown ghost towns have been common, but there have been some surprising activity in the commercial real estate space. Tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have gone shopping for commercial real estate and are investing now because prices are low. They are making moves indicative of long-term bets on cities and established headquarters, along with additional large satellite locations in major secondary markets.
Predictions are always challenging, especially when current times remain intellectually and emotionally difficult to grasp. The workplace journey that we face in the years to come is what I characterize as the Great Redefinition.”
With that in mind, read the four trends to watch heading into 2022 at the full article on Forbes.com.