Everything about work has transformed in the post-pandemic world. Since March 2020, employees have left the workplace in droves, spurring a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. Some left jobs to care for children or elderly relatives. Workloads then shifted to the remaining employees, many of whom were sent home to work remotely. Lacking direct oversight and often juggling a more intense workload, burnout reigned supreme.
At that point, any semblance of work-life balance went out the window. According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace 2022, 49% of employees surveyed were disengaged and not thriving, underscoring the need for a drastic shift.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 47 million workers voluntarily left their jobs in 2021, but the trend has been building for many years. In reality, the pandemic was more of a catalyst, a driving force that revolutionized work-life balance, or at least the idea of it. Rather than blaming the pandemic for the shift, it would be more appropriate to say that workplace changes resulting from Covid accelerated worker sentiments already extant in the ranks.
Shifting Priorities: Why Work-Life Balance is More Important Than Ever
What we see as work-life balance today differs from a few years ago.
Before the pandemic, work-life balance was defined as the ability to disconnect and separate ourselves from work altogether. Today, it’s more about working smarter, not harder. It’s less about what we’re doing than how we’re doing it.
Despite all the trumpeting about the Great Resignation, it’s not that people don’t want to work; they’ve just had enough of working the way they’ve always done it. Many workers left jobs to start their own companies. Startups and new small business formations boomed after Covid, representing a massive 20% uptick over previous years.
Whether people were seeking more autonomy, flexibility, or better control of their financial future, they were leaving for good reasons. Women needed accommodation to attend to children, home, and family. If their employer could not satisfy those inclinations, there were plenty of other options to consider. Whether they chose to freelance, work remotely, or go into business for themselves, few arguments could get them back into the office.
Companies faced a big wake-up call as they struggled to attract and retain talent. It was no longer enough to offer a job at a decent salary. Employers were forced to consider employee priorities and preferences and adapt workflows and leadership styles to accommodate.
Pivotal to the success of recruiting and retaining top talent is recognizing what workers want and need to feel valued.
Applying agile methodologies enables you to create new organizational efficiencies, accelerate time-to-value, and reduce wasted time and effort. When you eliminate the need to work excessive hours on redundant tasks, your employees will feel more accomplished, engaged, and productive.
Applying an Agile mindset to each business process (not just IT) helps you demonstrate your commitment to employee work-life balance. Concepts like decentralizing the decision-making process, encouraging employees to self-manage and teams to self-organize, and reiterating workflows to maximize efficiency and continue to improve are just a few ways to achieve these goals. In so doing, we can modernize and advance the concept of work-life balance.