The Great Resignation
When my husband's employer ordered him back into the office, the response was "Nope."
My husband started a new job in August of 2021. We have both been part of what has been dubbed "The Great Resignation." Me, because I wanted something different from my career so left a job I had been at for 15 years earlier this year. Him, because his employer ordered him to return to the office.
The response to that was "Nope." And as a software engineer, he easily found something new (and better).
I have been a remote employee for practically my whole career, but he started working from home five years ago. It completely changed the way that we functioned as a family. We could split the tasks of getting the kids off to school, meal prep, pediatrician appointments, and a myriad of household needs that come up during the day.
I had often felt that I was scrambling to "do everything" when he only needed to go to the office and return home (sometimes late).
Then my husband took a new job in August of 2020 with an employer that had been in-office, but was remote due to the pandemic. Looking for a new job in the middle of the pandemic was an interesting challenge, but he was in a toxic environment, stressed, and needed to escape.
At the time, the company that extended wasn't sure what return-to-office would look like, if ever. Desperate for something new, he took the job. The company was large with tens of thousands of employees. His remote team was able to collaborate effectively and get the job done.
Yet by mid-2021, the employer informed him that he would need to return to the office, at least a few days per week. He was given a week’s notice: in-office work would resume the following week. In theory, only vaccinated employees could return, but there was no verification. Additionally, some members of his team hired during the pandemic lived in other states. They could continue to work remotely. But those that lived within proximity of the office needed to return.
I was immediately stressed. I thought of what his return to the office would mean. Our three kids were in summer camp at the time and in the Fall would return to the school (middle school, elementary school, and preschool: three different start and end times). Getting the kids ready for the day, managing after-school activities and homework… it would all rest on my shoulders on the days he was in the office. Living in a suburb of Chicago meant a long commute on both ends of his workday.
My husband asked if there was any room for negotiation. He was told no: the expectation was that he would return to the office.
As a family, we weren't willing to give up the life we had become accustomed to. He started looking for a new job. And found one within a few weeks that is 100% remote (and better pay).
When he turned in his two weeks’ notice, his employer asked why he was leaving. He explained that return-to-office was a dealbreaker. His manager hastily said that he could continue to work from home every day and offered to match his salary. My husband’s response. “So, you had the ability to pay me more and let me work remotely… and chose not to?”
The world has indeed changed. Employees across the United States are standing up for what matters to them, from better pay to flexible work to better work environments. Companies that are stuck in the “old way of doing things” will find that they lose top talent.
Of course, many CEOs are digging in their heels and trying to maintain their command-and-control ways. I read something recently that predicted the "driven, career-oriented people will want to return to the office.” The implication of that statement is that if you want to remain at home, you are not as committed.
That mentality is offensive. My husband and I have both been hugely invested in our careers. AND hugely invested in our family. Remote, flexible work allows us to better manage both.
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