How to mold your job to your needs over quitting

On the heels of the “Great Resignation“—a term applied to describe the pandemic-induced spike in the quit rate—is the “Great Reshuffle.” This new phase recognizes that people aren’t just leaving the labor market, they’re finding new jobs that better fit their lifestyle.

While there is nothing wrong with switching jobs, many employees are jumping ship too early, failing to consider several alternatives. Switching jobs is stressful and a great deal of work. Instead of surprising your employer with a two-week notice, first, consider the suggestions below.

Finding versus creating flexibility

Employees’ increased need for flexibility is by far one of the most significant reprioritizations that have taken place during the pandemic. There is an unprecedented number of employees searching for positions that offer virtual or hybrid options. Employees should keep in mind that switching jobs to obtain this flexibility isn’t the only option.

In some cases, employees might be able to create flexibility. Sociocultural norms have changed, and employers are recognizing that employees want more discretion in how, when, and where they work. Employees have leverage. Employers know that turnover is expensive and they don’t want to deal with attracting, selecting, and training new employees.

Along those lines, employees should consider pursuing idiosyncratic deals. “I-deals,” as they’re called, are customized employee-employer arrangements that simultaneously meet the needs of both parties. One-size-fits-all work design is a relic of the past. Employees need to be proactive, detailing their preferences and being willing to negotiate and compromise with their employer.

For example, organization-level mandates on how often employees must be face-to-face versus remote, in many cases, seem to be more of a suggestion. Managers are unwilling to lose talent because of policy, and they might be willing to help facilitate a deal that works for all. Best-case scenario, both parties are better off with the new arrangement. Worst-case scenario, the employee has transparently articulated their concerns and both parties can keep their eyes open for opportunities for informal adjustments.

Identifying the source of overwork

Partially overlapping with the need for flexibility is the need for more work-life balance, which is the second most popular pandemic-induced reprioritization. For many, excessive job demands at the expense of health and wellness is no longer palatable. The quest for growth and development is taking a backseat to factors like work-life balance.

There are several mechanisms that help explain this phenomenon. First, when people are embedded in situations where their well-being is at risk, they tend to think more deeply about how to live a meaningful life. In other words, the cues about illness and death stemming from the pandemic are feuling workers’ search for meaning. Second, working parents are maxed out. School-aged children are seeing far fewer days in school given illnesses and COVID-related precautions. Working parents have had enough. Now more than ever, they’re willing to make a switch to less demanding positions.

The key, however, is pinpointing the source of the excessive job demands. In many cases, the grass is always greener on the other side. Quitting one’s corporate job and going solo might ultimately be more stressful and lead to even more hours staring at a screen. Switching employers for a better job fit might also be harder than expected, with unknowns abound regarding politics, colleague personalities, and supervisor support, not to mention the ensuring learning curve.

Another overlooked impetus of excessive jobs demands is the idea that it might actually be the employees’ fault. Employees that are unable to be realistic about their bandwidth, unable or unwilling to articulate their limits, or simply have workaholic tendencies, are unlikely to see much change in stress by switching jobs. Employees should first consider reflecting on whether they might be part of the problem. It might be time for them to start having honest conversations with their manager, or with themself.

The Great Reshuffle is upon us. You might be one of those considering reshuffling. There’s nothing wrong with mixing things up and trying something new. But before you change up your source of income, it might be time to take a look in the mirror and consider what you can do to make it work where you are.

Scott Dust, Ph.D., is a management professor at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University, and the chief research officer at Cloverleaf, a technology platform facilitating coaching for everyone.

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