As the pandemic has persisted in confounding plans to return employees to on-site work in 2021, another crisis has been brewing in the labor market. Dubbed the “Great Resignation,” growing numbers of employees are leaving their jobs, or at least thinking about it. 

According to a recent Microsoft survey, 41 percent of the workforce is considering leaving their employer this year. Many have already done so. A record four million people left their jobs in April 2021, and job openings are at an all-time high.

Employees are re-evaluating their career and tenure with their employer for various reasons — dissatisfaction with how their employer has managed the pandemic, a desire to continue working from home, burnout, and caregiving responsibilities, among others. As a result, the future of work — and the makeup of workplaces — will continue to evolve. Here are three key ways the Great Resignation is likely to affect your organization:

A shift to freelance work

As the pandemic has led many employees to explore new job opportunities, the number of people considering freelance work has increased. A recent Upwork survey found that 20 percent of full-time employees are considering freelance work, a 17 percent increase since 2019.

If your organization, like many others, is struggling to keep existing employees amid the Great Resignation and fill open positions, you may need to consider freelancers. On the one hand, this will result in a shift in the way you hire, but on the other hand, accessing a new pool of freelance talent can also bring new skills and capabilities into your organization. 

A greater need for workplace flexibility

One factor contributing to the Great Resignation is employees’ desire for flexibility. If your organization is not already considering how to offer more flexibility, chances are you may lose some employees sooner than you think. In fact, an EY global survey found that nine in ten employees want flexibility in where and when they work, and more than half (54 percent) will quit their jobs if they don’t get it. 

Since flexibility means different things to different people, be sure to consider which options work best for your organization and culture. For example, offering a range of pre-set flexible work options may make sense, or you may decide to let employees choose for themselves. At Unilever, for instance, employees can decide “…where and when they work, whether this is how many days a week you are in the office or how you arrange your working day. No change to the number of hours, but choice on how to split hours, in agreement with their line manager.”

A deeper focus on company culture

Even before the pandemic, organizational culture has been a key driver in retaining talent. A 2017 Hays US study revealed that 47 percent of employees actively looking for new positions said company culture was the main reason.

Now, when so many more employees may be considering a move, your culture will become an even greater factor in retaining them. After all, a toxic or unsupportive culture won’t do anything to help you keep employees, but a positive and inclusive culture can. To build and reinforce a culture that employees want to be a part of, ensure frontline managers have the tools to manage their teams effectively, whether they are working on-site, at home, full-time, part-time, or some other schedule.

The pandemic has brought about several changes in employee expectations and needs for flexibility, and if the past is any indicator, more changes are coming. But one thing is for sure: while the traditional 9-to-5 job with a commute probably won’t be going away, it may not be the “standard” way of working in a growing number of workplaces.