The great work reshuffle – hype or substance?

Last week we made much of The Great Work Reshuffle. We scattered our article about the highest quit rate ever with mind-boggling statistics. We pointed our accusatory finger at the pandemic and economic recovery. We were convinced that an increased collective desire for flexible working and a good work/life balance were driving a mass staff exodus.


It seems, dear reader, that we may have been somewhat hasty in joining the media bandwagon…


According to a recent article on, a number of US academics hotly debate the validity of this story. They say that it’s propped up by sweeping generalisations and misleading over-simplifications. While the story is US focused, it raises red flags about the way the quitting phenomena has been reported on this side of the pond too:


– Resignation rates haven’t been tracked for long enough for us to be able to draw meaningful conclusions on this subject.

– Resignation rates were already at record highs in 2019 so maybe, even without the pandemic, they would have spiked in the summer.

– Arguably, high resignation rates are more closely linked to an increasingly stable economy than the fallout from the pandemic

– The assumption that people are choosing to quit their jobs to improve their work/life balance is true for some workers, certainly. For others, particularly in blue collar roles, untenable working conditions and having to take care of children while schools were closed, were the drivers.

– (Note that in the UK, as in the US, there’s much talk of a tidal wave of resignations. While it’s true that UK resignation rates are at a five-year record high, 4.7% falls considerably short of the mass exodus such hyperbole give to understand.)


According to the article, accepted wisdom on this subject is based on sweeping generalisations and misleading over-simplifications. Back in the UK, we know that job vacancies soared to an all time high of over one million in July, but are we drawing similar erroneous conclusions?


Whatever the fact-driven answer, we have learnt from this article to ask the question. As HR practitioners, we need to continue to explore all potential sources of frustration and discontent among employees. The reasons for resignations remain as diverse and colourful as ever. Not every resignation relates back to the pandemic.


The trends we identify among staff are, like the generalisations made about the Great Work Reshuffle, made up of multiple human narratives, each one of which is unique. Let’s continue to question the hype and seek out the substance behind every single one of those human stories. This will enable us to continue responding with practical, helpful, relevant initiatives accordingly.


If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please get in touch with our team of experts at ABL, your multilingual recruitment specialist.