53% of UK office workers considering leaving their job

New research finds that employers need to change their ways of working if they want to retain staff, particularly the younger generation.

22 Apr 2022| News

The pandemic has, without a doubt, increased our collective awareness of how broken the current system of work is, as witnessed by the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, which saw almost one in 20 workers in the UK resign. Some recent surveys have highlighted how complex the picture is – and the role of work-life balance in retaining staff, particularly younger workers. 

April marked the opening of the 2022 ‘Employee Transfer Window’, with more than half (53%) of UK office workers considering leaving their job – and 85% of these keen to leave in the next 12 weeks, according to a new survey from Virgin Media O2 Business.

Flexibility, work/life balance and salary all emerged as key drivers in the survey of 2,000 UK office workers, which found that a quarter (27%) are actively looking for a new job. A third (31%) of those considering a move would like to leave in the next three weeks alone, with 17% wanting to leave within a week.

Several factors have prompted the ‘Employee Transfer Window’, as one in seven (14%) would like to delay their resignation to coincide with a new financial year, over one in ten (12%) have been holding out for their 2021 bonus to arrive, and just under one in six (16%) have been waiting for uncertainty around the pandemic to settle down before changing jobs. 

Despite that, the survey revealed that 44% of the office workers surveyed feel more positive about their career prospects now than they did pre-pandemic.

The annual connected working survey from Virgin Media O2 Business looks at the role of technology in shaping the workplace experience for organisations across the UK. Pay (28%) was closely followed by work/life balance (27%) in the top drivers causing people to look for a new role, as well as lack of career progression (23%), and feeling unhappy with their physical workplace (21%). One in ten (10%) are leaving because they feel they don’t have the technology or tools they need to do their job effectively. 

The figures show that the gap between salary and other factors is closing, with the 2021 research finding that in January last year, 30% of those going for a new role were motivated by pay, followed by 26% looking for a change in lifestyle.

Two years on from the first lockdown, pandemic working has also played a role in shaping the Employee Transfer Window, with 16% saying the pandemic has made them rethink their working priorities, and 14% saying they’re unhappy with how their job has changed as a result. 

As hybrid working continues across the UK, four in ten (44%) of those surveyed said they felt flexibility was as important as salary.

Millennials aged between 25 and 34 are the most likely to depart during the 2022 Employee Transfer Window, with almost one in three (30%) actively looking for a new role. 

These findings align with a recent study by Ranstad, published in Business Insider. The research found that 56% of Gen Z and millennials would leave their jobs if it got in the way of their personal lives or wouldn’t accept it in the first place if they had issues with the company’s social or environmental politics. Today’s youth would sooner quit a job than remain unhappy in it. 

This compares to just one in eight (13%) of those aged 55 and over. Whilst a higher salary would prompt a third of 25 to 34-year-olds (33%) to reconsider (with almost half (47%) of 35 to 44-year-olds and just over a third of over-55s (35%) saying the same), for younger workers it is more about learning, wellbeing and tech. 

Access to better technology (26%), more training and development opportunities (29%), and better access to wellbeing benefits (such as counselling and support) (21%) would convince 18 to 24-year-olds to stay put.

This follows Jacob Rees-Mogg’s controversial comments which we documented earlier, where Mr Rees-Mogg was urging Ministers to pressurise civil servants to return the office. These comments prompted Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, to reply:

“These comments from Jacob Rees-Mogg and his Conservative colleagues are a slap in the face to PCS members who worked tirelessly and who made immense sacrifices during the pandemic.

For over two years, often under the government’s own instruction, many of our members have demonstrated that they can do their job from home. The suggestion that they’ve been ‘sitting at home’ and not working is deeply insulting.

The government rightly lauded our members when it mattered. Now they seek to denigrate and offend them. Instead, they should embrace the benefits of hybrid working and make good on their promise to build back better.”

Sander van ’t Noordende, Randstad CEO said: 

“Our findings should serve as a wake-up call for employers. There’s a clear power shift underway as people rethink priorities.

Young people want to bring their whole selves to work, which is reflected in their determination not to compromise their personal values when choosing an employer. 

Businesses need to rethink their approach to attracting and retaining staff, or face serious competition.”

Jo Bertram, Managing Director at Virgin Media O2 Businesssays

“A new financial year, coupled with a new – hybrid – normal after two years of flux, has created an ‘Employee Transfer Window’ that will see more than half of the UK’s office workers look to change roles in the coming weeks. 

We know that tech can help make many of the changes employees want: from connecting them to training, upskilling and mentor programmes, to giving them more choice about when, how and where they work.

“When it comes to recruitment and retention, tech is a great enabler. At Virgin Media O2 Business we’re working with our customers to explore exactly how fixed and mobile connectivity and digital workplace tools can build better ways of working for everyone.”