Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist


Great resignations to 4-day work weeks – How workplace culture changed in 2022

If you think workplace culture changed during the lockdown, think again, because 2022 saw some major shake ups.


Workplace culture changed completely in 2022, not only regarding whether you want to work in the office or from home. In 2022 we learned first about the Great Resignation and then about quiet quitting, which all led to a new way of working being tried out: the 4-day week. It all started when companies started to call their employees back to the office after two years of working from home or, the more formal term, remote working. However, people now had enough time to sort out their work life away from the office and realised that this way of working…

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Workplace culture changed completely in 2022, not only regarding whether you want to work in the office or from home.

In 2022 we learned first about the Great Resignation and then about quiet quitting, which all led to a new way of working being tried out: the 4-day week.

It all started when companies started to call their employees back to the office after two years of working from home or, the more formal term, remote working.

However, people now had enough time to sort out their work life away from the office and realised that this way of working enabled them to spend more time with their families and take better care of themselves.

ALSO READ: Lessons from the Great Resignation for small businesses

The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation refers to a US-led trend of workers quitting in large numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, opting instead for stimulus packages. However, it has sparked similar movements around the world, including South Africa, as workers seek more flexible working environments locally and overseas.

According to RemChannel’s recent biannual Salary and Wage Movements Survey conducted in September the increasing cost of living, coupled with inflexible working environments continue to push employees to seek greener pastures.

Compared to the March 2022 survey the labour turnover, excluding temporary staff, has increased by 2.4 percentage points and by 2.8 percentage points since September 2020, while compared to the March 2022 publication, resignations increased by 2.1 percentage points to 38.5%, despite a depressed economic climate.

The changing world of work increased the complexity of managing remuneration and in particular the employee value proposition (EVP). The power shift from the employer to the employee, especially for professional staff, has become increasingly evident, says René Richter, MD of RemChannel.

ALSO READ: Are you quiet quitting? Here’s how to ensure a good work-life balance

Quiet quitting in the workplace

Then came quiet quitting in the workplace, the trend of simply doing the bare minimum expected at work that first took off on TikTok, although many people have since said they have been doing it for years. Quiet quitting is frustrating managers, but it is not about avoiding work, it is about not avoiding a meaningful life outside of work, Nilufar Ahmed, senior lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol, writes on The Conversation.

He says over the past 20 years many people joined a global culture of overwork, with unpaid labour becoming an expected part of many jobs. “After multiple recessions and a global pandemic, millennials and generation Z in particular often do not have the same job opportunities and financial security as their parents.”

Many young professionals expected a relatively straightforward progression in life but are now struggling with precarious contracts, job uncertainties and trying to get onto the housing ladder. Some constantly work extra hours and go above and beyond for promotions and bonuses, but they still struggle.

“Perhaps in response to this disappointment, a recent study by Deloitte found young people are increasingly seeking flexibility and purpose in their work, as well as balance and satisfaction in their lives. Many young professionals are now rejecting the live-to-work lifestyle, by continuing to work but not allowing work to control them.”

However, Ahmed writes, quiet quitting could actually be good for you as working less is good for mental health. Studies have found that work-life balance is linked to mental health in a variety of jobs and a 2021 survey of 2 017 UK workers by employer review website Glassdoor found that over half felt they had poor work-life balance.

Quiet quitting aims to restore the balance where work has crept into your personal time and can also help to separate your self-worth from the workplace. “When all you have is work, it is hard not to derive your sense of value from it,” Ahmed writes.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report shows that only 24% of South African workers are engaged at work and only 29% are thriving in their overall well-being.

ALSO READ: Will the 4-day work week improve your wellness? We may soon find out

The 4-day work week

The 4 -day week is based on the 100-80-100™ model, developed by co-founders of 4-Day Week Global, Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart. The model prescribes 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to deliver 100% of the output.

It is recognised as a way of supporting and empowering workers, enhancing organisational productivity and having a positive impact on societies and the environment. The National Business Initiative (NBI) has joined Stellenbosch Business School and a growing base of partners in the 4-Day Week SA Coalition in support of the 4 Day Week as part of the future of work in South Africa.

Companies that will give 4-day work week in the workplace a bash in South Africa from February have started signing up for the country’s first ever trial that will start in February with a two-week intensive onboarding, says Karen Lowe, director of 4 Day Week SA.

ALSO READ: 4-day work week pilot so successful, all participating companies sticking to it

Largest pilot of 4-day week was a success

The largest 4-day week pilot was a huge success according to the first published research results, with companies rating their experience a 9 out of 10, with none returning to a five-day week post-trial and revenue rising to an average of 38% compared to the same period in the previous year, while absenteeism and resignation decreased.

More than 30 companies and almost 1 000 employees in countries including the US, Ireland and Australia, recently concluded a six-month 4-day week pilot program, coordinated by non-profit 4-Day Week Global.

The extra day off became so valuable to workers, that 70% say they will demand a 10-50% pay increase to return to 40 hours. Workers felt less stressed and burnt out and reported higher rates of life satisfaction, while the findings also show significant declines in the duration and frequency of commuting, plus other positive environmental outcomes.

None of the participating organisations will return to a five-day week.

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