From the Great Resignation to the Great Refusal—here’s what the 5 ‘Great Rs’ mean for the future of work





We are no longer centered on where we work, but rather where work fits in our lives.




As we weigh yet another strong jobs report against persistent inflation and the looming threat of a recession, we have to acknowledge that the workforce has transformed and now plays by a different set of rules and is motivated by a different set of factors. Leaders take note.

The Great Reset is a convergence of trends some decades in the making that culminate in a changed relationship between individuals and organizations. Let’s break down the five “Great Rs” that collectively give us the empowered workforce. 


Posited first by Professor Anthony Klotz in a May 2021 interview in Bloomberg, it was originally thought to be a short-term phenomenon triggered in the pandemic when the nation’s quit rate hit a 20-year high. In reality, churn has been building since 2009, and Gartner predicts churn will increase 20% over pre-pandemic levels.


The Great Retirement has been long in coming as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement. Although we knew this was coming, we were still caught flat-footed as the pandemic created the conditions for droves of boomers to leave the workforce sooner than even they may have expected. Economists believe the resulting labor shortages will continue for at least a decade.


The Great Reshuffle is occurring as people have reskilled and switched industries during the pandemic. Of those who changed jobs in 2021, more than half changed careers entirely, according to Pew Research. While this reshuffle has left many industries scrambling for workers, the positive news here is that many of these reskilled workers are now working in fields of greater interest to them.


The Great Refusal took hold as people turned down bad jobs with low pay. The Reddit thread r/antiwork is a showcase of workplace travesties that are leading workers to walk away from bad jobs, and today’s federal minimum wage certainly falls well short of an incentive to make dehumanizing work worth it. Until 1968, the minimum wage kept pace with inflation and rose with productivity. If the minimum wage had continued that trajectory, it would be over $21 an hour today, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. But it hasn’t. The minimum wage hasn’t budged in a decade.

Humans are assets to develop, not costs to contain, and some sectors of our economy are seeing higher than average labor shortages as workers reject these underpaying jobs. And here’s another incentive to better engage your workers: Customers experience your brand through interaction with your frontline workers. Engaged workers are better brand ambassadors.


Fueled by the shift to remote work, the Great Relocation is allowing workers to pick where they want to live first to build community around place rather than work. It is the shift from work-life balance to life-work balance. The pandemic period of 2020–2022 saw the initial wave of relocations, as many people left large cities for more space to social distance. Now as the location and flexibility of jobs has become clearer and people prioritize work and life differently, more than 19 million adults are now looking to relocate due to availability of remote work, according to findings from Upwork.

Collectively, these shifts are the Great Reset, with an empowered workforce that has tasted autonomy and flexibility. We are no longer centered on where we work, but rather on where work fits in our lives, and there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. We have created new habits and new requirements.

Tapping into these new habits may well be the key to keeping an engaged workforce. Gallup’s employee engagement numbers have not moved more than 10 points over 20 years. In the United States, engagement sits at 32% and it rests at 21% globally. More worrisome, Gallup finds that global unhappiness is the highest ever recorded; 33% of people report being pretty much miserable. Baseball batting averages are better than this. Let’s hope that an empowered workforce that puts work in the proper place in their lives is the key to better engagement and greater happiness.

Source: Fast Company

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