It seemed to make so much sense after the pandemic lockdowns, when businesses were baying for more workers and would pay huge multiples for fresh talent to fill growing vacancies.

Now, however, two things have happened. Bosses are refusing to pay to meet new cost of living increases – and the switchers who left their long-term jobs for new pastures are miserable.

It was largely young people quit their jobs en masse and went looking for something more meaningful.

In a labour market with record low unemployment rate – now down to 3.4% in Australia – it was easy to believe that if you didn’t like one job and were suffering burnout, another one was not far away. 

There was a ‘war for talent’, we were told, and employers were bending over to pay higher salaries and agree to better work conditions.

Accounting firm PwC did a study and found that 38% of Australian workers planned to leave their current employer in the next 12 months, and 61% of those who had quit one job in the last year planned to leave their current employer in the next year.

However, it’s not all a bed of roses once you quit. 

In the US, job search platform Joblist did a recent survey of 15,000 people and found that more than a quarter, or 26%, of those who had quit now regretted their decision. 

The main reason for the regret is that most found it harder than they had thought to find a new position, despite the tight labour market. Others said the new job did not live up to their expectations.

Quite a few realised they had been sucked in by the ‘grass is greener’ effect, and realised their old jobs weren’t so bad after all. They were also regretful as they watched new opportunities open up at their previous places of employment, opportunities they found attractive. 

Alex Hattingh, the chief people officer at HR software company Employment Hero, told Yahoo Finance recently that the ‘Great Remorse’ was to be expected.  

“Many companies are luring high performers with false promises, which can lead to a sour taste for all parties,” she said.

Hattingh said employers needed to be more aware of what is important to their staff because the environment was changing.

 Already, there are signs of very different expectations in the ‘work from home’ debate, for example. 

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More than one in three Australian office workers would immediately quit their job or start looking for a new one if their employer announced they had to return to the office full-time, according to recent research.

At the same time, 50% of companies want a full return to the office, and only 16% are inclined to tolerate working from home.

So as the dust settles on the labour market post lockdowns, tensions between workers and employers are resurfacing.

For many workers, there is a realisation that the perfect job they had imagined really isn’t out there, and maybe they were better off where they were before the excitement of the Great Resignation took hold of them. 


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