Was the ‘Great Resignation’ actually the ‘Great Resignification’? IBM’s international business chief thinks so—and here’s what that means

July 14, 2022, 3:40 PM UTC
A man wearing a face covering walks beneath a large billboard featuring an ecstatic young woman
Was the “Great Resignation” actually the “Great Resignification”?
Richard Baker—In Pictures/Getty Images

Big Tech has a problem: It wants workers back in the office on a regular basis, but many companies are struggling to get employees on board.

Google, Apple, and Tesla have all mandated, in one way or another, that their employees must physically be in the office for a set amount of time.

However, all have faced problems with those mandates: Google workers reportedly view the company’s office mandate as unfair, while some Apple employees threatened to resign over being required to be in the office once a week. Tesla workers returned to the factory in Fremont, Calif., last month to find there were not enough desks or parking spots to accommodate them—despite a “show up or get out” order from CEO Elon Musk.

The standoff between employees and employers over issues such as working hours, place of work, and salary has been reflected in the so-called Great Resignation, which saw record levels of white-collar staff resign in the wake of the pandemic.

Speaking to Fortune at the IBM office in London, Ana Paula Assis, the company’s general manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, has a slightly alternative theory on what drove the urge for drastic change across the post-pandemic workplace.

Courtesy of IBM

“I think we are starting to realize that the Great Resignation was actually the Great Resignification,” she said.

“People realized during the pandemic that they could really find opportunities that better suited their abilities, their skills, their needs, and people also gained more appreciation for the personal aspects of life—being with the family, being with friends, taking care of themselves.”

She added: “Everybody’s in search of finding a better balance between work and life, and I think companies need to understand that and create an environment that embraces that change.”

IBM, a comparative great-grandpa in the tech world founded in 1911, has no policy that dictates how many days per week it wants its employees to be working from the office—and it doesn’t plan to change that.

“When the pandemic hit it was a test to our flexibility, but we managed to get 95% of our people working from home in a matter of a week,” Assis told Fortune.

“Now we’re coming back to some sense of normality; our direction to the team is: ‘The office is really the place for you to work in a collaborative way, to cocreate, to work with colleagues.’

“Quite frankly we don’t want people to come to the office just for the sake of being in the office doing Webex or virtual conferences; we want this place to be a place of collaboration, exchanging ideas and experiences, not only for our employees, but for our clients and for our partners.”

While Assis acknowledged that there was no one-size-fits-all model when it came to remote working and returning to the office, she said IBM understood that the workforce wants to be given options.

“We estimate that 80% of our employees want to have flexibility in terms of how they do their work,” she said. “This is a reality that companies must adapt to.”

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