Life & Work

​​​​​​​Think about realities on the ground before quitting



Many employees over the last two years have had to change their mindset about careers, some out of unplanned occurrences and others, from what they experienced with the changes in workplace arrangements.

Workers experienced unplanned pay changes, painful employment separations and disruption in work schedules. In some places, employers are now reeling from the effects of the ‘great resignation’ because employees, who are deliberately breaking away from employment dependence don’t want to feel ‘caged’ again.

Employers and Employees are experiencing uncertainty on two fronts, employers are not sure about the best way to structure this new normal on hybrid work arrangements and employees on the role office work plays in giving meaning to their life.

I think the real issue though is control, employees want to feel in charge of their careers which includes deciding where to work from, employers, on the other hand, don’t want to cede too much autonomy.

Companies are reversing earlier decisions for full remote working because of productivity concerns, while for others, it is following requests from employees to return to the office a few days a week, out of ‘work from home fatigue’ or a lack of an enabling work environment at home.

Despite this, it is clear the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the inherent worry in relying on regular monthly income and accelerated the resolve for wanting greater levels of work flexibility, autonomy, and control. There is a fundamental rethink about what people want and need from work- or whether they want to do it at all.

he YOLO (you only live once) movement, and China’s tang ping or lying flat anti-work movement are a few examples that show there is a global impulse pushing people away from traditional payroll or full-time jobs.

Look before you leap

‘One must take charge of their life is a not a complicated life maxim, many people are quitting formal employment so that they can ‘be in charge’.

However, before making that decision, one must understand the context of their geography, profession, and uniqueness of the family unit.

In Kenya and a few other counties with forward-thinking labour laws and employment practices, formal employment comes with certain benefits such as medical cover for the employee, a spouse, and children — at least four, employer pension contribution — where the employer can contribute at least five percent of basic pay-sometimes higher, group life cover, group personal accident cover, annual bonus and so on.

Taking control of your life by quitting formal employment to become an independent worker means one must be clear on how some of these additional costs, ordinarily covered by the employer will be met, not to forget that the tools of trade e.g., laptops are provided by the employer. For others, there are additional perks such as club membership, education allowances etc.

You do the math, and you will note sustaining some of these benefits is an uphill task, besides, companies have the benefit of scale when negotiating for these. Then there is access to financing from banks for unsecured personal loans and easier access to mortgages.

Independent workers know how hard it is to get these facilities and when they do, the kind of collateral financial institutions will ask as security for such loans. Access to finances is skewed towards individuals in formal employment. There are professions that make the transition to independent worker easier than others.

A teacher may find transitioning to being an independent teacher easier than a Banker unless the Banker is quitting to pursue another business altogether of make a career switch. The nature of an individual’s profession must be considered. The reality of an individual’s family circumstance is also a factor.

Whereas one partner in a marriage may find it easier transitioning to an independent worker due to the financial cushion offered by the other spouse, or significant other still in formal employment, a single person may have to consider how to meet their financial obligations considering the inconsistent and uncertain income in independent work.

We also have individuals who support other family members financially from retired parents, siblings who need to be sponsored for their education and so on. In all these, we must appreciate that gig workers are increasing due to limited employment opportunities. Before you decide to be a gig worker, carefully consider your reality.

Muthama is the Chief People & Culture Officer at ZAMARA Group