Remote workers are trapped in a quitting nightmare –

If companies do not make an effort to mark the transition, or speak to the departing employees’ closest colleagues, they risk “all sorts of dysfunction”, he says. Those that are leaving are experiencing a solitary side-effect of remote working. That same stress and burnout from the period working from home during the pandemic, caused by the boundaries blurring between their professional and personal lives, is at play here too. “It also blurs the boundaries that happen with job transitions,” Klotz says. “Offboarding and onboarding are two separate processes that should be separated by a period in the middle where the employee digests and closes one chapter, and then gets psychologically prepared to open the next.”

It doesn’t help that many people have already been experiencing burnout and loneliness for some time while working at home. Matthew*, a Liverpool-based writer who quit his job in June, marked his last day at work from his home office alone with his two dogs. “My wife had a shift at the hospital that day. I remember feeling so depressed and numb, and just spending my lunch break curled up on the bed with my dogs, totally motionless.” He argues that the pandemic has forced people to replace meaningful human interactions with virtual ones, “and it’s just painfully obvious they can’t compare”. “There’s no hugs. No going to the bar for a round. No sharing gossip over a cigarette. It’s just not the same,” Matthew says. “But the feeling of sadness felt way more drawn-out than it otherwise would have been, and way more intense.”

Worse still, the widespread rise of remote working has put people in an unusual position: when they end their old jobs, they are starting their new ones sitting in the exact same spot at home.

Paul* had no leaving party. He says the strangest part of ending his three-year stint as a communications consultant in London was when he sent his old laptop back to his previous company, then received the exact same make and model of laptop in the post from his new employer a few days later. On his first day, he switched it on at home, “basically logging on to a new Zoom link,” he says. “That was my new job. Same chair, same desk. Quite odd.”

Being in the same working environment in his next job was a bit disorienting for the first few weeks, Paul says. “It felt like there was no ‘clean break’ from old job to new job, which I do think makes settling into a new place more difficult. I felt like I couldn’t completely switch off from my old job and my old clients because in my brain there wasn’t a proper ‘farewell moment’.”

Those that are moving into new jobs from this type of situation are at risk, argues Jo Owen, author of Smart Work. “One of the reasons you succeeded in your last job is because you had built up networks of trust and influence, which enabled you to make things happen through people,” he says. “Those informal networks in a firm are your lifeblood of success. So when you go to a new firm, suddenly, all those networks, trust and influence disappear. You’ve got to start building and you’re not going to build them from behind a laptop.”

*Names have been shortened to protect identities

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