Remote Work & More: Why Workers Are Leaving The Public Sector


You may be familiar with The Great Resignation, but are you ready for The Great Migration?

Employees are now abandoning the public sector in droves. Over half of all state and local public workers are considering leaving their jobs, according to a recent survey, and the public sector as a whole shrank by 3.5% (or 695,000 workers) during the pandemic.

Many of these disgruntled workers aren’t just leaving, they’re migrating - heading to the promised land of the private sector, lured by better working conditions, better pay, and better prospects.

The notorious inflexibility of the public sector is the biggest culprit, and it is directly at odds with what today’s workers expect of an employer. In addition, salaries are traditionally lower in the public sector - not a good look when inflation is on the rise.

Why are public sector employees making the move to the private sector?

More flexibility

Coming out of the pandemic, flexibility has become the most coveted work accessory. During lockdowns, it quickly became apparent that many jobs could be done remotely, to a more relaxed schedule, without any dip in performance or output. 

This, coupled with a growing desire to redress the work-life balance and move work down the priority list, led the workforce to not just ask for flexibility, but demand it. More than 90% of workers now want to set their own hours, giving themselves the freedom to care for their family, look after their wellbeing, and pursue meaningful projects.

Flexibility now ranks second only to compensation in terms of job satisfaction, according to a report from Future Forum, and 70% of employees are prepared to change jobs if they aren’t given the degree of flexibility they’re looking for. 

It’s unlikely they’ll find that flexibility in the public sector. Firstly because many of these jobs, especially those in critical infrastructure, simply can’t accommodate flexible schedules. And secondly because public sector employers are typically slower to respond to workplace trends  and more resistant to change than private corporations.

But in an era where all industries and sectors are grappling with labor shortages, the employer-employee dynamic has shifted. If flexible working arrangements aren’t part of the package, workers have the luxury of looking elsewhere.

The private sector has already pivoted in response - offering not just remote work, but also hybrid schedules so workers can effectively choose when they want to be in the office.

Low pay/less opportunity

It’s not just timing that is tempting workers to make the leap from public to private. Those flexible working arrangements often come with better pay and more perks, making them practically irresistible.

The public sector is suffering. With investment dwindling and the economic cost of lockdowns now being felt, those shrinking budgets are being felt on the frontlines. The wage gap between the public and private sector is widening to record-setting levels - private sector wages increased by 5% last year, compared with 2.7% for state and local governments.

By contrast, the private sector is pulling itself out of the economic quagmire, showing strong jobs growth as it recovers. With more room to innovate, and less financial and regulatory constraints, private corporations are overtaking the public sector in achieving a faster and more sustainable recovery.

Staff with tech skills are most likely to feel the pull of a private sector salary. In some cases, the private technology sector can offer a 50%-100% pay increase along with the flexibility of working remotely. This will inevitably lead to government organizations relying on IT departments that are largely outsourced to expensive contractors in the near future, since most won’t be able to pivot to offering higher salaries fast enough to stem the brain drain. 

For their employees, this means more opportunities. Private sector workers will have more scope for promotion and skill development as their companies rebound.

What this means for private sector employers

With more job openings than applicants to fill them, this employee migration is good news for the private sector. Employers can tap into this pool of workers by doubling down on what makes them different - highlighting their readiness to offer flexible working, and investing in their employees.

If you’re a private sector employer who’s not offering flexibility, now’s the time to make the switch. That culture shift won’t just attract talent, it’ll also help you retain the staff you have. Research shows that employees with flexible work schedules are more motivated and engaged. Having the ability to adjust your work schedule increases job satisfaction by 62% according to one study.

If you’re worried that going remote or hybrid will hinder your team’s performance, don’t be. Analysts at Gartner surveyed more than 10,000 digital workers and found a strong link between flexibility and productivity. Just under half of those surveyed said flexibility around work hours made them more productive, while 30% said that spending less or no time commuting into the office boosted their productivity.

Employee Productivity Monitoring solutions like Prodoscore can help managers understand how remote team members are engaged. The non-intrusive platform provides insight into  tool adoption and usage, compiling that information into a single interface so managers can visualize at a glance if any one is struggling, at risk of burning out, or taking advantage of the flexible setup

The innovative software allows companies to offer flexible working, while ensuring the team’s deadlines and objectives are met. Contact us today to schedule a demonstration or find out more.

How will visibility impact your business?