This time last year, we were still feeling the fallout of the first strike of the global pandemic. The economy was in bad shape and the forecast was bleak. With the national unemployment rate at around 8.5% and unemployment benefits through the CARES Act about to expire (benefits were later extended), it was hardly the time to quit your job.
But the U.S economy has dramatically improved since then, thanks largely to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of July, the unemployment rate is down to 5.4% and though the pandemic is ongoing, states have reopened and generously eased COVID-19 safety protocol. Things aren’t back to pre-pandemic “normal,” and they may never be, but we’ve managed to adapt and, in that process, really think about what is meaningful in our lives.
Mix in self-reflection, an ongoing pandemic and a comeback economy, and you’ve got a lot of people realizing that when it comes to their jobs, they can do better. What has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” is upon us. People are quitting their jobs in droves. According to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary released in June, 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone. Also in April, there were 9.3 million job openings in the U.S.
What are people’s top reasons for leaving their jobs? GOBankingRates talked to workplace and career experts to find out.
Last updated: Aug. 24, 2021
1. They Want More Flexibility and Remote Work
According to a recent survey from Legion, an AI-powered workforce management solution, 59% of employees would quit a job due to scheduling issues, highlighting the need for flexibility in and around the workplace.
“Instead of going to an office from 9-5, employees are saving time, effort, and money and putting it back into their days,” said Scott Hirsch, CTO and co-founder of TalentMarketplace. “People with kids, for example, are now able to watch over their children while still working.”
Hirsch highlighted that contrary to previous popular belief, remote work does not negatively impact productivity.
“In fact, 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home,” Hirsch said. “Being in the comfort of your home, being able to take frequent breaks, and not having any office distractions make a better worker — and a happier one.”
2. It Costs Money To Commute
“Commuting, buying lunch and having ‘work appropriate’ clothes all involve employees having to incur costs that can quickly add up,” said Anna Barker, founder, LogicalDollar. “And during the pandemic, people quickly started to see just how much money they can save by not having to physically go to work.
“This has led to the situation we see now, where people are hesitant to go back to their work place when they’ve seen the financial benefits of not having to do just that,” Barker continued. “That is, if they can work just as effectively from home without having to spend as much of their own money at the same time, questions start to be asked about the point of traveling to a workplace every day.”
3. They Aren’t Getting Paid Enough
“Jobcase recently conducted a survey and found that unemployed workers rank pay (41%) as their top consideration in selecting a job right now and 15% said their biggest obstacle to getting back to work today is finding a job that can pay what they need,” said Fred Goff, co-founder and CEO of Jobcase. “This isn’t rocket science, it’s Economics 101. The clearing price for labor markets now is simply higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Every company has the potential to be fully staffed if they simply pay what the market is telling them is a fair and livable wage. It’s time to balance shareholder value with worker value.”
4. They Want Health-Focused Benefits To Stay
“It’s not just about compensation anymore,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO, founder of Grokker and author of “It’s Personal: The Business Case for Caring.” “People want a sense of purpose, balance, and belonging. They want to feel connected. They want to feel companies they work for are making the world a better place, supporting employees in their mental and physical wellbeing, and benefits that help people grow, continuing education, training, etc., plus innovative solutions that help people achieve a better work/life balance such as help with household chores, childcare stipends, etc.”
Borenstien noted that according to Randstad USA, 61% of people would be willing to accept a lower salary if a company offered a great benefits package. Another survey showed that 73% of professionals surveyed a company’s health and wellness offerings influence their decision to work there.
“Employers need to offer benefits that support the whole person — not just incentives to lose weight or quit smoking — but benefits that allow people to feel connected and balanced,” Borenstien said.
5. Work-Life Balance Has Become Impossible
“The pandemic had a huge impact on employees, but perhaps the biggest fallout was a reevaluation of their lives and a renewed look at work/life balance,” said Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group, a business management consulting firm. “Many employees came to the realization while working from home that they were working harder and doing dozens of Zoom calls each day with colleagues and clients — they were spending more time working than if they were in the office. And that time was cutting into family time.”
But having to simultaneously juggle their jobs and their personal life — during a global pandemic — many employees came to more profoundly appreciate the need for work-life balance.
“This realization has caused many employees to not only reevaluate their jobs but seek new jobs that provide an improved work/life balance,” Castelán said. “And for older workers, re-thinking how hard they really wanted to work.”
6. Their Managers Have Lacked Compassion
“When working from home became the norm during the pandemic, managers seemed to lead in one of two ways: (1) requiring so many meetings and proof that employees were working the hours they were contracted for, or (2) leading individuals and teams to get their work done however it worked best for them — allowing people to deliver the same results through different paths,” said Colleen DelVecchio, leadership and career coach. “The leaders who went with #2 have employees who experienced a compassionate leadership style and now really trust them to lead; the leaders who went with #1, have employees who feel that they are not trusted. This lack of trust is leading to many of these employees resigning and finding a new workplace where there are compassionate leaders.”
7. They’re Burnt Out
“Workers may feel completely burned out from working nonstop during the pandemic (even more so if they picked up slack from a colleague or more on their team who resigned/was furloughed/laid off),” said Vicki Salemi, Monster career expert.
“In response to the projected ‘great resignation;’ by economists, Monster conducted a poll in June among workers to gauge their thoughts on the summer jobs market and their plans on making a career move,” Salemi said. “The majority of workers (95%) said they’re considering changing jobs and the most common factor driving the change is burnout from their current roles (32%).”
Juliet Funt, founder and CEO of The Juliet Funt Group, and author of “A Minute to Think: Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness, and Do Your Best Work,” added that since the pandemic people are working harder and longer hours.
“The sudden shift to remote work (and all the chaos and stress that ensued) was a sprint that became a marathon with the intensity of a sprint. Workdays lengthened by around 2.5 hours on average. Microsoft Teams data found meetings more than doubled, chats increased by 45% and email increased by 40B per month during the pandemic.”
8. They Feel Detached From the Company
“Our research at Humu shows that employees who feel a strong sense of belonging within their teams are 35% less likely to look for a new job than their disconnected peers,” said Stefanie Tignor, head of data science and insights at Humu. “But most companies haven’t been able to successfully foster connections within distributed teams. With so much continued uncertainty and turnover, even tenured employees are feeling unmoored.
“And so across the market, we’re seeing that people increasingly feel isolated and unmotivated, and are therefore becoming much more likely to optimize around quantitative benefits like salary and number of vacation days,” Tignor said.
9. They Were Treated as Disposable During the Peak of the Pandemic
“Many workers were laid off or saw hours and pay reduced, or saw their organization do so with co-workers, followed by (for some) a record year of profits,” said Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “And so while from a financial perspective it is understandable that cuts needed to be made when organizations faced the potential for deep losses, from a personal perspective, workers might see old assumptions of mutual commitment with their employers through new eyes. And with their own uncertainty about new waves of Covid infections and possibly more upheaval with more lockdowns, they may be concluding that it isn’t worth it.”
10. We Became More Introverted — and Self-Aware
“Since the pandemic reduced social interactions and external stimulus, many people turned inwards towards themselves,” said Bartek Boniecki, head of people at Passport Photo Online. “They used the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their passions, needs, hopes and aspirations. As a result, some of them found that their current job is no longer fulfilling. Additionally, global anxiety has led us to focus more on the present moment and our own goals. So why not follow your heart and run your own business? In light of getting life satisfaction, it seems like a reasonable step to take.”
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