What Is Causing The Great Resignation?
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a torrent of employees leaving the workforce or switching career paths. In the US alone, over four million people left their jobs in April 2021 according to a summary from the Department of Labor. April’s figure marks the biggest spike on record, with this tidal wave of employees quitting quickly coming to be known as the “Great Resignation”.
A survey of 30,000+ workers by Microsoft revealed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year. Meanwhile, a study of UK and Irish workers by Personio found that 38% of those surveyed were planning to resign within the next six months to a year. It appears that the Great Resignation is not yet over, causing stress and lost profits for many employers around the globe. But what exactly is driving so many employees to change careers, or quit the workforce altogether?
For some workers, the pandemic prompted a shift in priorities, encouraging them to become stay-at-home parents, start their own business, or pursue their dream careers. However, the latest report by Limeade shows that the vast majority of workers left because they were unhappy in their roles.
According to Limeade’s report, 40% of employees cited burnout as a top reason for leaving their job. Burnout appeared to be a particular problem for those working in healthcare and foodservice/ hospitality. 54% of healthcare workers and 52% of foodservice/ hospitality workers said that burnout was their key motivation for leaving their previous roles.
Burnout was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon” in 2019. Mental Health UK defines burnout as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion”, that occurs when a person experiences long-term stress in a job, or when a person has worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long period. Common symptoms include:
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time
- Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
- Feeling detached/ alone
- Having a cynical/ negative outlook
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
- Feeling overwhelmed
Burnout can have a hugely negative impact on an employee’s quality of work, commitment and loyalty to an employer, and can result in a ripple effect on the rest of the workforce through increased interpersonal conflict and workflow disruption. If an employer does not have the proper care in place to help employees who are dealing with chronic burnout, then the result can be resignation, with resigning employees even encouraging others to follow suit.
Desire To Work Remotely
Prior to the pandemic, many workers had not experienced remote working. Then, at the peak of the pandemic, offices everywhere were forced to shut their doors and workers were told to work from home. While remote and hybrid working models were already beginning to gain popularity pre-pandemic, the pandemic certainly accelerated this new working trend, and many believe it’s a “trend” here to stay. According to Limeade, 40% of job changers surveyed said they were attracted to their new position because of the opportunity for remote working that it provided. This suggests that an increasing number of the global workplace now expects to work from home moving forward and enjoys the often better work-life balance that it provides.
According to the BBC, poor treatment at work is another major reason behind the Great Resignation, with the pandemic exacerbating already-toxic workplace cultures. The BBC cites a recent Stanford University study which shows that companies with a positive working culture tended to continue to treat employees kindly throughout the pandemic, while many companies with already-established poor working environments doubled down on decisions that didn’t support employees, such as layoffs. This drove many already-disgruntled employees to leave the company they were at altogether. According to Limeades report, some employees were so dissatisfied with the culture at their workplace that 28% of respondents said they left their jobs without having another lined up.
With inflation and the cost of living on the rise, dissatisfaction with their pay packet was another major reason for employees handing in their notice. According to Limeade’s report, 37% of job changers were attracted to a new position by the better salary on offer. In fact, in the foodservice/ hospitality sector, better compensation was the number one reason that attracted respondents to their new roles.
A Lasting Change?
While Moody’s analytics chief economist believes the Great Resignation could be over by 2023, many believe employees demanding more from their employers is a shift here to stay. The pandemic has changed the priorities of millions and it has now become almost compulsory for companies to make serious investments in their workers’ wages, well-being, work-life balance, and opportunities.
“When there’s a lot of people moving, that costs companies in terms of turnover and lost productivity,” points out Ross Seychell, chief people officer at Personio. “It takes six to nine months to onboard someone to be fully effective. Companies that lose a lot of their workforce are going to struggle with this over the next 12 to 16 months, and maybe much longer. Companies that don’t invest in their people will fall behind.”