According to the latest report, a record-high 4.4 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in September 2021, up from 4.3 million in August and far above the pre-pandemic level of 3.6 million. These staggering numbers account for nearly three percent of the nation's total workforce.
The job market is also improving as businesses open their offices after the pandemic. The latest data suggest 10.4 million job openings in Sept'21 against 10.6 million in Aug'21.
But as offices open, there seems to be turmoil in the jobs market as employees are quitting jobs from all corners. We are in the middle of 'The Great Resignation.' Dr. Anthony Klotz coined the term, and he calls the trend a 'Pandemic Epiphany.'
Why are Americans quitting jobs?
The reasons behind the mass resignation can be multiple:
1) Better opportunities.
2) Higher wages
3) Need to work remotely.
4) Happy with unemployment benefits, without working.
But not everyone is leaving because of unemployment benefits, child or elderly care, or family relocation during the pandemic.
A Limeade survey asked people why they quit their jobs - 40% cited burnout, 20% said the lack of flexibility, 16% felt that their previous employer was not supporting their wellbeing.
The elephant in the room is work-life balance. Before the pandemic started, our lives always revolved around our work. We planned our vacations based on our work calendar; we met people only over weekends and socialized only on off days.
The pandemic seems to have changed all of this. It forced people to see the value of life and reflect on what matters to them.
Many have realized that it's not work, so millions began reimagining their lives. They realized they didn't want to wait until retirement to realize their dream. Many quit full-time jobs and started freelancing. They wanted to spend more time at home with their family. They realized life was too short to stick it out in the wrong career.
Higher worker turnover is also due to the fear of getting contracted by the virus. No surprise that some of the biggest losses are from the already ravaged leisure and hospitality industries, where remote working doesn't work.
What do employees want?
Nearly 40% of the survey people said the ability to work remotely according to personal preference. That's what people now want. They don't want their lives to revolve around their jobs anymore. Instead, they want their careers to fit into the kind of life.
A parent raising a child wants a job that allows them to take time off every day to drop the little one at basketball.
Young millennials may not want to slog it out ten hours a day anymore. They prefer to work five hours a day and expect their employer to respect that.
People want a job that helps them maintain a work-life balance period."
Employers side of the story
The first year of the pandemic was hard enough on most of the businesses. Offices were closed, and when they reopened, supply bottleneck strangled operations, and now workers are quitting.
"Out of the frying pan into the fire."
What are companies doing to retain their talent?
Some companies are offering higher increments and bonuses; reports say that wages for low-paid workers are rising fastest since the great recession.
Some employers, like German e-commerce firm Zalando, offered weeks leave to all its staff collectively. The company shut down its offices in the first week of August so that all employees could take a break.
Some companies are giving coupons for food delivery.
These benefits are exciting, but if a company is to survive the great resignation drive. It must deep dive into an employee's mind and see what they want.
Flexibility is the term. Companies must allow people to continue working from home if they want to and not penalize their careers. Companies must change their work model for good because a paycheck is no longer enough.
Finally, are you planning to join the "Big Quit?"
I'm pretty happy with my job and quite frankly not interested. But, you will have to decide what you want. What suits your economic situation, what helps you pay your loans. What enables you to support your family.
Ask yourself if the safety of a 9 to 5 job comforts you or the flexibility of freelancing excites you.
Soul searching is all nice and good, but survival, that's a battle that you alone need to fight.
So if you are content with your current workplace, passionate about work, and enjoy your current corporate environment. If you have a job that pays your bills - a job you are happy to return to every Monday.
Then don't fall for the Great Resignation.