What is The Great Resignation?

COVID-19 shifted how people viewed their careers and led many to consider changing paths. According to a recent survey, 25% to 40% of people are thinking about quitting their job. In December 2020, resignation rates for managers increased by 12% compared to the previous year. The Great Resignation was coined by Texas A & M Professor Anthony Klotz. It refers to the ripple effect of individuals who have or plan to quit their job.

During the pandemic, the shift to working from home has provided much-needed flexibility for professional workers and demonstrated that a remote workforce could maintain productivity. So, you might wonder, if employees are so productive, why are they leaving their jobs?

Work Fatigue and Burnout

Research shows remote employees are working longer, spending time in more meetings, and keeping up with more communication channels. According to a survey conducted by Robert Half Management, nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than before. These additional hours are adding up, resulting in fatigue, and in some cases, burnout.

Caregiving Responsibilities

Survey results indicate that working parents were more likely to work weekends since switching to remote work. 70% of female-identifying individuals reported imbalanced caregiving responsibilities during COVID-related remote work. Furthermore, more than one-third of female-identifying respondents stated they are responsible for all caregiving or housework responsibilities in addition to their remote jobs. Many working parents did not – and may still not – have a way to offset their caregiving duties during the pandemic due to school and childcare facilities shutting down.

Shifting Priorities

Having cut out their commuting time and reduced casual office conversations, some employees find that remote work gives them more time to focus on their priorities. Cutting out a mandatory commute, employees can focus on their health (exercise), learning (time to read or explore other interests), reduce their living expenses (by living outside of cities), or spend more time with their families. As a result, some workers are re-thinking how they spend their time and would spend their time if their employer announced a mandatory return-to-office. In some cases, this reevaluation of priorities is causing employees to seek new job opportunities which offer greater flexibility, particularly from companies who have announced that remote work will now be a permanent option.

How You Can Avoid Losing Your Employees

As an employer, you can avoid losing employees to these three causes of The Great Resignation by:

  1. Meaningfully Supporting Work-life Balance
    Employers can say they support work-life balance, but not all do so through their actions. As a manager, you should lead by example – when you take days off, stay away from your email. Consider using the delay delivery function on emails, so staff phones are not buzzing on their days off with notifications. Keep in mind: more than one-third of U.S. workers ranked work-life balance as the biggest contributor to finding meaning in their work.
  2. Asking for Feedback
    Solicit feedback from employees to determine if your policies and practices are helping or hindering them. Having an open, transparent line of communication between management and staff is essential and can be accomplished through regularly scheduled all-team meetings, focus groups, and/or 1-on-1 check-ins.
  3. Giving Options
    Companies that dictate all employees to return to the office after the pandemic have the greatest risk of losing employees. Consider offering remote work options to employees – if they have demonstrated that this format can work for them, there may be no reason to remove it. Other employees may prefer coming into the office a few days a week or every workday.

None of these solutions are guaranteed to prevent workers from leaving; you will need to assess workplace culture and benefits holistically. However, these actions can help address your employees’ immediate needs and concerns as the pandemic continues to impact day-to-day life.