While the job market has been volatile at times, the COVID-19 pandemic was a force that rattled the job market like never before. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that 47 million people quit their jobs. This glaring statistic is nothing to glaze over and is representative of a societal shift in the job market. In fact, this movement has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.”
What is the Great Resignation?
Coined by Anthony Klotz, the “Great Resignation” refers to the masses of people who decided to resign during the pandemic. A professor of management at Texas A&M University, Anthony Klotz said, “The great resignation is coming. When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn’t happen over the past year.”
So, why did throngs of people leave their jobs in the midst of an already unprecedented time: the pandemic? Here are some possible reasons employees may have left their jobs:
- The shift to companies working remotely
The future of work as well as the pandemic has pushed companies to work remotely. Though some companies adopted temporary models of working remotely and some implemented hybrid models after the pandemic, it’s no surprise that working remotely was a coveted benefit. A study by Pew Research shows that “roughly six in ten U.S. workers who say their job can mainly be done from home (59%) are working from home all or most of the time.”
Jobseekers flocked to apply for companies that leveraged working remotely as a job benefit. Take, for example, Airbnb, which received “more than 1 million people who have viewed their job page since announcing their work from anywhere policy.”
For employees who were looking to jump ship before the pandemic occurred, the shift to working remotely may have been a deciding factor.
- Soul searching
At a time when the world had been rocked by the pandemic, not only was there a lingering sense of uncertainty but a sense of hopelessness. This hopelessness is what typically pushes us to look inwards, as we begin questioning aspects of our lives from our career trajectories to life goals.
Many quit their jobs to pursue lifelong dreams of entrepreneurship. While this may be deemed a risky feat by some, the pandemic truly created a sense of “now or never.” It’s oftentimes moments of uncertainty that bring moments of clarity, after the fact. A study by digital.com showed that 62% of respondents said they were starting a business to be their own boss, while 60% of respondents said they were passionate about pursuing a business idea.
- Focusing on life, again
Working a 9-5 in the office may mean personal life takes secondary place. Lockdowns during the pandemic meant staying inside as much as possible, naturally bringing a lot of introspection. In fact, staying inside again after going into the office 9-5 for so long may have made people question their work-life balance. For those with families and pets, the pandemic may have been a time to spend quality time with family and pets again.
Pandemic lockdowns created an interesting contrast: there were areas of the world that were at a forced standstill, while daily life continued on. The silver lining of pandemic lockdowns may have been that it granted some the ability to reprioritize and reconnect with those they love.
The Great Resignation contributed to the acceleration of the future of work by giving the power back to employees and job seekers to shape the future. Look at the story the data is telling: if employees are leaving their jobs in huge numbers, then it’s time for rethinking. Is it a sign of a bigger issue or societal shifts? Ultimately, the Great Resignation means it’s up to companies to figure out how to retain talent. And, it’s up to us, to look at the future of work as a way to impact the workforce.