- Employees quit in droves last year because they wanted more for themselves; better flexibility, more benefits, and higher pay.
- The Great Resignation hasn’t just been a leisurely movement though — many workers’ circumstances have forced them to quit.
- Workers’ lives have been at risk because they didn’t have access to sick days, proper protective equipment and understanding bosses, so they had to quit.
In 2021, The Great Resignation was born out of society’s shifting priorities – spurred on by the pandemic.
Employees quit in droves last year because they wanted more for themselves; better flexibility, more benefits, and higher pay.
While partially true, this understanding of The Great Resignation fails to recognize how individual experiences may have forced people out of the workforce, whether that be due to physical safety or family-related responsibilities.
In a Q&A with Lora Patterson, Senior HR Advisor at Zenefits, she explained that The Great Resignation has many nuances, and that workers aren’t just quitting because they feel like it.
Allwork.Space: Are workers quitting simply because they want to?
Lora Patterson: It’s complicated and everyone has their own reasons. The pandemic really put life priorities front and center. The world of work was reimagined to a point where employers didn’t know how to keep up with the pace and the demands of the worker.
Looking specifically at frontline workers and those working in small businesses, there were many instances where their lives were at risk because they didn’t have access to sick days, proper protective equipment and understanding bosses.
While employees had their own fears around safety, they also questioned whether or not safety was important to their company. Many employees left a job because they lost respect and trust for their leadership.
This was, in large part, a similar situation for small businesses, and it’s still a challenging time for SMBs that are having to navigate changing policies from local, state, and government regulations.
It’s a series of unfortunate events that has unraveled with workers having to deal with issues across all aspects of their lives and “The Great Resignation” has morphed into “The Great Reflection.” The pandemic altered how people viewed their lives and how their careers truly affected them.
Allwork.Space: The Great Resignation has also been called “the leisure unemployment movement,” but what about the workers who are having to quit their jobs to take care of their health during the pandemic, or who had to quit due to unfortunate circumstances?
For employees that work in traditional white-collar and office roles, there were more opportunities to work from home, reconsider their career options and have time to reflect and recalibrate where necessary.
This “luxury” wasn’t available to all working Americans and as a result, we are unfortunately hearing and reading about millions of Americans who continue to struggle due to inflexible work schedules, benefits and commitments.
As an example, part-time workers didn’t have access or flexibility to take sick days because they had to choose between a paycheck and taking care of their health and family.
I would hope at this point, after two years of the pandemic, U.S. employers have taken note that they need to take better care of their workers. Whether this be through better pay, health insurance, access to COVID tests, and flexible working options, employers have a greater responsibility to their workers.
Workers who had COVID and worked at companies that didn’t fall under state or federal leave laws were also affected and forced to quit in The Great Resignation. Oftentimes companies didn’t have the policies in place to support the time off they needed. This lack of policy also affected those who had to take time to care for their loved ones.
There is also the unfortunate reality that people, especially mothers with young children, decided to quit because balancing distance learning and their career was too much, and their workplace wasn’t flexible enough or offered the support they needed.
Mothers were then forced to quit and this, in turn, has resulted in the largest gender pay gap we’ve seen in decades. Women’s careers take a seat on the back burner to prioritize childcare and set back wages that will result in long-term effects with their salaries.
Allwork.Space: What other sides are there to The Great Resignation that are less talked about?
A big part of “The Great Resignation” many have yet to touch on is the gap of pay transparency between what is being offered and what employees are demanding.
All ideas of work such as resume gaps, five-day work weeks, long-term loyalty and being in a physical office to be productive are now old-school mentalities. Employers were shocked with employees quitting, but historically have been paying them the same wages, despite cost of living rising and inflation while expanding their roles and not giving the opportunities to grow.
Ping pong tables, free food and company-branded t-shirts are nice, but The Great Resignation puts benefits at the focal point of job roles. This includes the flexibility people are allowed to have, investing in their personal goals and actually offering competitive wages.
From a remote work standpoint, employees are now being faced with just the day-to-day tasks of their job. They no longer had the daily check-ins with their favorite workers, the massive sales kickoffs, the company holiday parties, etc. Instead, it’s them and their laptop working to stay focused and driven while managing safety concerns around COVID.
When you remove all the benefits and you strip a job down to the actual work, people are realizing that they may not enjoy what they do and they may not be getting paid well.
In the last two years, I’ve noticed greater transparency around benefits and pay due to social media outlets like TikTok. I’ve seen accounts create shareable spreadsheets where people can add in their job role, their annual wage, and their bonuses.
This kind of transparency is allowing others to see exactly what they may be missing out on simply because they are not having those discussions with their companies OR they are staying at jobs where those types of benefits don’t exist.
In addition to this, we see more and more people advertising better ways to market themselves whether with existing employers or in interviews. It is now a job candidate’s market and they feel empowered for the first time in decades.
Employees are becoming more aware of what they can ask for, what they deserve, and how they should ask for it.