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'The Great Resignation' is here as employees re-evaluate careers in wake of pandemic

Work stress
Posted at 4:35 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 16:35:22-04

As many Americans head back to a physical office, they're realizing they have a lot of employment options. The pandemic has people re-evaluating their futures and career paths.

"The Great Resignation" even has a hashtag. It's the concept that a wave of people have already or soon will be quitting their jobs. The hypothesis was first coined by Texas A&M Professor Anthony Klotz.

“I study the ways that people resign and the reasons they resign in different ways, why do employees resign in more positive or negative ways and I’m also just starting to study a bit of remote work even before the pandemic; why were people moving into remote working arrangements.”

There are, Klotz says, a lot of reasons why people leave their jobs. Usually, he says, there's one thing or event that pushes people over the edge.

“In our research, we call them turnover shocks, so maybe a co-worker who leaves and you’re like, 'if she’s leaving, it causes me to weigh these things up,' and say, 'is it still worthwhile for me,' these focuses on shock obviously ties into the pandemic.”

Add in the pandemic and the fact that many are re-evaluating their lives, careers, and circumstances.

“So my thought was, these individuals who would have normally turned over, over the years stayed in place because of the uncertainty of the pandemic. So, once the pandemic lifts, there’s going to be this backlog of resignations.”

He looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and saw that in 2020, resignations were down compared to 2019. That data backed up his theory.

“The amount of turnover both in the number of people who quit and the turnover rate were both the highest on record - ever - in April that goes back 20 years. So, one thing I didn’t build into my hypothesis is the thought that there’d be all these job openings, these great opportunities for people, so even if you’re happy at your job, but you see there’s these openings out there, that increases the odds you might take a look.”

That can be stressful if you're an employer, business owner, or company.

“We help companies with their employees to help them eat better, sleep better, move more, reduce their stress so they can be happier, healthier, and more productive in this crazy world,” says Lorna Borenstein.

She's the founder and CEO of Grokker, and she's helping businesses navigate these types of things.

“Not just retain talent, attract talent and retain talent right now there’s such a culture war where the balance of power has shifted so dramatically that the employees are the ones who are in charge. So, just to get them to even look at your company and then once they’re onboard how do you get them to stick around?”

Businesses, she says, are concerned. And they're reacting.

“They’re shrinking their real estate footprints and moving towards hoteling.”

Professor Klotz says this isn't something that's going to end tomorrow or next week.

“Hopefully at the end of the next year or two people will feel better fit than ever with the job arrangement they have, but between now and then there will be lots of openings and lots of resignations and so this reshuffling will take time.”

Lorna is advising clients not to fight it.

“If you really want to get around what is going to bite you if you try to exert control as opposed to thinking about what’s in the best interest of your business and let the humanity lead. I think there’s a much brighter future, it doesn’t have to be scary and bleak”