Remote Work

The Great Resignation: What We Have Learned

March 10, 2022
12 Min Read

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked many changes. First and foremost, it was a global health crisis. But it led to an array of economic shifts and drastically changed people’s everyday routines. 

The pandemic’s impact on the global workforce has been significant. The U.S. labor force, specifically, experienced record churn rates. In the early months of the pandemic, layoffs plagued all industries, resulting in tight labor markets in 2021. Then, people started quitting their jobs left and right. 

We know that companies have been reeling to recover from shut-downs, restrictions, and other economic challenges. Many businesses are even restructuring their models and operations from the ground up. But what have employees learned from the Great Resignation?

Let’s talk about how this workforce phenomenon could influence your career decisions in the future:

What Is The Great Resignation?

If you’ve turned on the news in the past year, you’ve heard about the Great Resignation. The phenomenon has resulted in millions of Americans quitting their jobs since 2021. 

Millions of Americans Quit Their Jobs in April 2021   

In April 2021, job vacancies hit a 20-year high; about four million workers left their jobs that month, which was also the most in 20 years.

The retail industry accounted for many resignations, and many people quit their jobs in professional and business services. Overworked healthcare and front-line workers left in droves as well.

By the end of April 2021, businesses were advertising 9.3 billion open job positions. This was 12% more than March.

As many industries began re-opening throughout 2021, companies experienced significant labor shortages that threatened the U.S.’s economic recovery from the pandemic. In many cases, the remaining employees were met with more responsibilities and increased working hours with no adjustment in pay.

This labor shortage encouraged a slew of workers to leave their current posts, searching for something better. The pandemic reminded us how short life is, which caused many people to reevaluate their vocations. 

The Employee Retention Rate Dipped Dramatically

Retention rates for U.S. companies have fallen to nearly unprecedented numbers throughout the pandemic. While each industry is different, most businesses shoot for a retention rate of about 90%, making a healthy employee turnover rate roughly 10%. 

The overall turnover rate last year in 2021 across industries was 57.3% — voluntary turnover accounted for 33%. Job openings continue to outnumber unemployed American workers by millions. Businesses in almost every industry struggle to fill existing and newly created positions. 

Various factors have caused the Great Resignation. But all things considered, the primary driver of the extreme workplace shift has been employees’ reevaluation of how their careers benefit their lives.

Some of the most common reasons for quitting include:

  • Lack of work-life balance
  • Inflexible work schedules
  • Pursuit of passion projects
  • Limited opportunities for career growth
  • Looking for better pay
  • Burnout

What Did We Learn From The Great Resignation?

The fact that so many workers have quit and are quitting their jobs doesn’t mean that you should do the same. There are risks to walking away from a job, and it’s not a decision to make lightly. However, sometimes a new door is just around the corner.

But as with any historical phenomenon, the Great Resignation can tell us a lot about the current state of our workforce.

Burnout Is Real  

Employee burnout is rampant across industries. It’s not like workplace stress and fatigue are new, but more employees are aware of how burnout impacts their everyday lives. 

What’s more, burnout can significantly harm businesses. Overwhelmed workers are much more likely to call in sick,  go to the hospital, and look for other jobs. That’s why so many employers are taking steps to help their employees stay healthy, well, and happy. 

More companies than ever before are offering wellness programs, which can range in levels of features. Some businesses can only afford to provide discounted gym memberships, while others build on-site fitness centers and bring in nutritionists and personal trainers.  

Higher Wages Don’t Always Mean a Better Job

Not too long ago, a pay raise would be enough to encourage most pre-pandemic workers to stick with their jobs. Millennials think differently than previous generations, and nothing can prove it more than a quick look at the job market. With soaring inflation eating away at low wages, amongst many other issues, monetary compensation is just part of the must-have checklist.

Many millennial job seekers are pursuing non-wage incentives like wellness programs, flexible schedules, telecommuting opportunities, childcare, maternity and paternity leave, and student loan reimbursements. Most adults spend a significant amount of their time at work, and they want more opportunities to foster their mental health and overall well-being. 

Company Culture Is Everything

The Coronavirus pandemic sent the remote work trend skyrocketing. Online collaboration, virtual meetings, and freelancing are the norm now. Businesses and start-ups had to adjust how they maintained company cultures. 

The topics above (e.g., health, wellness, flexibility, etc.) are crucial to company culture, but employers have to reevaluate their processes to see how they can foster a healthy culture when so much daily interaction is handled via technology.

After all, culture centers around humans. The lack of in-person communication and collaboration can kill any company’s culture. That is unless the company is proactively fighting for its culture. 

Leaving Your Current Job for Lower Wages Isn’t Always Unwise

A few years ago, if you were interviewing for a job that would pay you less than your current job, the hiring manager might be skeptical. Why would you accept a position with lower compensation than you’ve already achieved? Doesn’t that go against career advancement?

In some ways, it does. But if the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that workers want more than money from their jobs. There are many reasons you might benefit from taking a lower-paying job than your existing (or last) one. 

For example, maybe your new job position would provide you with a more flexible schedule. Perhaps it would allow you to focus more time and energy on your personal life, in turn improving your performance at work. Or, maybe you would simply enjoy the work more!

Millennials Have Different Values About Work

As discussed, millennials and Gen-Z view work much differently than previous generations. Many of them expect different benefits from their employers and seek to feel valued. They want employers to provide recognition, flexibility, and transparency. 

But it goes deeper than that. Many millennials have an entirely different view of work in general. Some see their job as simply a way to get the money they need to enjoy life. Others who live a full-time commitment to their job want to see higher rates of compensation for their work/life balance sacrifice.

Is It Time To Switch Jobs?

So, are you happy in your current job? Do you like the people you work with, and are you able to maintain a high quality of life?

Here are a few tips to help you determine if it’s time to change your career:

Examine Your Company’s Value System  

Company values include the beliefs, principles, and philosophies driving businesses. Values impact profit and customer relationships as well as employee experience.

If your company’s value system is not in line with yours, it might eventually affect your satisfaction and performance. 

Evaluate Your Relationships With Coworkers

Even if you work in a remote or hybrid environment, you work with other people daily. You need strong relationships with your team members if you hope to achieve company-wide goals. But your team’s performance also impacts your career development and opportunities. 

Take an honest look at your relationships with coworkers. If you find it difficult to collaborate, feel undervalued, or generally dread interacting with others, it may be time to look elsewhere.

If you like your colleagues but still have trouble communicating effectively with them, consider trying a communication coach tool like Poised. The lessons and performance tracking can make your virtual meetings and collaborations more successful and enjoyable!

Does Your Current Job Make You a Better You?

No matter what industry you work in, you will be spending a lot of your time working. How does your job fit into your daily life? Does it allow you the flexibility and opportunities necessary to accomplish your health and wellness goals?

Ideally, your job will allow you to live to your full potential. At the very least, it shouldn’t hinder you from it. 

Are Your Skills Valued at Work?

Finally, if your employer does not value your skills, it will eventually wear on you. The truth is, being undervalued can feel frustrating, sad, and lonely. But it can also hold you back in your career. You need to work in a job that utilizes your best skills and talents or at least can keep you on track for advancement.

Resignation Rates Speak For Themselves

The Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, and businesses have to strategize their relationships with employees to combat high turnover rates. With that said, many companies are doing just that, and they’re doing it well. 

This could be a great time to reevaluate your career to see if you are happy and fulfilled in your current job. Consider the information and advice above, and carefully assess whether a change could improve your quality of life. 


4 Million Americans Quit Their Job in April, a 20-Year Record | Business Insider 

Table 18. Annual Quits Rates by Industry and Region, Not Seasonally Adjusted | BLS

7 ways millennials are changing the workplace for the better | NBC

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