'The Great Resignation' - why millions quit their jobs in 2021
2021 saw millions of workers around the globe are quit their jobs in what has been dubbed as "The Great Resignation".
Why did this happen? Was it related to covid-19? Is the way we understand work changing forever?
"The Great Resignation" was coined by Texas A&M University psychologist Anthony Klotz. He predicted in May that people would leave their current jobs after a process he defined as "pandemic epiphanies".
Pictured: A Washington D.C. Amazon driver back in April 2021.
The numbers are staggering: 2,9% of the US workforce (around 4,3 million employees) resigned in 2021 according to data cited by CNBC from the Department of Labor.
Meanwhile, the UK doesn't know what to do with over one million open jobs. The food service industry, such as this McDonald's in Miami, is one of the most affected along with the hotel industry.
Higher availability of work should be a sign of a healthy job market. However, as the global economy is recovering from the coronavirus outbreak, many essential sectors are facing staff shortages, including retail stores like Walmart.
The Great Resignation affects the world supply chain in more than one way. The United Kingdom has been having a hard time finding able truck drivers to transport goods across the country. Some are putting the blame on Brexit and immigration restrictions.
Experts are divided on why The Great Resignation is happening. The main culprit seems to be Covid-19. According to the Harvard Business Review, resignation rates soared in industries that saw increased demand and workload during the pandemic.
Healthcare workers were greatly affected by the pandemic. This photo shows a nurse protest in California demanding higher wages and safer work conditions.
A piece on NPR suggested that many professionals got used to the greater flexibility offered by working from home during the lockdown.
They were closer to their families, reduced chances of infection and could skip time wasted on commuting. Some don't want that freedom to go away.
This is linked to the idea that the pandemic made a lot of people to stop and think about their lives. Spending most of the time working in an office no longer seems like a priority.
Something else to factor in is age. A few experts argue that the pandemic seems to have accelerated the retirement process of older employees while younger people getting into the workfoce seek different jobs and have other priorities than previous generations.
(Photo: Bruce Mars/Unsplash)
Many employers are now concerned and look for answers about what to do to keep their staff and attract new workers.
Forbes magazine point out that previous perks such as pizza parties or group trips no longer work in a post-Covid 19 environment. Burnout related to the pandemic goes farther than that.
Some have tried to reach a compromise. For example, mental health days to deal with Coronavirus-related trauma or a hybrid office model where employees can either work from home or the office depending what suits them better. Here you can see a professor from UNLV in the United States teaching an online class from his campus office.
Meanwhile, many involved in labor movements believe this is the right time to pressure employers to get fairer wages, such as this National Health Service protest in London last July. They feel their jobs are essential but the people doing them are expendibles.
Writing for The Guardian, US university professor Erika Rodriguez believes that this is a once-in-a-generation chance to redefine work. "After years of inflation and stagnant wages, the pandemic has revealed the value of labor, the worthlessness of commutes and office culture, and the importance of finding personal comfort in times of increasing precarity", she comments.
Pictured: A food delivery courier protest in Berlin.
Since The Great Resignation is not really a unified movement but a trend caused by various factors at different levels, many experts don't believe such wild predictions.
Instead, they assure that people will slowly back to work as we live the pandemic behind, specially when the money saved during the lockdown runs out.
Covid-19 is not entirely gone, though, and the collective experience of dealing with it will remain for a long time. Perhaps The Great Resignation has less to do with how we feel about our jobs and more about how we look at our lives.
After all, the coronavirus has changed so much about how we live our daily lives. Is it really that strange that it also affected how we work?
And can people be blamed to try to have a more fulfilling life, surrounded by people they love and care? The real effects of The Great Resignation are probably yet to be seen.