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How a Massive Resignation Crisis Could Impact Employee Turnover

Across the United States, Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, and most businesses have or are preparing to return to the office in some capacity – whether that be full time or as a hybrid model. But as many organizations are starting to notice, their employees’ work-life balance and related preferences have changed since they were last physically together on a routine basis. So much so, many HR experts fear a wave of employee churn is coming, which could cause employee retention rates to drop, and in turn, severely hamper businesses’ ability to rebound from the pandemic.

What’s Driving Employee Turnover Post Covid-19?

The pandemic was an eye-opening experience for everyone in many ways. For workers, it brought about several realizations that’s causing them to re-evaluate their current work situation.

Job security may not be as secure

It’s estimated that roughly 22 million U.S. workers lost their jobs in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, a third of full-time employees experienced a pay cut last year. Even for those who weren’t directly affected, they likely knew someone who was. All of this is having many workers realize that their jobs may not be as secure as they thought. For those with unfulfilling or taxing jobs, this realization often has been followed by the question, “If I could be let go so easily, is it worth the stress I routinely experience?”

Remote work offers a lot of flexibility

The shift to remote work was a staggering change for employees across the world. In 2019, only 7% of private sector workers and 4% of public sector workers had access to remote work benefits. At the peak of the pandemic, 62% of all employees in the U.S. workforce were remote. Many of those that suddenly were working from home found that they enjoyed it – and were just as (or more) productive as they were in the office. According to a McKinsey study, 80% of workers enjoy working from home and more than two-thirds (69%) say that they are either more productive or as productive as before the pandemic when they were always working in the office.

Who Is Contributing to Higher Employee Turnover Levels?

The employee attrition wave may entail workers of all ages, but some age groups are leaving at higher rates than others. One recent study showed individuals ages 40-45 saw a 25.1% increase in resignations from August 2019 to August 2020. Their younger counterparts, ages 30-35 (21.5%) and ages 35-40 (19.6%), also saw high increases. Resignations among those in managerial positions increased 12.5%.

Beyond ages and job titles, certain industries also are seeing categorically higher resignation rates. Resignations in the healthcare industry rose 3.6%, likely due to the strain the pandemic had on these workers. Additionally, 4.5% more high-tech workers resigned from their positions compared to the previous year.

There also is an important distinction between men and women who are resigning. Generally, men have been resigning to take another job elsewhere. Women, on the other hand, have left the workforce entirely to take on more family responsibilities.

What Can Companies Do to Prevent Employee Attrition?

Again, successfully working remotely for more than a year showed millions of people that their previous ideas around work demands and expectations were suddenly up for negotiation. Better hours, work-life balance and pay were on the table. Here are some steps companies can take to meet employees’ new wants and expectations.

Offer remote and flex schedule opportunities whenever possible

Organizations should avoid viewing remote work as a necessary evil where its only value was during Covid-19 restrictions. Remote work has given employees significantly more flexibility to accommodate personal needs alongside their professional obligations. Younger workers have been valuing a good work-life balance for years, and this is one of the best ways to achieve this.

That’s not to say they have to be given the freedom to work remotely 100% of the time. Many organizations with hybrid models are requiring employees to come in on certain days of the week to maintain their in-office culture. But extending some degree of remote work can help workers see a viable future with your organization that aligns with their needs.

Extend new employee benefits

With seemingly everyone needing to stay home, some employees faced tremendous stressors from caring for children or aging parents while also trying to stay on top of their work. For many, these challenges led to burn-out issues that impacted their productivity – or their ability to work altogether. Child and senior care benefits traditionally have not been a common perk, but more organizations now recognize the value in helping their employees with this. Not only can these benefits alleviate stressful situations for employees, they also are a tangible demonstration that your organization cares about them and their family.

Focus on mental health

While the pandemic accentuated or contributed to employees’ mental health problems, this is a topic that had grown less taboo in offices the years prior. A 2019 study showed 62% of millennials were comfortable talking about their mental health issues. Coming out of the pandemic, more employers recognize the importance of providing sufficient mental healthcare benefits for their employees. This includes standard offerings like ensuring health plans include access to low-cost therapy resources to trainings on stress management. It’s also important for managers to know how to identify warning signs that an employee may be experiencing a problem and how to effectively support them should there be an issue.

Are Workers Bluffing – Or are Employers in Denial?

Replacing employees takes a lot of time, resources and money. Mass resignations should be considered a crisis-level event for companies with dissatisfied employees. Yet, most employers think this is all talk, according to another survey. Those polled only believe 8% of their employees will quit once restrictions are lifted, and a quarter think that no one will resign. This is sharp contrast to what workers are saying. A survey from Monster.com shows 95%(!) of employees are considering finding a new job.

 

Whether or not there is a massive resignation coming, employers need to understand workers now have starkly different expectations around work flexibility. It’s critical that organizations stay ahead of this and begin taking steps to accommodate these emerging needs to help retain – and recruit – the best talent.

Have questions about how to best accommodate your employees’ flexible work needs? We’d love to help!