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Why Are Employees Leaving During a Pandemic?

Analysis  |  By HR Daily Advisor  
   August 30, 2021

Employers are trying to reconcile a world where millions are without work, yet they can't fill roles and employees are quitting in record numbers.

This article was first published August 30, 2021, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

The global pandemic has created many situations that have been labeled “unprecedented,” and a lot of those have been related to employment. Right now, employers are scratching their heads trying to reconcile a world where millions have been without work, yet it’s still difficult to fill roles and employees are quitting in seemingly record numbers.

Let’s take a look at a few of the many reasons why employees today are still quitting during a pandemic, as well as some of the reasons not everyone is eager to return to the fields they left behind.

Reasons Behind the Resignation

Here are some of the leading causes behind the recent surge in employee resignations:

  • The pandemic created a situation where people started to evaluate what was truly important in their lives. Many found that their work life did not match up with their big picture goals or objectives. This may have led them to make a major change in career path or finally go back to school. Or it may have meant leaving an employer who has not lived up to what the individual thought they would be.
  • While there was a brief respite when the vaccine rollout was underway and it seemed like things were getting back to normal, it’s clear today that the pandemic isn’t done. This means many people have had shifting work needs, some multiple times – like the need to be home to care for others, such as ill loved ones, children who cannot attend daycare, etc.
  • Many people feel unsafe going back to work due to (real or perceived) lack of protection from contracting COVID-19—and the risk isn’t worthwhile to them. If remote work isn’t an option – either due to the nature of the job or the policy of the employer – they may opt to leave instead.
  • Wage stagnation is finally starting to break, pressuring wages upward. If employers do not follow suit for existing employees, they may be more likely than ever to seek more money elsewhere since millions of jobs are available today.
  • Many simply found that remote work (or other forms of work flexibility) were a feature they found too good to give up. When employers began asking them to come back, many have said no.
  • Some have simpler reasons: with staffing shortages seemingly everywhere, the strains on existing workers can be rough. Some people are no longer willing to put up with those levels of stress and have decided to leave as a result. Even if none of the other reasons applied.
  • For some it’s as simple as giving up things like a long commute and trading it in for something simpler or with more flexibility. These individuals may not be leaving the workforce, but they’re changing roles, contributing to the shift in employees.
  • For others, it comes down to how their employer actually responded to and during the pandemic itself. Did the organization offer support? Were there resources for those facing illness or caregiving needs? Were steps taken to reduce risks for employees?

It’s easy to see this is a varied topic, but there are a lot of reasons employees are still leaving.

Employees Are Still Leaving – What Does This Mean for Employers?

While the answer to this question will vary depending on any given organization’s situation, there are a few things employers should be thinking about. Employers should be paying more attention than ever to things like:

  • Improving company culture
  • Showing employees that they’re valued
  • Providing benefits that employees want
  • Allowing flexibility in work locations or hours whenever possible
  • Ensuring work-life balance for both in-house and remote employees
  • Offering training and employee development programs
  • Focusing on improving employee engagement
  • Ensuring recognition programs are in place and being used well

What has been your experience? Has your organization seen a significant change in turnover in 2021?

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