Why Is The Great Resignation Happening?

The Great Resignation: The Complete Overview

Great Resignation
Image Credit: Keystone-France via Getty Images


The way we all work changed in 2020. It was all meant to be temporary – lockdowns, business closures, remote work, job loss then hiring sprees – but turned permanent as working preferences changed quickly.

People started to change jobs, companies, and careers at a record-setting pace in 2021. Then, Dr. Anthony Klotz an Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University, came up with the term, The Great Resignation.

Now managers in particular are wondering, why is The Great Resignation happening? What is causing the movement? I asked my list of Buildremote contributors that exact question. I got a number of responses and shared the 28 answers that together provided a well-rounded response.


Why Is The Great Resignation Happening?

The limitations of the 9-5

The Great Resignation is happening because people are becoming increasingly aware of the limitations of the traditional 9-5 work model. They are realizing that they don’t have to work themselves to the bone in order to be successful, and that there are other ways to live a fulfilling life. The traditional work model is no longer feasible for many people, as it doesn’t allow for a healthy work-life balance. With the rise of the gig economy and the ability to work remotely, more and more people are choosing to ditch the 9-5 in favor of a more flexible lifestyle.


– James Jason from Notta AI


See Also: 20 Creative Twists On The 40-Hour Work Week

The return to the office

I believe that many people grow accustomed to the slower pace of life at home. Many people find the prospect of returning to the daily commute, traffic, and rigid timetables unpleasant. While some offices provide flexible return-to-work arrangements, others do not, leading to employees quitting and looking for remote and work-from-home (WFH) opportunities.


– Steve Rose from MoneyTransfers.com


See Also: Every Fortune 100’s Return To Office Policy

Seeking jobs with flexible work hours

During the recent pandemic, many workers got used to having flexible work times and options to work from home. A lot of them now realize how terrible it is to commute and spend 8 hours working non-stop — it’s exhausting, and they are looking for better options. Minimal options for flexible work hours is one of the major reasons causing the Great Resignation in the US.


– Harry Campbell from The Rideshare Guy


See Also: 29 Alternative & Compressed Work Schedules

Changing preferences with younger generations

Generally, Gen Z and Millennials have greater situational awareness than their previous counterparts. If they feel they are not being treated fairly, they are more likely to call it out and change things for themselves. They would not passively sit around and work in toxic conditions – so when they feel the culture isn’t right, they wouldn’t stick around. This is one of the leading causes of The Great Resignation.


– Erin Neumann from Be Aligned Web Design

Competition for workers

One of the most important factors is the intense competition for workers that has developed in recent months. With so many businesses trying their chances online, there are far more job openings than there are people looking for work, especially in technical industries. This has put workers in a strong negotiating position, and many have decided to take advantage of it by quitting their current jobs and looking for better opportunities.


– Abby Chapman from Extension File

Wage stagnation

The reasons behind this mass exodus are numerous, but most notably, it seems to be fueled by wage stagnation amid rising cost of living. In other words, people are simply tired of struggling to make ends meet. And with so many businesses shutting down due to the pandemic, job security has become a thing of the past. As a result, more and more people are deciding to take their fate into their own hands and start fresh elsewhere.


– Harry Johns White from NBABlast

Insufficient compensation

Low level of pay and high cost of living are the major causes of the Great Resignation. It’s not as if pay scales have substantially decreased, but the drastic increase in inflation – mainly due to the pandemic – has resulted in a loss of purchasing power. People can buy less with the same salaries they would have happily taken home a few years ago. This is why many individuals have resigned and planned to start their own businesses, to fulfill their financial responsibilities.


– Patti Naiser from Senior Home Transitions

The gig economy

Many people are switching to freelance work, so businesses have difficulty retaining their existing workforce. The gig economy has proven very lucrative for many workers and offers them the opportunity to make their own hours and pursue work they feel passionate about. This calls for an innovative strategy to present the benefits to employees while promising them a financially secure future.


– Paul Moody from Pro Mover Reviews

The uncertainty of the future

The Great Resignation is the result of a significant cultural shift. The increasing volatility of our world today, as evidenced by things like climate change and the pandemic, has driven people to feel much less inclined to work hard or “grind” until they make it. People know that they need a meaningful job, and a secure, sufficient wage, now – not ten or fifteen years from now.


– Jordan Fabel from ApprovedCourse


See Also: 54 Future Of Work Predictions

The opportunity to work remotely for companies around the world

The ability to be remote and work at any company in the country vs your local area, has created more work opportunities. It has given workers the confidence to leave roles where they may not have been satisfied or have felt under-appreciated (reflected through pay, team leaders, company culture, health benefits, etc).


– Sarah Livnat from NorthOne


See Also: Every Company Going Remote Permanently

Economy and COVID

I believe the Great Resignation is the result of a perfect storm of factors: COVID, reasonably strong economy, personal savings and a shortage of qualified workers. It’s an employee economy, so employers are having to get creative to recruit and retain employees. Today’s young professionals want to work for a company with a clear purpose, focus on sustainability and benefits that matter (including pet healthcare coverage).


– Kent Lewis from Anvil

The burden of isolation

The pandemic forced many of us to either work from home or to give up working altogether. Initially, for a huge number of people, this was perfectly acceptable and the benefits of more time with our families was seen as a great benefit. However, over time the novelty wore off, we lost connection with our workmates, and the ability to rely on more experienced employees for guidance. The extra stresses caused by feelings of isolation and the extra burden placed on us working alone led to widespread burnout and the inevitable result was resignation on a mass scale.


– Jonathan Zacks from GoReminders

Lack of opportunities for advancement

We are long away from the industrial revolution and workers settling for lifetime jobs. Today, workers prefer to seek job opportunities that allow for professional advancement, and it’s one of the major reasons why they quit their jobs – lack of opportunities for advancement. It is a difficult problem to solve for employers, but we could all do a little better job at offering more opportunities for workers to advance.


– Ian Kelly from NuLeaf Naturals

People now value their time and energy

The Great Resignation is also happening because people are starting to value their time and energy more. They are realizing that they don’t have to sacrifice their health and wellbeing in order to make a living, and that they deserve to live a life that is both meaningful and enjoyable. People are finally waking up to the fact that the traditional work model is outdated and no longer works for them. They are choosing to opt out of the rat race and pursue a life that is more in line with their values and needs.


– Daniel Chen from Airgram

COVID-19 vaccination requirements

COVID-19 vaccination certificates became mandatory in industries like hospitality and medical care around the world. Significant numbers of people found this unacceptable and decided to quit their jobs. Others couldn’t get vaccinated due to health or religious reasons and were let go and included in the statistics of the Great Resignation.


– Mike Ward from The Finances Hub

Following the crowd

Humans are herd animals, and we tend to follow the crowd or do what’s popular, however rudimentary this sounds. I have had at least a dozen conversations with people who were considering joining the great resignation just because it became the talk of the town. Unbelievably, three of them quit their jobs.


– Lily Wright from VisualHunt

The opportunity to have a different lifestyle

The pandemic has 1) given us perspective on life and the values we hold close, like how we spend our time and where we live. And 2) people now understand that they have more options than simply working in an office 30 minutes from their home. They can live comfortably in their home or on the road, traveling from one place to the next without a location to pin them down. By doing this, they can spend their time doing things they like and can even be in a place they enjoy more than where they’ve been living while working in an office.


– Edith Hamilton from NEXT New Growth

Job satisfaction has become a priority

Job satisfaction is more important than ever, and if a company does not meet a worker’s needs, it’s much easier for them to leave and find something better suited to those needs. A perfect storm of technology and the pandemic created a world where it’s easier than ever to find a job you like and not leave home to do it. The ability to work remotely means that employees will no longer need to physically relocate to start a new job in many cases, so they can look for something that suits them best.


– Ouriel Lemmel from WinIt

Toxic work culture

During the pandemic, workers have realized the importance of mental health and how the corporate world and its capitalistic practices have been taking advantage of them. So many people have quit their jobs because of the toxic culture that persists at these companies. People now value their morals and health more than monetary gain. The youngest generation has brought about this trend.


– Brandon Walsh from Interly


See Also: 49 Programs To Strengthen Remote Work Culture

Lack of recognition by employers

During the pandemic, companies struggled to keep up with the changing times and forgot about the importance of employee recognition. The staff members work around the clock to meet the ever-increasing demand from consumers but are demotivated when their efforts don’t get much appreciation. A lack of reward and recognition provokes employees to hand in their notice period.


– Andy Kolodgie from Sell My House Fast

Employees want to be seen as human beings, not just workers

The psychological contract between employee and employer has shifted where employees don’t want to be seen simply as workers. They want to be seen as people who have complex lives and deal with real issues. To keep employees engaged, motivated, and part of your organization, companies have to be more adaptable and shift the paradigm of what we used to think was “”the way we do things here.”” Employers must be actively engaged in their workers lived and work to adapt to each person individually.


– Mark Daoust from Quiet Light

A shift in priorities

The simple truth is people are shifting what they want both in work and life. With many people realizing that a different way of approaching work might be better suited for them.People either want more time with their loved ones, a more flexible approach to work, or are simply really interested in working purely remotely because it suits their lifestyle more. It is much more likely for businesses who aren’t adapting to these changes that will see the great resignation hit hardest.


– Kamyar K.S from World Consulting Group

Unfulfilling jobs and companies

At a firm with a powerful culture, every worker at every level of the organization feels like they’re making meaningful contributions to something BIG. Create an inspiring and attractive culture to resignation-proof your company. Competitive salary still matters, and flexible hours, remote work, and parental leave are just table stakes. But in the current climate, employees want to work for companies that offer meaningful interactions, not just transactions.


– Mark Moses from CEO Coaching International

Employee burnout

In my opinion, employee burnout is a long-term response to stress that has mental, emotional, and physical consequences. Most employees were already burned out before the pandemic, but that percentage jumped after the lockdown, owing to greater worry, harder workloads, and people taking fewer vacation days. However, many organizations’ retention efforts still fail to address employee burnout.


– Sasha Quail from Claims UK

Lack of flexibility

Allow for flexible work hours and days. Allow employees to work from their preferred location once a week or on demand. I believe that to compensate for the loss of flexibility, they provide increased child care benefits to working parents.


– Adam Crossling from Zenzero

Neglect of the employee experience

The Great Resignation is a massive topic, but if trying to distill it, I would say it’s the result of a total neglect of the employee experience. When employees feel dehumanized, under-appreciated, and like cogs in a machine rather than valued members of a team, there isn’t much keeping them loyal to a company. Add on top of that a lack of competitive pay or benefits, a poor workspace, demanding workloads, workplace bullying and harassment, and a whole host of other issues, and it makes sense that workers are resigning at record rates. All of these issues and more stem from the failure to recognize the importance of building a strong employee experience when building and maintaining a business.


– Stephen Light from Nolah Mattress

Employees feeling undervalued

Allow your supervisors to lead the way in terms of recognition. Employees believe that positive treatment from a manager equates to organizational support. In my opinion, empower your managers to constantly deliver recognition, from saying “thank you” to providing public shout-outs to distributing awards, and you’ll see an improvement in staff motivation and job performance.


– Daniel Carter from IVA Advice

Lack of growth

The Great Resignation is happening because people felt stuck at their jobs. They couldn’t find any opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder and felt like they had reached a dead end. The pandemic served to be somewhat of a driving force that pushed the masses to resign. I believe that’s because they realized how short life is and that there’s no point in doing something you’re not happy at. What’s more, is that the Great Resignation also meant that there was an increase in vacant positions at other companies. While many people took that opportunity and applied to other places in search of corporate growth, many others started their own small businesses regarding things they were passionate about.


– Elisa Bender from RevenueGeeks

About the author

Henry OLoughlin

Hi, I'm the founder of Buildremote. I have worked from home for a decade and run a fully remote, four-day work week company for eight years. I've made all of the mistakes running a remote company. I hope if you read my site, you'll be spared.

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