The Great Resignation

Happy Labor Day everyone. How is it Labor Day already? Is it just me or does it seem like 2020 was the longest year ever and then 2021 has flown by faster than it takes to take a shot of tequila (which I took probably one more than I should have last night at my friend’s wedding). Labor Day is a day that we celebrate American workers and ways workers have contributed to the country’s success over the years. I’m not going to lie though; I’ve always felt this was a bit of bologna.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (or the OECD), they’ve created a Better Life Index which takes into account the amount of time people spend not at work vs. working long hours because there is evidence that suggests long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. How does the US rank on this Better Life index? Would it surprise you that we weren’t in the top 10 countries? No, me neither. What about if I told you that we ranked 27th out of 38 countries? Oh, and we are the only OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy. Even Russia is in the top 10…how does that make you feel?

Ok so we stink at work life balance. But at least we get good benefits, right? Nope. Americans have it worse than all other developed nations when it comes to benefits for workers. We rank dead last on our national policies around healthcare, unemployment, retirement, parental leave, paid vacation, and sick days. We are the only advanced nation that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation time for workers. To compare, Europeans get at least 20 days of legally mandated vacation dales, and some countries require 30. We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer universal healthcare, yet we spend more on healthcare than other high-income countries. We also have the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths. Our unemployment is one of the least generous systems based on the duration of benefits.

So, forgive me if I’m not showing more gratitude for a day off on Labor Day when every other day of the year American workers are treated worse than pretty much every other developed country in the world. It’s no wonder why after going through a pandemic that gave people time to re-evaluate their priorities in life, they are starting to question their career choices. Which brings us to the Great Resignation.

The Great Resignation sounds like a term coined to make headlines seem more sensationalized, but according to the US Department of Labor, during the months of April, May and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. And recent studies indicate it’s more than likely not over yet. Microsoft did a study of over 30,000 workers and they found that 41% are considering quitting and the number jumps to 54% when Gen-Z is considered alone. 48% of Employees are actively searching for new opportunities and 38% of those surveyed planned to make a change in the next six months.

But why now? Well, we have COVID to thank for that. According to a study by LinkedIn, 75% indicated that time spent at home, either during shut downs or working remotely, during the pandemic caused them to rethink their current work situation. Over half cite stress and burnout in their current position as a reason for looking elsewhere. Others say it’s because of dissatisfaction caused by knee-jerk cost-cutting actions by their current employer in response to COVID business slowdowns. Some decided the benefits of a two-income household no longer outweighed the costs. Some finally started their dream business. Many just have had enough with being undervalued and unheard by toxic managers. And finally, over 33% were concerned with their personal safety in having to return to on-site position while the pandemic still rages on.

We hear a lot about workers who have re-evaluated their life and made different choices. And when it comes to work, the things they put up with before are no longer something they’re willing to deal with. Like commutes for example. Commuting is something that so many people just accepted or got used to as part of their job but working from home has provided them with more time at home than ever before. Think about it. If you commute even 30 minutes one way to work, that’s an hour a day which is 20 hours a month and 240 hours a year! That’s assuming you work only Monday through Friday. Think about what you could do if you had 20 more hours a month. You could spend more time with your family. You could take a class. You could finally start that garden you’d been thinking about or pick up a new hobby. And the reality is 30 minutes isn’t that bad. I remember my dad used to leave the house at 5:30am to try to beat rush hour to get into the office. He would get there around 7am – so an hour and a half each way…that’s crazy.

Now maybe you take a train, so you use that as your time to read a book or have some me time. But either way, the commute is a big turnoff for most folks – and especially those with children that realized over the pandemic that time was better served with quality time with the family. I’m lucky. My commute is five minutes. I literally walk out my door, cross the Michigan Ave bridge and enter into my work building – door to door five minutes. But that hasn’t always been the case. When I just graduated college, I had gotten a job downtown Chicago but was living with my dad out in the burbs. So guess who rode with him at 5:30am to get downtown? This girl. It was rough, and you were exhausted by the time you got home that night. Living downtown, I’ve had a variety of commutes, the longest being when I lived in Lakeview. Going to work wasn’t bad as I could take the express bus so it took about fifteen minutes. But coming home? It was a good hour. I know at some point we will have to move a little further from work, and that will come with a commute again so for now I’m very thankful I can enjoy my five minutes. But this is one reason I never want to move to the burbs – I’m just not willing to do a 30 min to an hour commute each way.

But at the end of the day, outside of the tactical realities that are work situations, people are resigning because the pandemic has had a profound impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. They’ve not grown accustomed to greater flexibility they never had before not only from a lack of commute, but also where they work. There’s been a renewed desire to make non-work time a priority and work is no longer seen as just about paying the bills. Employees are no longer seeing their lives as their work, but rather seeking out work that fits their lives. This is a big shift. We went out to dinner the other night with a classmate from Christian’s MBA program and he was saying that he had always defined himself as his work, but now he’s realizing that he’s so much more than that and he wants to do more of what makes him happy. Shouldn’t we all?

So this Labor Day, let’s not celebrate our work. Let’s celebrate what we enjoy and who we are outside of work. Let’s celebrate our renewed sense of self this pandemic has given us. Let’s honor the prioritization shifts that some time alone has helped us realize. Let’s spend time with those that are meaningful to us and that support us in our dreams. Let’s not put work in the center of attention and instead put ourselves and our happiness first. Happy Labor Day – have fun and under no circumstances should you be thinking about work. That can wait until tomorrow. Thanks for listening today! Comment, Subscribe, Rate and Share if you liked this episode. You can find me on Instagram as jennifermathisvillamil or sign up to get the blog form of this episode in your inbox at

Until next time.

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