Study: The Great Reshuffle

The possibility that work might be more employee-friendly in terms of flexibility has always been out there, certainly since the advent of the internet and powerful wireless services. But staying in our PJs on a Tuesday while working on the couch from a laptop has largely been reserved only for sick- or vacation-day check-ins. With COVID forcing a presumably temporary move to remote work for a huge number of workers, the convenience of doing our day jobs while simultaneously taking care of our lives had dawned on nearly the entire working world. In fact, about 46 million people quit their jobs in 2021, as part of what has been widely called the Great Resignation. 

While 6.3 million people got new jobs last year, there are still 4.6 million openings left unfilled and 58 unemployed people for every 100 of those available jobs. But according to a recent Labor Department report, the economy added a booming 467,000 jobs in January despite the Omicron surge and an unemployment rate that rose to 4 percent.

A recent MIT Sloan Management Review found that higher wages are not among even the top 15 reasons for all of this turnover. Rather, things like a toxic culture, job insecurity, the pandemic, and feeling unrecognized for their work are the top motivators for this change. It makes sense that so many people see finding a job that is more flexible a worthy pursuit. 

And what’s the opposing argument to flexibility? Intangibles that managers point to, like the organically-sprouting brilliance that comes from like-minded teammates sitting close to one another in the office, or the fear that productivity will drop with less strict co-working policies. But that’s the old model, whatever its virtues. The majority of employees who answered our questions anonymously have tasted the sweeter life of more elbow room while working, and it doesn’t look like they’re ready to go back to the office en masse yet. 

Respondents were asked:

  • Are you seriously considering resigning from your company in the next three months?
  • Is the Great Resignation affecting your intention to stay at your company?
  • How important is it for you to have the flexibility of working remotely?
  • Would you quit your job for a more flexible or remote work environment?
  • What are your prioritizing in your life right now?

The results:

Approximately half of employees surveyed are planning to resign in the next 3 months. 

  • More than half of the men and nearly half of the women say the temptation to leave their job over the next three months is there. The major point to be taken here, regardless, is that workers are now facing the idea of The Great Resignation in their daily lives – spurred on by media reporting on the massive amounts of people quitting.
  • Responses grouped by racial identity tended to stick close to the 50% number the overall numbers suggest. Black respondents were most likely to respond that they were considering a resignation. Asian/Pacific Islander respondents were the least likely to quit at 45%. 
  • Along lines of age, responses stayed within the 40%-55% range for most workers. There is slightly less intent to find a new job soon as age increases, save for a small spike in the 41-45 age group, made up of the youngest Gen X’ers and the oldest Millennials.
  • Broken down by years of experience at a company, the data starts to make more traditional sense. Employees that have been with a company between six to 10 years (57%) were notably more likely than any other age group to say they were thinking of quitting in the next three months. Conversely, just under one-third of workers who started a new job in the past year are flirting with the idea of resigning for greener pastures.Even in a normal job market, we would expect a divide like this, as the “grass is always greener” syndrome tends to set in for people around seven years for most endeavors – hence the famous “seven-year itch.”

Nearly half of the employees surveyed said the Great Resignation is affecting their intentions to stay in their current jobs.

  • Nearly half of male and female respondents said the Great Resignation may affect their decision to leave their jobs. 
  • When segmented by race, responses differed slightly from the responses to the more general question about leaving one’s current position over the next three months. Asian/Pacific Islander respondents were the most likely (55%) to associate their intention to quit their jobs with The Great Resignation. Hispanic/Latino respondents were at nearly 50% on the same question. Black (41%) and Caucasian (40%) respondents were less likely to associate their potential future job switch with the larger movement. 
  • Talk of the Great Resignation (or The Great Reshuffle, as it is turning out to be in reality) seems to resound most with early middle-aged workers. Nearly 60% of both the 41-45 and 46-50 age groups are identifying with the movement/phenomenon. These would largely be people who have experienced a few decades of driving to an office for work every day, and who might find the concept of more flexible and remote work to be something of a dream come true. Those younger than that group were close to or just under 50% on the question. And those older than the two stated 40s groups dip severely in positive responses (the 51-55 age group) before spiking again to 60% for those nearing retirement age.
  • The longer respondents had been with a company, the more likely they reported that the Great Resignation is affecting their intention to stay with their company. The only notable break from this trend is from those who had been with their company for 1 to 3 years. Many of these respondents have conceivably reached the end of the honeymoon at their jobs, and could be considering their chances elsewhere in terms of salary ideation and other concerns.

An overwhelming majority of workers have their hearts set on permanent flexibility. 

  • Flexibility is now seen as a major work benefit – even a necessity – by the overwhelming majority of workers. The COVID era seems to have permanently added the flexibility offered by remote work as an essential component of a prized job. When asked “How important is it for you to have the flexibility of working remotely?” 75% of workers chose “extremely important” among the five given options.
  • Women (78%) prize flexibility even more than men (73%). As long as we’re still functioning under the model where women are expected to be major early caregivers for their children, this makes sense. Having young children can bring unpredictable situations during traditional 9-to-5 working hours, so the ability to add a substantial flex element to parents’ schedules is paramount . It allows them to deliver good work without major compromise. And that’s just parents: there aren’t too many people in any situation who wouldn’t appreciate more flexibility in their schedules that allows them to work when and where they want. 

Nearly three quarters of men and women said they would quit their current job for a more flexible or remote job.

  • With the general reaction to the COVID pandemic giving many workers an extended taste of what a fully-remote working lifestyle is like, the clear majority have become appreciative of the flexible hours and convenience that remote work offers. Women (74%) are even more sure of their preference for remote work than their male counterparts (72%), reflecting a bit of the classic social structure embraced for so long where men were expected to spend more time away from home on a daily basis. 
  • Reponses broken down by ethnicity showed a relatively wide range of answers. Hispanic/Latino (88%) and Black (82%) respondents are most strongly in favor of flexibility. Least positive – even with a majority for flexibility – are the Caucasian (70%) and Asian/Pacific Islander (68%) responses. Again, we can infer from this that the two groups many would argue were most comfortably secure in their societal roles before COVID are slightly more eager to get back to a familiar office life.
  • There is a general decline in the desire for flex or remote work as respondents increase in age, save for one small spike. Gen Z respondents are most set on remote work as their ideal, and it’s conceivable that some of the youngest respondents have only ever known that kind of employment. The number of “yes” responses decline consistently by each age bracket until hitting around 50% around traditional retirement age. The only major bump back up in “yes” responses came from that 41-45 group, who were slightly more positive about the need for flexibility and remote work than the age bracket on either side of them. 
  • Four-fifths of employees who had been with a particular company for 6 to 10 years  said they would quit their job for one that had more flexibility. The “3 to 5 years at the company” (79%) contingent were just behind that group. Again, this seems to confirm the notion that people who are seeking greener pastures currently see flexibility or remote work as something they want and could potentially attain. 

In uncertain times many prioritize family, but career remains a major motivation.

  • Close to one third of all respondents say family is their main concern right now. When asked what they are prioritizing as 2022 gets underway, workers on average say career is in second place (26%) right now, two points ahead of health (24%.) The bad news for all is that relationships and fun are down for everyone, as countless millions are anxious for “post-pandemic” to become the word of the day instead of “surge” or “variant.” Considering the presumed overlap between relationships and fun for many, we begin to see a portrait of a working nation getting used to being frustrated and stressed.
  • Family is the most important thing for men and women right now, but there are potentially telling details in where the genders differ. Male workers are more focused on family and career right now, with female employees significantly more concerned with their health and the personal relationships in their lives. Less than 5% of women report seeking fun first, with only 6% of men prioritizing their personal relationships. 
  • Family is first for all racial groups except one significant divergence. Asian/Pacific Islander respondents chose ‘career’ as their prime current focus (35%), with health (28%) coming in second for that group ahead of family (24%).Health is runner-up to family for Caucasians and Hispanic/Latinos as well.For those identifying as Black, career (20%) came in a fairly distant second to family (40%), with health in third at 18%.
  • When segmented by age, responses follow largely familiar patterns when it comes to how our priorities change as we age. For the young, career is a clear top priority. As we hit our 30s, family becomes key, with health becoming increasingly important as we age. All are conclusions we could assume to be true in what we still tend to think of as “normal times.” The only group to break from the pack is that 41-45 range again for whom career surges back to first place.

Methodology

  • Questions were in Yes/No, and multiple-choice format. A total of five survey questions were included:
  • Are you seriously considering resigning from your company in the next three months?
  • Is the Great Resignation affecting your intention to stay with your company?
  • How important is it for you to have the flexibility of working remotely? 
  • Would you quit your job for a more flexible or remote work environment?
  • What are you prioritizing in your life right now? 
  • Findings were based on responses from 5,308 employees between Jan. 3, 2022-Feb. 3, 2022. 
  • Employees hail from small, mid-size, and large companies (VC-funded, privately-held, and public to household brands).

About Comparably

Comparably (www.comparably.com) is a leading workplace culture and corporate brand reputation platform with over 15 million anonymous employee ratings on 70,000 companies. With the most comprehensive data on large and SMB organizations in nearly 20 different workplace categories – based on gender, ethnicity, age, experience, industry, location, education – it is one of the most used SaaS platforms for employer branding and a trusted third party site for workplace culture and compensation data. For more information on Comparably’s studies and annual Best Places to Work and Best Brand Awards, visit www.comparably.com/news.