5 Takeaways from the Great Resignation for Workers in 2022

Here's how experts think the trend-setting event will affect employees in 2022.

portrait of Evan Thompson
by Evan Thompson

Published March 22, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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5 Takeaways from the Great Resignation for Workers in 2022


One in four U.S. workers left the workforce in 2021 — the highest quit rate since 2000. Rather than stay put in unhealthy, miserable, or unsatisfying jobs, millions of people decided to leave.

The trend became known as the Great Resignation. Economists will likely remember it for one big reason: it changed the way professionals want to live and work.

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What set it off? The COVID-19 pandemic was one giant wake-up call. Many professionals who saw the life-altering event as a way to make good on their life goals or leave a toxic workplace. Other common reasons include job burnout, wage stagnation, and a lack of benefits.

But what's the big picture here? What do experts think about this massive development? What other trends are happening? And what should job seekers know?

Here are five key takeaways from experts about the Great Resignation.

1  Work-Life Balance Is In Demand

If you're thinking about leaving your job for something better, you're not alone. Experts say the Great Resignation stirred the job market, making it more common for workers to find — and get — what they want from a job.

"For talented individuals, (especially) in high-demand industries like tech, we're seeing a lot of movement," said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, in a BBC article. "People are finding jobs that give them the right pay, benefits and work arrangements in the longer term."

Klotz, recognized for coining the "Great Resignation" term, said the demand for a better work-life balance pushed the movement. Employers are also increasingly accommodating these needs, which often revolves around the chance to work from home.

"There's now a greater ability for people to fit work into their lives, instead of having lives that squeeze into their work," Klotz said.

2  Employers Feel Pressure to Offer Remote Work

A range of studies have shown that Americans want to keep working remotely or in a hybrid setting post-pandemic. Many would even be willing to quit a job to work remotely.

The Great Resignation applied even more pressure on employers to continue letting employees work remotely, according to Dr. Isabell Welpe of the Technical University of Munich.

Welpe told the World Economic Forum that remote work is mostly here to stay for two main reasons:

  1. A job is more attractive if it offers remote or hybrid work.
  2. Employers can save on real estate costs and hire talent from around the world.

However, the amount of remote work will vary depending on each employer. Some may never ask workers to come to the office. Others may demand at least one day in the office a week.

Welpe said: "The degree of remote work will also depend upon how well firms manage the challenges that come with remote work: overcoming communication silos particularly between the weak ties between workers and across departments, as well as sharing non-codified information and knowledge."

3  Mid-Career Employees Quit the Most

We know that millions of Americans quit their jobs throughout 2021. But what age group quit the most during the Great Resignation?

Employees between 30 and 45 years old had the highest increase in resignation rates, according to research of more than 9 million employees, according to a report by the Harvard Business Review.

Ian Cook, who authored the research report, suggested three possible reasons why resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees:

They had greater leverage to secure new positions.

Analysis: The shift to remote work has made some employers hesitant to hire new employees in the 20 to 25 age range, since they have little experience, in-person training and guidance. This hesitancy created more demand for workers in the 30-45 group.

They put quitting on hold due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Analysis: If this is the case, then the increase in resignation rates could be the result of more than a year's worth of pent-up resignations.

They reached a breaking point.

Analysis: Months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and poor work-life balance caused workers to rethink their work and life goals.

4  More Women Are Quitting Than Men

Women left the workforce at record numbers during the Great Resignation. According to NPR, women quit their jobs at twice the rate of men since the movement began.

William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University, told NPR that part of the reason so many women left the workforce is a lack of support necessary to balance family life alongside a job. Spriggs believes that a few vital changes could right the wrongs of the past.

"In order to get women's labor force participation up, you have to do all the other things that other advanced economies do: better pre-K opportunities, they have paid leave, they have greater support for elder care," Spriggs said.

5  Workers Have More Leverage Than Ever Before

For years, many employers have taken the stance of, "you're lucky to work for me." But that changed after the Great Resignation.

Lawrence Katz, a labor economist, told the Harvard Gazette that he believes this is a "once-in-a-generation 'take this job and shove it' moment."

Katz believes that the power dynamic is tipping in the favor of workers, who have a better grasp on what makes a job worth their time and energy.

Katz said: "There's no perfect way of measuring these types of factors. But what we do see is a lot of people asking about getting remote work, for example, and a lot of people questioning low-wage, high-turnover situations, and employers starting to respond, but pretty slowly relative to the expectations of workers."


Feature Image: Aleutie / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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