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The Great Resignation: Why workers are leaving their jobs in droves

In April alone 4 million people left their jobs, but some industries still can't find workers.
Posted at 10:33 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 10:33:05-04

(WSYM) — You would’ve never guessed it, after the way the pandemic started.

Mass layoffs, especially across the service industry, took the headlines. In a flash, millions lost their jobs, and for those who could not get government assistance — and even for many who could — it became time to find new opportunities.

But somewhere along the way, between 40-hour work weeks in sweatpants and talking over co-workers on Zoom calls, the desires of employees changed.

“It really had all of us focus on what’s important, especially those of us that were parents and had children home from school,” says Debi Yadegari, founder of Villyge, a service that works with working parents and employers. “That is what has brought us now to the moment being deemed The Great Resignation.”

RELATED: Half of employees say the pandemic has made them reevaluate their career goals, survey finds

The Great Resignation: it seems a bit of a mystery as to why, after layoffs plagued the American workforce months ago, workers are leaving jobs as things subside.

Recently, the U.S. Labor Department reported that in April, four million workers left their jobs; 1.3 million of them left jobs at bars, restaurants, and hotels.

As the calendar flipped from May to June the department reported 9.2 million job openings, a U.S. record.

So why are so many places having a hard time hiring, even as so many seek new work?

“Many employees are stopping to question whether that’s really what they want,” says Yadegari. “The definition of flexibility coming out of the pandemic is much more than just Friday afternoons off. It’s having that relationship where there’s a little bit of give-and-take.”

Take a look around any job site, and you’ll see more often than not the posts include signing bonuses, shorter workweeks, modified schedules, or 100 percent remote work. In fact, job site Indeed reported postings to their site for remote jobs doubled during the pandemic and hasn’t slowed much since.

Yadegari says a flexible work schedule is even more important to workers than salary.

“Statistics show that many employees would be willing to take a step back in pay in exchange for the ability to work from home,” she said. “There’s value placed on that option.”

RELATED: The future of work post-pandemic: in the office, remote, or hybrid?

Companies that can offer remote or hybrid work, are, Yadegari says. But for places like bars, restaurants, and hotels, it's an option that isn’t feasible, so they may not be the jobs work-seekers flock to post-pandemic. K-Rok, a new karaoke bar waiting to open in downtown Grand Rapids, has had to delay its opening twice because of short staffing.

“We’re ready to roll; we just need to find some good workers,” said owner Rob Yoon. “Some places have to be open part-time or do takeout because it’s just hard to find workers period.”

Yoon says he’s held job fairs and has sat there for five hours without a candidate showing up. The original opening date was July — now his best hope is to have everyone hired by late August so he can open then.

“Right now, we’re probably 25 percent to 30 percent staffed,” he said. “But I don’t know when we’ll ever be at 100 percent, you know? I’m always looking for more people.”

As for whether this type of work culture is here to stay, Yadegari says it’s likely.

“I think companies are still trying to find their place,” she said. “What I can say definitively is we are not going to be returning to what once was. We are going to be redefining our new normal.”

READ MORE: How to re-invent yourself and your career during the 'great resignation', experts weigh-in