Most US workers open to leaving as Great Resignation persists

24 March 2022 3 min. read
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Most US workers (53%) are open to leaving their employers, with 44% saying they actively looked for a new job in the fourth quarter of 2021 and planned to seek new employment in the first quarter of 2022, according to a Willis Towers Watson (WTW) report. The insurance broking and HR advisory firm polled 9,658 US employees during December 2021 and January 2022 for its Global Benefits Attitudes Survey.

The Great Resignation has continued to shape the US labor market since emerging in spring 2021, as the economy rebounded and demand for workers grew. At the same time, employees released over a year of pent-up desire to leave their jobs after the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Job openings and quits swelled to an historic high in November, with 48 million people quitting during the course of 2021. This has forced companies to boost pay, benefits, and flexibility to retain and attract talent in a tight market.

Quits have remained elevated in 2022, with nearly 4.3 million Americans leaving their jobs in January.

According to the Willis Towers Watson’s research, the trends of high resignations and a tight labor market are likely to continue. The survey found that a quarter of US workers – even though they intend to stay with their employers – feel stuck in their jobs and would leave if they could. This increases to 30% of managers and 55% of senior managers.

Most US workers open to leaving as Great Resignation persists

Pay was the top reason for seeking a new job (56%), though a sizable 19% would take a new job for the same pay. The other top reasons were better benefits (39%), job security (33%), and flexible work arrangements (31%).

“The findings suggest that employees continue to job hunt at the same pace as last year and that the labor exodus is not yet over,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist, WTW. “Employers remain under pressure as many workers seek enhanced rewards, more job security, and different experiences.”

As companies increasingly prod employees back into corporate office blocks at the behest of an anxious commercial real estate sector, the majority of workers still want to work remotely, either most of the time or in a hybrid arrangement.

Employees developed a taste for remote work during the pandemic, and are not particularly keen to immediately relinquish it. Younger workers (Gen Z and millennials) are especially fond of remote work, and would be likelier to seek a different job if forced to work on-site. Unless industries are especially effective at colluding to establish widescale on-site solidarity, enterprising firms with a more flexible approach would be able to poach significant amounts of talent.

The top advantages of remote work listed by employees were an ability to achieve better work/life balance, less commuting time, reduced costs, and a better ability to manage household commitments.

On the negative side, one-third of workers cited a lack of social interaction as a disadvantage and a similar proportion said it was hard to build new relationships with co-workers in a remote setting.

“Most organizations recognize that a mix of in-person and remote work is pervasive and expected to stay,” said Tracey Malcolm, global leader of risk and future of work at WTW. “The challenge for employers is to understand the concerns of their workers and map an effective path forward.”