4 reasons employees are quitting post-COVID-19. The U.S. has seen unprecedented numbers of employees leaving their jobs after the pandemic. Here are 4 leading causes spurring employee turnover.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a period of incredible change, and it’s not over yet – an unprecedented number of employees are quitting their jobs.

At Quartz, Tim Fernholz writes that “the U.S. economy is currently experiencing the highest rate of workers quitting their jobs that we’ve seen in the last two decades.” A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone. Why? 

Let’s unpack the leading causes, and list some steps you can take to stop your best talent from leaving.

1. Employees are feeling the need for higher compensation.

In 2018 and 2019, workers were already quitting jobs at record rates.  Job satisfaction was also already low, especially among low-wage earners. These trends are motivated largely by compensation and benefits. 

But the problem of compensation can be traced further back, before even the 2008 financial crisis. Real wages in the United States have stagnated since the late 1970s. In the meantime, while consumer good prices – things like televisions or new sedans – trend low, costs associated with food, healthcare, childcare, and housing have skyrocketed. 

This problem has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. In the pandemic’s chaos, many people have assumed greater financial burdens, struggling with expenses related to child care, healthcare, debts, and ill family members. Many employees now look in toward the future, anxious about contingency costs, or inevitables like long-term care and retirement. 

This point may be the simplest and most effective: pay your employees competitive earnings and benefits to keep them feeling stable and supported, even in times of uncertainty.

2. Employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility available throughout the pandemic.

A Harvard Business School survey shows over 80% of workers who worked from home during the shutdown “either don’t want to go back or prefer a hybrid schedule.” While many startups and offices already sprinkled “work from home” days as an enticement or luxury, remote work is now the preference for many employees.

Material conditions motivate this demand for flexible scheduling. Many workers who are quitting are women, seeking jobs with more compensation and scheduling-autonomy for childcare needs. More time at home has re-taught many to value work-life balance.

If your employees have been fulfilling their work demands even while remote, consider extending flexibility beyond the pandemic. Talk to your staff and aim to negotiate reasonable hybrid-work schedules based on employee needs. 

3. Post-COVID-19, employees are upskilling and ready for change.

Many Americans who’ve quit (or remained on unemployment) are “upskilling,” or pursuing educational programs, such as online certificates or part/full-time college enrollment, with eyes toward new sectors of the economy. 

4. Americans are dealing with long-term burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though most people have gradually “gotten used to” a COVID world, people remain burnt-out, fatigued. As vaccination rates increase, workers will find they want to change careers, work less, or perhaps just take the time to process the trauma of recent history.

Employees’ access to mental health benefits should be kept strong. Again, allowing for remote flexibility and occasional paid time-off makes a staff feel supported.

Ultimately, it’ll take years of data to understand COVID-19’s impact on the labor market and the lives of those in it. Some jobs are essentially gone for good. For now, employers and HR managers would do well to accommodate their employee’s shifting needs in the wake of a long public health crisis.

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