She was working as a history teacher in a private school in a wealthy neighborhood in California.
It was a job he liked and in which he planned to stay. But the pandemic arrived and things changed.
She was forced to go back to work in person as COVID-19 infections continued to rise.
She was concerned about the risk to her health and her increased workload from having to take classes online and in person at the same time.
Now, when more than a year has passed since the start of the pandemic, Melissa Villareal just quit to your job and he’s working on something else entirely: industrial design.
It was a very difficult decision, she says, because “one feels guilty as a teacher.” “You don’t want to leave the students.”
Still, “it was so clear that they didn’t care about my health, the health of the children, or the mental well-being of anyone. It is a business and it is about money. The pandemic took the veil from my eyes ”.
His resignation was not motivated by getting a better salary, but by having better working conditions, one of the main reasons that has pushed thousands of Americans to resign in recent months.
The “Great Renunciation”
It is the phenomenon that is known as the “Great Renunciation”, a concept that has become increasingly popular in the United States after four million employees (2.7% of the workforce) left their jobs in April, setting a historical record.
“I think there are many people who are considering making a change in their lives and that often. implies a turn in their careers ”, Anthony Klotz, associate professor of Management at the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M University, told BBC Mundo, who coined the concept of the “Great Renunciation”.
A recent Gallup company study confirmed that there is a “staggeringly high churn rate” and record vacancies in all job categories ranging from face-to-face customer service jobs to highly skilled professional positions.
It’s a trend that can be sustained, considering that 48% of the US workforce is actively seeking – or closely following – new job opportunities, the report noted.
Considering that many workers do not have permanent contracts that guarantee benefits such as health coverage or a contribution to pensions, it is likely, experts say, that high turnover will continue.
The causes that have driven many to the labor exodus are very different. There are those who wanted to resign in 2020, but were forced to postpone their decision until this year due to the pandemic.
Others suffer exhaustion from an excessive workload. There are also those who quit because their life priorities have changed.
For example, during the pandemic they realized that they wanted to spend more time with the family, venture to change jobs or start a business.
Many want flexible work
And then there are those who quit their job because their employer required them to return to the office. They are the people who want to continue teleworking or, at least, want to reach an employment agreement under a hybrid model.
Here the word key is “flexibility”.
Added to these situations is the problem of many low-income workers – such as restaurant and hotel employees – seeking employment in other industries for fear of catching the coronavirus.
In fact, a significant portion of those who quit in April worked in the service and retail sectors.
“There’s a lot of turnover in low-paying jobs where people don’t really have a career progression. If you find a job that offers you just a little more, changing it has no cost to you, ”explains Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter.
Whether it’s because they want more money, a better deal, more flexibility, or more time for their personal life, many Americans are taking the risk of changing jobs.
Salary is not the only thing
Although the phenomenon of the “Great Renunciation” is transversal, “the most important trends revolve around roles that have traditionally had low wages and essential workers“Alison Omens, Head of Strategy at JUST Capital, tells the BBC.
This is the case of health workers who, with the arrival of the pandemic, were forced to work longer hours, deal with the public and, on many occasions, without the guarantee of receiving sick leave.
Similar cases have occurred in the sector services and retail.
Companies like Target and Best Buy have increased salaries, while McDonald’s and Amazon offer hiring bonuses.
Still, a survey by executive search firm Korn Ferry found that 94% of retailers have trouble filling empty positions.
Part of the problem, Omens explains, is that while financial incentives are a start, for many people it’s not just about money.
It’s about finding jobs that offer them more benefits, upward mobility and decent treatment, even if the salary is not much better.
“We asked people if they would accept a pay cut to work in a company that aligns with their values,” adds the expert, “and in general, people say yes.”
The generational change
Some experts say the “Great Renunciation” was not caused by the pandemic alone.
They argue that high labor turnover is a trend that came from long before and that the pandemic only accelerated it, especially in the case of the youngest.
Added to that is the freedom given by technological advances to connect from anywhere, without having to go to an office every day.
More and more workers self employed or self-employed who offer their services and do not depend on a contractual relationship with a single employer.
A study by the Upwork firm indicates that one in three Americans is dedicating some part of their time to doing work independent of their formal employment.
What will be the true impact?
While some analysts believe that the “Great Resignation” is a temporary phenomenon that will not have a long-term impact, others argue that it is part of a deeper transformation in the US job market.
Anthony Klotz argues that those companies that do not adapt to the “new normal” will run the risk of facing a possible talent drain.
“Those companies that offer greater flexibility in terms of remote and hybrid work have more possibilities to recruit workers globally,” he says.
The researcher considers that one of the long-term consequences of all these changes in the labor market is that workers will have many more options in terms of the different arrangements of how and where their jobs are carried out.
On the other hand, the pandemic has left some lessons about how much a company is interested in taking care of its workforce.
Ben Kiziltug of human resource management company Personio told the BBC that firms that have recently handled his employees well During this crisis, they are not being so affected by the “Great Renunciation”.
On the other hand, those that did not respond to the expectations of their employees are the most exposed to losing them.
(* With the collaboration of Kate Morgan).
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.