‘The Great Resignation’: Why Burned Out Employees are Quitting and What They Want

After more than a year-and-a-half of working in a pandemic, burnout levels are going through the roof and employees have had enough.  Across the globe, an increasing number of people feel overwhelmed, overworked and burned out. The WFH lifestyle, while bringing some welcome flexibility to the workday for many, has also blurred the lines between work life and personal life, resulting in longer hours and feeling pressure to be “always on.”  

A recent  Adobe survey titled “The Future of Time” found that across 5,500 enterprise workers and small-to-medium business (SMB) owners, “time is at a greater premium than ever.” According to the report, One in two enterprise workers and SMB leaders work longer hours than they would like—and among them, nearly half say they work more now than they did before COVID-19. Instead of the traditional 9-to-5, the average workweek has increased to 45 hours and employees are blaming their company— the work culture, administrative processes and tasks or growth plan— for these increasing time pressures. In fact, a shocking third of the workforce (35%) reported that they plan to switch jobs in the next year, with the likelihood even higher among Gen Z workers (56%), leading to what many are calling  “The Great Resignation.”

So what do employees want out of their workplace? How can employers avoid losing their top talent? How can leaders show their younger employees, in particular, that they are valued? 

Here are a few important takeaways from the report:

1. Work-Life Flexibility 

“[Flexibility means] a culture that supports employees to complete their work while still having the freedom and flexibility to meet other family/ life priorities or commitments. Recognition that work doesn’t have to be completed in typical office hours, but without the expectation that an employee is contactable 24/7.” 

-Enterprise Worker, Australia

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. Of the workers in the study who plan to switch jobs in the next year, 61% said “more control over their schedules” was an important factor— and this is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial workers. A considerable 74% of Gen-Z workers and 78% of Millennials reported that work-life balance was essential, with more control over their work schedule being a priority.

“Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly … All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.” 

In other words, it may be time for leaders to think about ditching the outdated idea of a necessary 9-to-5 and instead prioritize results-oriented performance over the time sheet. 

2.Embracing Technology 

“Often times people who have been on the job for several years get complacent and continue doing things ‘the way it’s always been done,’ even when it may no longer be the most efficient way. New technology forces that mindset to be changed.”

– Enterprise Worker, US

According to the report, both enterprise workers and SMB leaders are craving new technology to help them work faster and more efficiently.  Workers reported that they spend a third of the workweek on mundane, monotonous tasks, with 86 percent of enterprise workers and 83 percent of SMB leaders saying these tasks get in the way of doing their jobs effectively. In fact, 91 percent of workers surveyed said they’re interested in tools which would make managing files, forms, contracts, payments, invoices and collaboration more efficient, with 54% saying they would even switch jobs for access to better tools. 

By adopting these types of technologies, leaders will give employees more time to focus on their specialties, causing them to remain engaged in their positions and achieve a good work-life balance that doesn’t involve navigating outdated interfaces. As Adobe’s Todd Gerber told FORTUNE: “People are motivated by passions that led them to pursue their career, and they don’t want to spend most of their week on paperwork. Younger generations grew up with digital technology and are accustomed to its simplicity, so they know there are better and faster ways of doing things.” 

3. Prioritizing Passion & Personal Growth

It has become clear that people don’t want to waste endless hours finding and signing pdf documents. Instead, 53% reported that they wanted to spend more time at work pursuing their passions, while 49% said they would like to take on more “growth projects” or new trainings.  In a workforce inundated by tedious tasks, workers are craving a sense of purpose and personal engagement from their managers. They want to do things they love, feel valued, thought of and cared for and organizations must prioritize these aspects in order to retain their staff. 

Although the forces behind these statistics and trends are of course complicated, what people want comes down to one very simple thing– they want to feel more human at their job. They want to spend their time working on things they love, growing, connecting with colleagues and those they love, and feeling valued… and who doesn’t want all of those things?  

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