The year 2020 brought an unprecedented number of layoffs, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in 2021, however, the tides have progressively turned, giving way to a phenomenon commonly referred to as The Great Resignation. Economists have characterized this phenomenon as a work force trend consisting of individuals leaving their jobs in increasing numbers in the hopes of finding greener pastures elsewhere.

With our innate curiosity piqued, we decided to conduct a study in February 2022 among 1,049 adults in the U.S., in which we explored decision-making across generational groups as it pertains to their job status and preferences.

The younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ve looked for greener pastures recently

Overall, 50% of people surveyed have been in their current jobs for less than three years. When it comes to generational trends, our results show that Gen Z (57%) individuals were more likely to report that they have been in their current role for less than a year, compared to Millennials and Gen X. Baby Boomers (93%) were  much more likely to be in their current role for more than a year compared to Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

Great Resignation - Time in Current Job

Why did people decide to leave their jobs?

We asked those who had been in their current role for less than three years why they decided to leave their prior job, and found that overall salary (17%), COVID-19 concerns (13%), and work/life balance (12%) came at the top of the list. When looking at generational differences within each reason we found that Millennials (10%) were significantly more likely to mention career change than Gen Z (3%), and appear to be using changing roles as a stepping stone to new horizons.

Great Resignation - Reasons for Leaving Prior Job

Who is planning on changing jobs within the next 2 years?

Once we identified individuals’ reasons for leaving their prior job, we wanted to get a sense of the proportion of those who will be looking for a new job (in the same field) within the next 2 years. We found that 28% are very likely to do so. Further, the willingness to look for a new job was primarily driven by Gen Z (33%) and Millennials (33%), who were more likely to indicate that they will search for new opportunities in the same field within the next 2 years compared to Gen X (24%) and Baby Boomers (19%). Among those who considered (to any extent) looking for another job in the next 2 years, less than half (40%) wish to start in 6 months or less, 17% in 6 months to 1 year, 30% in 1 year or more, and 13% are unsure.

Great Resignation - Likelihood of Switching Jobs

Elements that make up the ideal job in 2022

Finally, we explored perceptions of the ideal working conditions in light of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked respondents how their ideal working conditions have changed, if at all. Overall, we found that ability to work remotely (44%), more flexibility around my work schedule (39%), and more/unlimited PTO (24%) came at the top of the list. In terms of generational differences, we found that Gen Z and Millennials were more likely to mention wanting more or unlimited days off than Gen X and Baby Boomers. Similarly, Gen Z (13%) and Millennials (14%) were more likely to mention wanting more volunteering opportunities than Baby Boomers (3%). Millennials (44%), in particular, mentioned wanting more flexibility around their work schedule than Gen X (37%) and Baby Boomers (34%), and Gen Z were more likely to mention wanting “the opportunity to do more work/ projects that are personally meaningful to me” (21%) than Baby Boomers (12%).

Great Resignation - Ideal Working Conditions

Great Resignation or ???

In summary, what our findings suggest is that what we have come to know as The Great Resignation may actually be a great reshuffle – a period in history in which individuals are adopting workforce coping mechanisms in response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The coping strategy in this case might be the desire to find work that not only offers pandemic accommodations, but also allows us to maximize work-life balance and live life to the fullest.