At the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 created social and economic uncertainty. Our economy was a complete upheaval filled with massive layoffs, reduced hours, and minimal job prospects. For those of us who were able to avoid being laid off or having our work hours reduced, the pandemic left many of us feeling stretched thin and burnout. Studies showed that millennials, especially women worked longer hours both on the job, and in the household. For companies that relied solely on office work before the pandemic, many were forced to pivot their entire workforce to remote operations at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Remote work proved to be advantageous for some with many of us enjoying a decreased commute time and overall spending, and increased work-life balance. While some companies continue to remain remote nearly two years later, some businesses are eager to return to “normal”, and have their employees return to the office.
Millennials have never been shy about demanding careers that are both lucrative and fulfilling. Millennials are more educated than previous generations and working increasingly more hours which has led many of us to feel as if we have the upper hand or leverage on the job market. We desire jobs that not only provide a stable income but also jobs that offer flexible hours and work locations. The push to return to normal even when there is proof that remote work is successful has empowered many millennials to outright leave their jobs or resign in search of more flexible employment opportunities. In other words, millennials are tired of antiquated business practices that prioritize capitalism and production over employee well-being.
The mass exodus of employees is most commonly referred to as the “Great Resignation.” This phenomenon was proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A & M University. This trend of people, specifically millennials leaving their jobs as businesses return to normal during COVID-19 is quite noticeable. Resignation rates are the highest among mid-career employees, and more likely to be among those who work in healthcare and technology. The Great Resignation has created many challenges for businesses, leaving millions of jobs unfilled
So, why are millennials leaving their jobs in record numbers? Check out these four reasons.
- Millennials are prioritizing their physical, emotional, and mental health
The pandemic has forced many of us to over-extend ourselves beyond a 40-hour week, which has led to feelings of depression, burnout, and lack of fulfillment. When employees have to constantly over extend themselves without little recognition or acknowledgment, they attribute this to not being valued within their company. Millennials are no longer settling for more work without the proper compensation and recognition, and many of us are starting to evaluate whether having more money to work more hours is even worth it at all. We want a job that values our contribution, respects our humanity, and doesn’t glamourize burnout.
As we continue to face the reality of the omicron variant, many of our employers are resistant to work from home policies and pushing for a full time return back to the office. Many of us are anxious about being infected by being in the office and concerned that our bosses will have little sympathy for us if we do. The aggressive push to return to the office is rooted in employer’s lack of ability to embrace change, their inability to trust their employees to work remotely, as well as the overvaluing of production over humanity.
- Millennials want a flexible work environment
Millennials lead busy lives and have embraced remote work because they have the freedom to work from anywhere. Remote work allows us to spend more time with our families and integrate our life into our work schedule. Prior to the pandemic, we spent countless hours on the road, commuting back and forth with very little time to run personal errands, travel, and spend time with loved ones. Remote work solves this issue for many by giving us the flexibility to integrate these tasks into our day.
Office work can be incredibly draining for some of us. As an introvert, I found myself exhausted by office cooler talk, and constant interruptions. I appreciated the solitude, and disruption free work from home environment, and found myself increasingly more productive.
- Millennials like the gig economy
With increased work flexibility, millennials have also appreciated being able to engage in different types of work. Unlike previous generations, millennials enjoy multifaceted roles that allow them to utilize their talents, and we often get fulfillment from more than one job. The gig economy refers to short term or freelance work. With the cost of inflation, and being saddled with student debt, millennials have been innovators in creating multiple streams of revenue. Sites like Fiverr allow entrepreneurs to advertise and promote their services and earn additional income on the side.
Many millennials have found that the gig economy or their side hustles can supplement or even replace the money they make from their full time, permanent role. Millennials appreciate the flexibility of the gig economy, and many are choosing to leave their permanent roles and pursue freelance work.
- Entrepreneurship is very attractive
Let’s be honest—being able to be your own boss, set your own schedule, create your own work culture, and hire your own team is very attractive. Research shows that 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business. Millennials who are highly skilled and talented are realizing the importance of monetizing their passions and starting their own businesses. Millennials have redefined the traditional career trajectory—gone are the days where you work for one company until retirement. Millennials have been adamant about not being a slave to their employer—we want to control what we do, how often we work, as well as who we work with.
Black women specifically are pursuing entrepreneurship at record rates—our current workplaces have been very hostile to women of color, denying them promotion and advancement opportunities. Black women are realizing the freedom from systemic racism that entrepreneurship offers, as well as the opportunity to build wealth as an entrepreneur.
The Great Resignation is unavoidable. Millennials are no longer tolerating mistreatment, lack of flexibility, and careers that offer little advancement and work life balance. If businesses and organizations want to remain sustainable, and hire and retain a talented workforce, they need to pay attention to why millennials are leaving the workforce.
Dr. Ciera Graham is a higher education professional, career coach, and freelance writer. She is a millennial born and raised in Seattle, WA. She is the founder of Dr. C Graham Consulting, a career consulting business for women, millennials, and people of color. Dr. Graham has a passion for helping people identify their strengths, leverage their gifts, and increase their marketability. You connect with Dr. Graham on Instagram and Twitter, or visit her website at CieraGraham.com.