It’s being called the Great Reshuffle. Or the Great Resignation. Workers who are fed up with their jobs or simply want to make a change have submitted their resignations in droves. In April, a record 4 million Americans quit their jobs. In July, nearly as many did the same. But here’s what’s interesting: A new survey by Adobe of 5,500 workers globally found that this voluntary exodus is being driven mostly by the youngest workers — millennials and Gen Zers.
According to the study, 35% of enterprise workers in countries such as the United States, Japan, France, and Australia, said they planned to switch jobs in the next year. Those numbers were even higher for employees earlier in their careers. Among millennials, 49% planned to look for a new job; for Gen Z, it was 56%.
A Prudential Financial survey of 2,000 U.S. workers found similar results. According to Prudential, 34% of millennials planned to look for a new job once the pandemic was no longer an issue, compared with 24% of Gen Xers and 10% of Boomers.
Most people don’t land their dream job right when they start their careers, so it’s not surprising that young people are more dissatisfied. But there’s also something deeper going on: Younger workers are rejecting the current model of work.
With 10 million positions open in the United States alone, this presents a challenge for recruiters. To come out ahead in the Great Reshuffle, here’s what you need to know about the two generations most likely to make a move.
It’s all about burnout
There are two simple reasons why younger workers are quitting their jobs: First, they’re experiencing pandemic burnout and, second, they want more work-life balance. Since the pandemic started, people who work from home (of all ages) are logging an average of two more hours of work per day. That could mean Slack messages at 10 p.m. or emails on the weekend. According to a survey by The Finery Report, 83% of millennials reported that working overtime was the norm for them, and that nearly 70% regularly worked on the weekends.
This always-on culture is burning younger workers out. The Adobe survey points out that 57% of Gen Z and 54% of millennials feel the most pressured to be available at all times and are most likely to describe their job as repetitive and boring. Gen Z workers also feel the most pressure to work traditional 9-to-5 hours, even though a quarter of them say they do their best work outside that window. Nearly half of Gen Zers say they often work in bed (in fairness, they also tend to live in smaller spaces, so this may be the only place they have to work).
Some younger workers have even chosen to drop out of the workplace altogether — temporarily. According to The Wall Street Journal, some young professionals have quit their jobs with no backup plan or intention of getting another professional position soon. They want to learn new skills, or develop creative potential, before embarking on a new career path.
One example the article cited was of 33-year-old Tessa Raden, who quit her dream job in arts administration in Washington, D.C., because she was burnt out by remote work. She is bartending at night while she pursues a graduate certificate in education policy, in the hopes of transitioning into public education.
The upheaval creates opportunities for companies
According to the Adobe survey, 39% of workers (of all ages) blame the work culture at their companies for their long workdays. This means that companies that want to retain workers — or snap up top talent in the Reshuffle — have an opportunity to reexamine their culture and create one that works better.
A recent LinkedIn thread about millennials leaving the workforce included a comment from Logan Mallory, vice president of marketing at Motivosity: “Employers: Now is the time to make a culture so amazing that your younger employees don’t want to take a break.”
Here are a few ideas on how to do that.
1. Offer flexible schedules
Workers in the Adobe survey overwhelmingly wanted better work-life balance, more control over their schedules, and the ability to work remotely. Glint’s recent Employee Well-Being Report backs this up, highlighting that employees who are satisfied with their company’s flexibility on work schedules or location are 2.6x more likely to report being happy working for their employer.
Though it’s important to offer competitive pay, offering better compensation is often not enough. Numerous surveys taken during the pandemic found that money alone isn’t enough to keep workers; professionals also want flexibility and additional benefits.
This could come in the form of offering workers the option to work a remote, hybrid, or in-office schedule. It could also mean letting employees set hours that work for them, as long as they get their work done. You can help this process by using collaborative tools that allow team members to communicate asynchronously and technology to help them work faster and more efficiently.
2. Help employees set clear work-life boundaries
In an always-on culture, the lines between work and life get blurred, which can leave employees vulnerable to burnout. But companies can set explicit boundaries that prevent emails or messages after a specific time at night or on the weekends. For example, Volkswagen set it up so their servers won’t route emails to individual accounts between 6:15 p.m. and 7 a.m. That way, workers (and leaders) can recharge and return to work fresh. It’s a way to normalize, even celebrate, having a life outside of work.
You can also join the growing number of companies that have essentially shut their business down for a week to try to stave off burnout. LinkedIn did so in April, Hootsuite in May, and Nike in August. A passel of organizations gave their staffs a week off in early September, around the U.S. Labor Day holiday.
3. Create connection and foster culture
In this remote environment, employees also need to feel connected to the company and their coworkers — especially if you want them to stay with the company. While it used to be easy to connect in the hallways or over lunch, teams now need to take a proactive approach to building social capital and creating a culture where team members can connect and support one another. This includes managers and leaders asking employees what they want and need to be successful. It also includes fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, where everyone feels like they belong.
In the Adobe survey, 74% of Gen Z workers and 78% of millennials said they would switch jobs — even if the same salary were offered — for a better work-life balance.
Los Angeles Times writer LZ Granderson calls this generational upheaval “a long overdue recalibration.” In a recent opinion piece, he writes, “More people are resetting their priorities and maybe forcing policy makers to do so, too. After all, no one dies wishing they had spent more time in the office.”