As we enter Mental Health Awareness Month in May, record numbers of workers are parting ways with their employers, and they’re doing it on their own terms, often for mental health reasons. Over 38 million workers quit their jobs in 2021, causing a labor shortage that’s giving workers more leverage than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.4 million employees quit their jobs in February of this year alone. With the pandemic putting a focus on the fragility of life, it’s left American workers unhappy and wondering, if this is really how they want to spend their lives. And they are looking for new rules of engagement including higher salaries, better work-life conditions and more flexible work schedules.
New Rules Of Engagement
A recent study by Flexjobs found that employees are stuck in jobs they dislike and that 30% of them want to quit. The survey of 2,202 workers gave the following five top reasons for saying, “Take this job and shove it”:
- Toxic company culture (62%)
- Low salary (59%)
- Poor management (56%)
- lack of healthy work-life boundaries (49%)
- Not allowing remote work (43%)
Another study of 1,000 employees by ConsumerAffairs reported the five top reasons employees took the leap are:
- Seeking higher pay (47%)
- Seeking better benefits (42%),
- Insufficient raises (41%)
- Needs not met by pay (40%
- Pay inequality (39%)
“We’re no longer in a crazy time. We’re in new times, which calls for new rules of engagement when attracting talent—especially when recruiters and employers are struggling to fill roles,” said Workable’s content strategy manager, Keith MacKenzie. “The onus is now on employers to really step up their talent attraction game and loosen the requirements for a role. There’s a huge path to get there: find and hire those top prospects and develop them when they’re with you.”
What Makes A Desirable Workplace?
The answer to what makes an appealing workplace often depends on who you ask as you can see from the surveys. But many factors play a starring role: an empathic boss, upper management’s caring attitude, a relaxed and productive atmosphere, financial benefits, job security, commitment to excellence and open and honest communication. And you can add “opportunity for growth” to the list, according to a study at Blind. The anonymous professional network recently surveyed more than 10,000 Blind users from December 9-31, 2019, uncovering remarkable insight into the link between employee happiness and growth. Nearly 68% of the workforce was satisfied with the growth opportunities at their current employment, and 51% of all employees claimed to be happy at their workplace.
According to Kyum Kim, Blind co-founder, “Overall, Blind found that employees who felt they had significant growth were also the happiest and, as self-reported employee growth declined, so did happiness. Nearly 80% of employees who reported they had significant personal growth also reported they were happy in their current role.“ The survey also identified the top 15 U.S. companies with the happiest employees in ranked order: Netflix, Bloomberg, ServiceNow, Google, Tesla, PayPal, Pinterest, Facebook, Lyft, LinkIn, Spotify,T-Mobile, VMware, Indeed.com and Cisco.
8 Steps to Take Before Jumping Ship
You spend more time at your job—as much as one third of your days according to some sources—than just about any other place on earth. And if you’re miserable, it can take a tremendous toll on your mental and physical health. Of course, all jobs have drawbacks. But if you’re an unhappy worker most of the time, you’re an un-productive worker much of the time. It doesn’t benefit either you or the company. So what do you do? You can’t fire your boss. You can’t take over the company and restructure it, but you can take a number of other actions.
- Make a rational decision. The worst step is to impulsively bail from your present position without thinking it through. You don’t want to trade one problem for another. Make sure emotions don’t outrun your rational decision and take time to think things through before jumping ship.
- Schedule a meeting with your boss. If your job is intolerable, use it as a talking point when you meet with your manager. Without complaining, talk over your concerns. Make sure your boss understands your point of view, the importance of your personal life and your expectations concerning job demands.
- Ask for a raise. Don’t be afraid to be direct to see if your employer will work with you. You’re in the driver’s seat, and many companies are looking to retain strong talent and are willing to negotiate higher pay and better benefits.
- Request to work from home. Consider asking for remote or hybrid work if that would improve your work situation. A more flexible work environment gives you more time to focus on other projects and can save you money in terms of gas and wardrobe expenses.
- Conduct a stress audit. Exactly what is it about your job that makes you dissatisfied? Is it the boss from hell? Boredom with tedious work? Not enough money? Long hours? Heavy workload? Inflexible schedules? Once you can isolate exactly what the factors are, decide if you can correct them. If not, it might be time to start exploring other options.
- Reach out to coworkers for support. If you feel like your situation is unsustainable and unfair, reach out to colleagues to see if they’re having a similar situation and ask how they’re managing it. If coworkers are also at the end of their rope, consider establishing support group meetings to deal with intolerable work situations. When possible, enlist your employer as a resource, including him or her in meetings to find constructive solutions to stress-related problems.
- Prepare yourself financially. The ConsumerAffairs study found that 42% of those who left their jobs in 2021 say they were financially prepared. And 60% who left said they came out ahead financially. The three financial preparations before quitting were setting aside savings for monthly expenses, creating a monthly budget and reducing nonessential spending. The majority of job hoppers in the study said they enjoy higher job satisfaction, pay, work-life balance, benefits and career growth in their new positions.
- Consider leaving a toxic workplace. No one can tell you to quit your job without knowing the intimate details of your workplace. It might be worthwhile to consult with HR to weigh pros and cons. If you’re in a toxic work environment, it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health when other job openings prioritize your emotional and physical well-being. You are not weak or selfish if you refuse to subject yourself to mistreatment. You’re a normal person responding to an abnormal work situation.
The good news is more companies are starting to realize that work stress is a major health and safety issue and that it is to their advantage to have healthy employees. Happy employees are productive employees. Big corporations are finding unique ways to support employees and de-stress work environments. Workers fare well when management communicates praise and encouragement, is clear about workplace expectations and provides tools employees need to feel valued, challenged and successful.