The big quit continues as 44% of workers seek new jobs

Thianchai Sitthikongsak | time | Getty Images

Nearly half of employees are looking for a new job or plan to do so soon, a survey has found, suggesting the pandemic-era phenomenon known as the Great Resignation is continuing into 2022.

At this point, 44% of employees are “job seekers,” according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2022 Benefits Attitudes Survey. Of these, 33% are active job seekers who looked for a new job in Q4 2021, and 11% planned to look in Q1 2022.

“The data shows that employees are prepared and open to moving elsewhere,” according to Tracey Malcolm, global head of future of work and risk at the consulting firm.

The survey polled 9,658 U.S. employees at large and midsize private employers across a wide range of industries in December 2021 and January 2022.

Big resignation

The Great Resignation, also known as the Great Shakeup, has been a feature of the U.S. labor market since the spring of 2021, when the economy began to emerge from pandemic hibernation and demand for workers surged among businesses.

Job vacancies and quits have reached historic highs and layoff rates have fallen to record lows. Wages rose at a rapid pace as companies competed for talent.

Nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January, slightly less than the monthly record set in November, according to the most recent federal data. Nearly 48 million people quit in 2021, an annual record.

The data suggests most aren’t giving up to stay on the sidelines – a strong job market with plenty of opportunities and higher wages is encouraging them to find work elsewhere, economists say. Some completely reinvent their careers.

More than half of workers (56%) said salary was one of the main reasons they would seek employment with another employer, according to the survey. Forty-one percent would go for a 5% raise.

Households have battled persistently high inflation, which has eaten away at budgets and outstripped increases for the average worker.

But nearly 20% said they would take a new job for the same pay, suggesting factors other than wages are also important. Health benefits, job security, flexible work arrangements and retirement benefits were behind wages, respectively, as the top five reasons employees would move elsewhere.

“Some are leaving for a raise, but some aren’t,” Malcolm said.

One of the biggest disconnects between workers and employers involves remote work, Malcom said. Employees want more remote work than they expect from their current employer.

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Currently, 26% of survey respondents always or primarily work from home, and 15% have an even split between home and work; but higher shares (36% and 22%, respectively) would prefer remote work.

“[Employers] speed up the return on site [work]“, said Malcolm. “I think companies have to be careful what they accelerate; this may not be the model employees want.”

According to the survey, reduced commuting time, reduced costs associated with office travel, and better management of household commitments are the top three benefits workers see from working remotely. They also see downsides: lack of social interactions at work, feeling disconnected, and a greater challenge in building relationships round out the top three downsides.

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