Angry teen girl sitting by working mom, kitchen interior

The Great Resignation has had a broad impact, but it’s affecting certain industries and worker groups more than others. From employees in low-paying, customer-facing jobs to working parents, some workers are struggling to find any motivation to stay in their current roles.

A closer look at the types of employees who are more likely to leave their jobs (or the workforce entirely) reveals that many of their reasons for doing so are nothing new. They’re dealing with longstanding challenges that have only been amplified during the pandemic. And now is the time to address them. 

Workers in on-site, low-paying jobs

New variant outbreaks, business closures, and staffing shortages have taken a toll on employees in retail stores, restaurants, and other customer-facing industries. Retail trade’s most recent quit rate (for December 2021) was 4.9%, while leisure and hospitality came in at 5.8%, more than double the rates of most other industries. 

But compared to pre-pandemic quit rates, no industry has come close to manufacturing. Quit levels in manufacturing have jumped nearly 60% from early 2020 to late 2021, partly due to health and safety concerns. Employees in manufacturing roles often work in close proximity with coworkers, and if those coworkers aren’t wearing masks correctly or aren’t complying with other COVID-19 protocols, it puts everyone at greater risk of infection. Some of these workers are also putting in extra hours to cover for sick employees or compensate for staffing shortages.

Because many of these on-site roles offer low salaries, employees have little incentive to stay when things get tough. Workers that were hanging in there early in the pandemic because they were worried about job security may no longer have that worry. Job openings abound across industries, and unless their current job starts offering higher pay, less demanding workloads, and better working conditions, they may soon leave to find one that does.

Healthcare workers 

After nearly two years of caring for an overwhelming number of patients, working long hours, and navigating staffing shortages, it’s no surprise that some healthcare workers are experiencing severe burnout and reconsidering their careers. 

Nurses most commonly blame after-hours workloads for their burnout. This burnout is driving some to switch to higher-paying travel positions, opt for early retirement, or move into entirely new careers. Two in 10 nurses are likely to leave their jobs within the next two years. 

Among physicians, burnout rates jumped from 42% in 2020 to 47% in 2021, with emergency physicians experiencing the greatest increase (from 43% to 60%). Although too little pay (28%) and long hours (34%) contributed to burnout for some physicians, the top factors were too many bureaucratic tasks (60%) and lack of respect from employers and colleagues (39%). Despite these challenges, the two most common changes physicians said would alleviate their burnout were more manageable work schedules (39%) and more compensation (38%)

Helping healthcare workers manage and overcome burnout will also be key to keeping them on staff. Incorporating more digital tools into the workplace can help reduce or simplify the bureaucratic tasks that often lead to burnout (e.g., planning, paperwork, scheduling, etc.). They can then devote more time to patients, avoid working extra hours, and do more of the aspects of the job they enjoy. 

Parents and caregivers

Closures of childcare centers and schools left many working parents stuck at home. Even now that schools have reopened, outbreaks may suddenly trigger a temporary switch to remote learning, forcing parents to make last-minute accommodations. 

Women have been hit the hardest by these unpredictable changes. On average, women take on more daily home responsibilities than men, particularly when it comes to their children — 61% of employed mothers say they’re the parent who’s primarily responsible for childcare, 78% are the main parent helping with their children’s remote learning, and 77% do most of the housework. 

Finding time for their jobs in all of this hasn’t been easy. While some parents could work remotely, others came to a point where they had to make a difficult decision — quitting their jobs to find something more flexible or leaving the workforce altogether. That’s an even harder decision for single mothers, who don’t have another parent around to bring home a paycheck.

Parents cited “work-life balance” and “caring for family” within their top five reasons for leaving a job. So what would encourage working parents to stay? Other than offering remote working opportunities and flexible scheduling where possible, easing their home burdens with stipends for services like childcare, house cleaning, and meal deliveries is a great place to start.

It’s also worth noting that more non-White parents are planning to leave their jobs than White parents — 34% of White mothers and 46% of White fathers compared to 43% of non-White mothers and 50% of non-White fathers. This gives diverse and inclusive companies an advantage in retaining employees who are parents. 

Unfortunately, there could be several reasons these hardest-hit worker groups are considering a job change, but prioritizing the employee experience is a good approach to retaining them. From building a strong company culture to supporting mental health to offering career development opportunities, a lot goes into creating a better employee experience for everyone. Employers might not be able to do everything all at once, but listening to what their employees want most and showing them they’re willing to invest in them could make all the difference in whether they stay or go.