About 1 in 3 Workers Thinking About Quitting; Most Cite Low Pay, Desire to Work Remotely and Burnout

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Updated on Monday, August 2, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic brought on significant change, including how and where people work. In 2020, the U.S. workforce was flipped on its head with sudden shifts, from people leaving their jobs — or the workforce all together — to others having their offices at home for the first time.

Many say their professional lives have been negatively affected, while some are looking at the pandemic as an opportunity for a fresh start professionally, according to the latest MagnifyMoney survey of 1,000-plus Americans. About one-third of workers are thinking about quitting their jobs, while almost 60% are rethinking their career at least somewhat.

Key findings

  • About 1 in 3 workers are thinking about quitting their job. Of that group, the main reasons are being underpaid (42%), wanting to work from home (42%) and feeling burned out (34%).
  • Working women contemplating a job change are more likely than men to cite being burned out, not making enough money and not feeling valued by their employer as reasons they might quit. 42% of women contemplating quitting cite burnout (versus 27% of men), 50% feel like they don’t make enough money (versus 34% of men) and 25% say they don’t feel valued by their employer (versus 15% of men).
  • Nearly a third (31%) of working women say the pandemic negatively impacted their career, compared with 22% of working men. In fact, 29% of working men say the pandemic helped their career, while only 20% of women say the same.
  • 58% of workers say the pandemic has caused them to rethink their careers, especially those 40 and younger. Some have already made moves: Nearly one-third (32%) of both Gen Zers and millennials changed careers during the pandemic and now work in a new field.
  • Pay remains the most important factor consumers weigh when looking for a new job, even more than working from home. 30% say pay is most critical, while 19% cite the ability to work from home.

34% of employed Americans are thinking about quitting their jobs

Among working Americans, roughly 1 in 3 are thinking about leaving their jobs, with 19% actively searching for other work — without much variation between men and women.

In February 2020, ahead of mass shutdowns in the U.S., the national unemployment rate was 3.5%, among the lowest in U.S. history. By April 2020, that rate would shoot up to a record-high 14.8%, leaving more than 23 million Americans jobless.

The MagnifyMoney survey finds the substantial disruption to daily lives resulted in many people reconsidering their situations in a post-pandemic world. In addition to forced reevaluation for those who lost their jobs, many others potentially sought something new.

As part of that reconsideration, Americans who are thinking about quitting have various reasons why. The most prevalent, according to MagnifyMoney’s findings, is wanting more money and wanting to work from home, in addition to feeling burned out and wanting more work-life balance.

Many women cite similar reasons for wanting to leave their jobs

Certain areas concerned women more than men regarding their desire to quit their job. Specifically, women who are thinking about leaving their roles note greater feelings about burnout (42% versus 27%), inadequate pay (50% versus 34%) and value by their employer (25% versus 15%).

Here’s a deeper breakdown of how women and men responded to this question:

All of these factors paint an image of issues, including the wage gap, that women commonly face. They also draw further interest because many more women felt negatively affected by the pandemic than their male counterparts (more on this soon).

Why workers aren’t leaving their jobs

On the other hand, many people have just as many reasons for not leaving their jobs, whether it be a desire to maintain stability during a time of great instability or to have a pipe dream while stressed at work.

The main reasons that respondents cite:

  • Not having anything else lined up (44%)
  • Being paid well (34%)
  • Not having enough savings (25%)
  • Receiving great benefits (24%)

Ultimately, as appealing as a new job might seem, some stability is most important for many still in the workforce.

Working women are more negatively affected by the pandemic than men

In the wake of the pandemic, more women thought their careers had been more negatively affected than positively affected — 31% versus 20%, respectively — which is the inverse of men, as they say they were more positively affected (29%) than negatively affected (22%).

From February 2020 to February 2021, 2.4 million women left the workforce, compared with 1.8 million men, according to the Pew Research Center. One explanation for this is that the service sector, an industry largely predominated by women, was greatly affected by pandemic shutdowns. In addition, according to MagnifyMoney’s findings, 16% of women — versus 9% of men — either wanted to or had to stay home with their children.

Nearly 60% of workers are thinking about a career change

With the rapidly changing values and culture of the American workforce, it’s understandable that many people might be looking for a change, especially among Gen Zers (ages 18 to 24) and millenials (ages 25 to 40). Fifty-eight percent of workers say the pandemic has caused them to rethink their careers completely.

In fact, 19% of workers quit their jobs to dive into a new field during the pandemic. This was more common for Gen Zers and millennials than Gen Xers (ages 41 to 55) and baby boomers (ages 56 to 75).

21% of workers voluntarily quit their jobs

From March 2020 to when the survey was conducted in early July 2021, 21% of workers voluntarily quit their jobs, including 28% among those who earn less than $35,000 a year.

The reasons range from feeling burned out or overworked (31%) to not liking their boss (26%), not being allowed to work remotely (25%) and finding a better opportunity (22%).

In addition, 50% of the people who quit their jobs during the pandemic didn’t have something else lined up. Although many have found other work (21%), many others have yet to find another job (18%) — while some have even left the workforce altogether (11%).

Pay is still key for many when choosing a job

Although it may not be surprising, salary is still the most important factor for many Americans when deciding what job to accept. The importance of being able to work remotely continues to be a growing trend, too.

Before the beginning of the pandemic, according to Pew Research Center, only 1 in 5 people say they worked from home “all or most of the time.” By the end of 2020, that percentage had skyrocketed to 71%, with 54% saying they would be happy to continue working from home even after the pandemic.

Since working from home became the new normal for so many, it makes sense why wanting to work from home and maintaining that new normalcy could be appealing.

3 tips if you’re looking to leave your job

Be prepared financially

Although quitting your job may be appealing for a slew of reasons, be sure that you’re financially stable.

“Before quitting your job, make sure you have done a careful review of your finances,” says Ismat Mangla, MagnifyMoney senior content director.

Mangla advises asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have enough in your savings account to cover your expenses for at least six months?
  • Are you able to trim your expenses to live on a more lean budget?
  • Do you have extra money to cover emergencies, such as a necessary car or home repair or medical expense?

Know the impact of the pandemic on your savings

The pandemic affected everyone differently, leading to some feeling the full force of its effects while others were hardly impacted at all.

It’s been a tale of two pandemics, Mangla says, since many saved on formerly regular expenses while others suffered from job and wage loss. Where you fall should be considered in the job hunt.

Seek a solid compensation package

Although pay is important and should be a strong consideration, more factors should be considered with a compensation package.

In addition to salary, Mangla says you should consider other factors such as annual and signing bonuses, access to equity or company stock and vacation days — not to mention any medical benefits and other potential bonuses.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,039 U.S. consumers from July 1 to July 8, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2021:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 24
  • Millennial: 25 to 40
  • Generation X: 41 to 55
  • Baby boomer: 56 to 75

While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (defined as those 76 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.