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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that made it through the pandemic in one piece now have a major new problem: more than a quarter of their employees may leave.

What's happening: Workers have had more than a year to reconsider work-life balance or career paths, and as the world opens back up, many of them will give their two weeks' notice and make those changes they’ve been dreaming about.

“The great resignation” is what economists are dubbing it.

  • Surveys show anywhere from 25% to upwards of 40% of workers are thinking about quitting their jobs.
  • "I don't envy the challenge that human resources faces right now," says Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University.

Anumber of colliding trends are driving the resignation boom, experts say.

  • University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson tells Axios, "People have had a little more space to ask themselves, 'Is this really what I want to be doing?'" So some are deciding they want to work fewer hours or with more flexibility to create more time for family or hobbies.
  • Others are considering switching careers entirely.
    • A cruise ship staffer trained and pivoted to work in a data center because the pandemic showed her the volatility of her industry.
    • An insurance broker and her restaurant manager husband both left their jobs to start a landscaping company because they realized during the pandemic that they wanted to spend more time outside.
  • Some are quitting because their bosses won't let them work from home post-pandemic. Others are leaving because they miss their offices, but their companies are now hybrid or all-remote.
  • "A lot of people who want to go back are finding that the office that they come back to is not the office they left behind," Klotz says.

There's not much firms can do to hold onto employees who want to switch fields. But human resources may be able to retain some workers by offering as much flexibility as possible, says Cathy Moy, chief people officer at BDO USA, a financial services company.

But, but, but: The big churn could ultimately be good for workers and employers.

  • There are now a record 9.3 million open jobs in America, Axios' Felix Salmon reports. And people can still rely on unemployment insurance so they're not desperate to nab the first job offer that comes along, Stevenson says.
  • "Hopefully we’ll see a lot more people in 2022 employed and stable because they're in jobs they actually like," she says.

Go deeper

Sep 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

What young people want from their employers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Workers increasingly want their companies to think bigger than profits and speak up on social issues — and it's younger employees driving the trend.

The big picture: As the next generation enters the workforce, companies will have to devote even more time and resources to tackling issues like systemic racism, income inequality and climate change.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Updated 8 mins ago - Sports

College football gone mad

Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly walks in front of his players. Photo: David Madison/Getty Images

In the span of two days, the head coaches of two of the biggest college football programs in America have jumped ship, wooed by even greater challenges — and the almighty dollar.

Driving the news: Lincoln Riley is ditching Oklahoma for USC in a deal reportedly worth $110 million. LSU poached Brian Kelly from Notre Dame with a reported 10-year, $100 million contract.

Media startups anxiously await BuzzFeed’s stock market debut

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Digital media companies considering going public are watching BuzzFeed's expected stock market debut next week to see how investors will respond.

Why it matters: A slowdown in SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies) earlier this year pushed some digital media companies that were considering going public via SPAC IPOs away from the idea, such as Vice.

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