Amid burnout, return to office plans and myriad incentives to jump ship, many employees are considering leaving their jobs for greener pastures.

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Following a year brimming with economic uncertainty and layoffs, many companies are looking to bolster hiring. In fact, 77% of executives plan to hire in the months ahead, according to a recent West Monroe's latest quarterly poll. Amid employee burnout, a tight labor market and deal sweeteners to poach top talent across industries, a speculated Great Resignation is said to be in the works, as employees consider leaving their jobs for greener pastures. So, are employees really quitting at comparatively high rates or has the rumored "turnover tsunami" yet to make landfall?

"Our analysis supports the anticipated extension of the 'Great Resignation.' As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more flexibility (and more money)," said Workforce Logiq's chief data scientist and talent economist, Christy Petrosso.

"It's leading to a dramatic increase in resignations, and as our benchmark report indicates, a dramatic increase in the percentage of workers now open to exploring other job opportunities or unsolicited recruiting messages," she continued.

With regards to anticipated workforce turnover or lack thereof, David Niu, CEO and founder of TINYpulse, said he's seen "both ends of the spectrum," although the company's latest State of Employee Engagement Report "suggests that people leaders are expecting minimal turnover."

"On the other end, 39% of respondents felt that it is 'more challenging' or 'much more challenging to fill open roles. So there is already a sense of foreboding as well," he said.

Over the last year, employees around the globe transitioned to remote work on short notice; festooning home offices on the fly, adopting new virtual collaboration tools and more with varying degrees of success. While some employees may prefer the remote workday, not all workers are equally enthused about telecommuting.

Citing feedback from people leaders in a recent company survey, Niu said the top reasons employees choose to quit include "difficulties with adjusting to remote work, lower motivation, uncertainty about returning to work in person, and lower commitment to the organization." 

Based on insights from the company's ENGAGE 5D Profile algorithm that tracks 35 job categories, Petrosso said the top reasons employees are currently "open to leaving their current jobs" are "a lack of career growth and fear that the company is not resilient enough to survive setbacks."

Additionally, she explained that a "lack of business stability, positive environment, or strong leadership" as other top reasons factoring into an employee deciding to leave a company while noting that the specific reasons an employee may decide to leave a company are "really dependent on specific job categories."

"At a more granular level, IT workers point to career growth as the main reason they want to explore other opportunities, while lack of business stability is driving software engineers to be open to a different job," Petrosso said.

Office reentry could factor in

In recent months, a number of companies have started to bring employees back to the in-person office after a year of remote work. But do employees want to return to the office? According to a Blind survey conducted earlier this year, 1 in 3 employees said they would quit if work from home ended. These reentry plans could factor into the decision to quit for some employees teetering on the turnover edge.

"Office reentry plans are directly affecting turnover. Return to work plans with 4 days required in the office were associated with the highest predicted attrition. Lower attrition was predicted for organizations with return to work plans ranging from 1-3 required days in the office," Niu said, citing the company's employee engagement survey data.

Based on these findings, hybrid work "was rated as best for optimizing employee performance, reducing turnover, and it strikes a middle ground in terms of limiting employee emotional exhaustion," according to Niu.

Amid the rise of the more contagious Delta COVID-19 variant, varying stances on employee vaccine mandates and new workplace safety policies, many companies are concerned about employee pushback and anticipated conflicts during office reentry.

According to LaSalle Network's March Office Re-Entry Index, 34% of respondents who had not started to bring employees back to the office anticipated "conflicts to arise" between the staff and executives related to "return-to-work policies" with the top predicted conflict being employees wanting to continue working remotely.

"Another driver of attrition is return to work plans that do not offer flexibility for employees. There's clear implications for leaders – listen to your employee's needs and meet them halfway. If you don't, don't be surprised when your top talent starts to leave," Niu said.

Image: GettyImages/boggy22

Vaccinations, variants and volatility

Even employees who are not actively looking for new positions could be potentially swayed to make the leap. After all, employees can readily adjust their LinkedIn profile settings to inform recruiters they could be interested in the right opportunity.

Citing Workforce Logiq's latest flash report, Petrosso said the data "offers evidence that more U.S. professional and knowledge workers are interested in exploring other job opportunities or unsolicited recruiting messages than ever before" and these numbers represent a spike in quarterly volatility of nearly 70%, per Petrosso.

"Our predictive analysis means that we can expect more workers to be receptive to changing jobs and unsolicited recruiting calls over the next 60-90 days – at a minimum," she continued.

Over the last six months, more than 163 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S., representing nearly half of the total population, according to the CDC's COVID Data Tracker, however, inoculation rates vary markedly from state to state. Petrosso said the company's data science team identified a correlation between employment volatility trends and a state's inoculation rates.


"States with low COVID vaccination rates have the highest increases in levels of employee volatility," she explained.

In the second quarter, Mississippi had the highest volatility increase at 73% and the lowest U.S. state vaccination rate, per Petrosso.

"We're not sure what's causing this trend, but a likely scenario could be that unvaccinated people are less concerned about COVID (i.e., they are less risk-averse) so they could be more open to changing jobs," she said.

So when can employers anticipate the speculated turnover to peak and when can companies expect these resignations to normalize?

"All we can do is follow the data science. And that says we can expect a heightened level of retention uncertainty into the fall," Petrosso said while making note of the emerging Delta variant, uncertainty related to this COVID-19 mutation and potentially future economic volatility across the U.S.

"If vaccination rates fail to keep pace with its spread, experts say the variant could lead to new COVID surges in parts of the country where a substantial proportion of the population remains unvaccinated. The variant could impact recovery in those states with lower vaccination rates, potentially reversing economic growth trends," Petrosso said.

Similarly, Niu emphasized the potential economic impact of the Delta variant but said other factors such as office reentry deadlines, "availability of other desirable jobs" and COVID-19 restrictions will influence peak turnover rates.

"Given the number of factors driving the turnover peak, only time will tell. But if the Delta variant is held at bay, we anticipate the upcoming quarters will determine if this is a turnover tsunami or turnover trickle," Niu said.

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