WASHINGTON – From 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., Janika Bates was attending to her jam-packed schedule as a digital producer for Turner Sports, which included watching sports games into the early morning hours, editing game highlights, and posting segments of the athletes’ press conference interviews online.

After leaving her job of three years in July, the 26-year-old Atlanta resident now spends her mornings meditating, journaling and reading before creating content for social media.

“… Everything that’s exciting at first gets boring after a while, or it just becomes mundane,” Bates said, reflecting on the position she later described as mentally draining. 

Bates became part of a massive flood of people who left their jobs in what Dr. Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, dubbed “the Great Resignation,” a COVID pandemic-born phenomenon resulting in a record-high number of people voluntarily quitting their workplaces.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Labor Department reported Oct. 12 that 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August. That accounts for nearly 3% of the nation’s workforce.

Remarkably, the number of people who left jobs in August is 43% higher than at the same time a year ago, the statistics show. And nearly every sector of the economy has been affected, particularly the leisure and hospitality industry and in education and health services.

There is little sign that the trend is easing: month-over-month numbers have continued to grow in most economic sectors, according to the government figures. 

Dr. Christopher Kayes, a professor of management at The George Washington University, said he thinks of “the Great Resignation” more like a “‘great awakening.”’

“…Millions of employees realized that they were unsatisfied with their jobs, their careers, and the opportunities they had for advancement,” he told Capital News Service in an email. 

Forced from workplaces at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, many people had time to reassess what was important to them, analysts said.

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst “to get people to reflect on their work, their life, their work-life balance,” said Dr. Richard Klimoski, professor of psychology and management at George Mason University. “Maybe even think about their future and what they want out of life.”

Ana Skoumal joined “the Great Resignation” after long work hours at an international law firm. (Courtesy of Ana Skoumal)

Ana Skoumal, a 30-year-old Chicago resident, said her job at Dennemeyer & Associates, an international law firm, was considered a dream job by most law students, but the pandemic put everything in perspective for her.

The former third-year associate said she wanted to have control over being able to work a normal workday.

During her first year or so at the firm, she said, she worked 100 hours a week and was pulling one to two all-nighters every week. 

Skoumal said the workload increased over the years and it felt like it vastly increased during the pandemic. But the pay didn’t necessarily match with what she was happy with, she said.

Now she has started her own firm that specializes in trademark law.

“I’m fine working 100 hours a week for myself,” Skoumal said. “COVID really put things into perspective for me, and I really just thought, ‘What am I doing?’” 

No amount of a raise or bonus, however, would have changed Skoumal’s mind that she wanted to quit her job and start her own business, she said. 

Levon Myers, 27, of Fairfax, Virginia, said he’s starting a freelance marketing business after quitting his job in July at Badger Sports Properties, the corporate sponsorship marketing division of University of Wisconsin Athletics. 

After leaving college, Myers said he was ecstatic about getting the job. But last year, he said, he started to feel like maybe it was time to see what other opportunities were out there. 

Levon Myers went camping after joining the millions of people who have quit their jobs in what is known as “the Great Resignation.” (Courtesy of Levon Myers)

Myers said he felt that he wasn’t being fairly compensated for his work and he wasn’t necessarily getting the recognition he deserved. 

“It’s just pretty standard corporate structure where if you’re at the bottom, you don’t get any of the recognition, and the people above you are getting all the pats on the back and collecting the big paycheck and you’re just fighting for scraps at the bottom,” he said. 

Ernesto Uribe, a service advisor at a car dealership, said he’s been thinking about leaving his job for months, but he needs the money.  

The 28-year-old from Linthicum Heights, Maryland, said the biggest reason why he’s thinking about quitting is because of management, which he described as non-existent. 

Uribe said he’s kind of mentally checked out from his job, and “at some point, you got to question yourself, is the stress even worth the money, and that’s kind of where I’ve been …”

That stress is common in many jobs, experts say.

“Too many employers have failed to take seriously human emotions in the workplace,” Kayes wrote. “Human resource policies ignored burnout, the (importance) of building resilience, and the overall physical and mental well-being of employees.”

Dr. Robert Harbert of Roanoke, Virginia, said some factors in his decision to quit his job as an assistant professor of biology at Stonehill College in Massachusetts included a lack of support from his employer and a lack of wage increases. 

“The institution was putting financial success over taking care of the people that actually put all the work in,” he said.  

Now he works as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, where he said the pay is better and the expectation of the number of hours worked is lower. 

Sohaib Athar, 44, of Islamabad, Pakistan, is a former vice president of engineering in the AI field for a unicorn, which is a start-up with a value of at least $1 billion.

As the company grew, “the direction that the business and the culture were moving towards slowly deviated from my personal values and beliefs, until I could see that staying there any more would be detrimental to my health and happiness,” he told CNS in an email about his August resignation.

Some effects of the mass exit of people leaving their jobs may include more automated jobs, better pay and benefits, and greater attention to work-family balance, according to Klimoski.

“I am glad that COVID came with the silver lining of making us … aware of our mortality and the limited time we have on this planet and urged us to take a step back and scrutinize our lives, get our priorities in order and change them for the better,” Athar said.

This article was originally published on CNSMaryland.org on Friday, October 29, 2021.

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