Country songwriter Johnny Paycheck’s song, Take This Job and Shove It (1977), continues to echo loud today for over 4.4 million Americans who, in September 2021, decided to walk off their jobs; creating what has become known as the “Great Resignation of 2021 or GRS2 (2022). Paycheck brilliantly paints the backdrop of the conversation he wishes to tell his boss in the song. One of the stanzas of the song says:
“Well, the foreman, he’s a regular dog
The Line boss, he’s a fool
Got a brand-new flattop haircut,
Lord, he thinks he’s cool…”
Written 45 years ago, the words represent a significant reason many decided to resign from their jobs. They could no longer work for their current supervisor or company. So many resignations (quits) exceed pre-pandemic “quits” for the previous six months, as company’s struggle to find workers to fill open positions. So, what’s the real explanation? A lack of respect, trust, and care for the well-being of employees created this crisis, not the COVID-19 pandemic. As Felix Richer noted in his article, The Great Resignation: Why 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September stated, “One major driver appears to be that many workers are no longer willing to put up with the working conditions and pay accepted before the pandemic.”
In essence, the pandemic forced millions out of work or into remote work situations. It caused many remote workers to realize that they were more productive and felt more connected with their families. Let examine a couple of often-cited myths by supervisors:
1. The pandemic caused the great resignation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for November 2021, “The number of job openings decreased to 10.6 million on the last business day of November. The U.S. Hires were little changed at 6.7 million, and total separations increased to 6.3 million. However, the number of quits increased in November to a series-high 4.5 million (+370,000). The quits rate increased to 3.0 percent, matching the series high in September.
2. Working remotely causes low productivity, and procrastination. However, a pre-pandemic study by Stanford University involving 16,000 workers over nine months indicated that working from home increases productivity by 13%, with 30% of remote workers doing more work in less time and 24% of remote workers doing an equal amount of work in the same period of time according to a study by ConnectSolutions.
3. Remote work lack accountability. According to an article in the Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, “Promoting autonomy and self-leadership may be a solution to improve the efficacy of remote work programs…training interventions may be supplied to WFH employees to develop self-observation strategies and to promote the schedule of work-related goal-based deadlines and priorities.”
Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., & Ying, Z. J. (2015). Does working from homework? Evidence from a Chinese experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), 165-218.
Galanti, T., Guidetti, G., Mazzei, E., Zappalà, S., & Toscano, F. (2021). Work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak: The impact on employees’ remote work productivity, engagement, and stress. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 63(7), e426.
Wright, D., A. (2015). Study: Teleworks more productive-even when sick cited in ConnectSolution. Available at https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/teleworkers-more-productive-even-when-sick.aspx