Werk it

25 Nov 2021

This week: Why are so many people walking away from their jobs?

werk it


There must be something in the water, because The Big Quit has gone global. 41% of workers worldwide are considering calling it a day.

• For the first time ever, the UK has over 1 million job vacancies. The U.S. is seeing record resignations, with millions of people quitting last month. Why? The experts aren’t entirely sure yet, but they can hazard some guesses. “There are several reasons why workers are walking away… poor working conditions, fears of contracting Covid-19 and existential epiphanies among them… and researchers are discovering more as they continue to collect and mine data,” reported the BBC. “People are experiencing burnout due to living and working through the pandemic,” noted Morning Brew.

• There is a wide disparity of narratives, though. “The ‘Great Resignation’ is more a story about strong demand for workers, rather than a rethink of work among higher-income workers,” noted Nick Bunker, a research director at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “Regardless of who is quitting, it’s cathartic to think every person has the option to rage quit, taking their fates into their own hands,” wrote Bryan Lufkin in the BBC, before going on to note the significant difference between people in well-paid professions versus low-wage workers.

• And what about the “pandemic epiphanies” inspiring one in four workers to leave their jobs behind this past year? Many people are switching industries entirely, according to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, with three out of five Brits thinking about a career change. New store creations on Shopify grew by 79% last year. For every 1,000 residents in NYC, 4 are Shopify business owners – so it was a bit of a no-brainer for the e-commerce platform to open their first physical space in New York over the summer. (And also their own pop-up gallery in Brooklyn, which launched last month with Appear Here). “Part community hub, part resource center, and part a place to start for entrepreneurs,” is how Arpan Podduturi – Shopify’s director of product, retail and messaging – described it.

While 2020 saw unprecedented levels of new business applications filed in the U.S., it’s on track to surge even higher this year. Not to be outdone, the UK outpaced the U.S. last year in terms of new businesses on the block.

Most of these startups? They’re in (job-creating) sectors like hospitality and retail, which has economists hopeful about long-term economic recovery.


The two sectors with the biggest concentration of quits though? You guessed it. Hospitality and retail.

• “In August, a striking 721,000 retail workers gave notice. This represented the highest number of quits in the [U.S.] retail trade sector in more than 20 years,” reported Fortune. Food workers in particular have had to contend with difficult work conditions, and some seriously disrespectful people. “Re-entry into polite society is proving to be a little bumpy,” noted Time magazine. “Restaurants are reporting ruder clients. Flight attendants, for whom rude clients are no novelty, are reporting mayhem.” Sounds like plenty of employers – not to mention badly behaved customers – need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

• So which businesses are getting it right, according to their employees? DTC brand Bombas is one of those lauded for its culture of transparency and autonomy, and their ethical ethos of donating a pair of socks for every pair sold has served as a “magnet” for job applicants. “It has become somewhat of a feeder for talent,” said CEO David Heath. 98% of workers say they feel good about how the company gives back to the community.

• The higher the climb, the harder the fall though. The bigger DTC startups get, the more scrutiny they eventually come under. You may recall the employee allegations of toxic workplaces at such high-profile brands like Away, or when ex-Glossier retail workers formed an “Outta the Gloss” group. “The motivation for companies to respond to social change – both in the culture at large and within their own company’s walls – is strong,” reported Digiday. It’s not only about retaining their workforce, but also about staying in the good graces of the public – which is increasingly conscious of the ethical standards of brands they shop from.

The desire to shop small businesses – perceived as being more responsible towards people – is real, and it’s growing. Many of discovery platform Thingtesting’s followers have joined because they want to support indies, according to founder Jenny Gyllander.

Words to live by: doing really well, by doing real good.

Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.