Many Americans May Quit, Change Jobs Due to Pandemic Stress: Survey

The pressures of the pandemic have dramatically altered the American workplace, and now a new survey shows that many folks who have struggled with low salaries, long hours and lack of opportunity plan to change jobs.

More than 40% of workers said they plan to make the switch in the coming year, the poll found. If that occurs, it could seriously affect many industries already facing shortages of workers, particularly in the hospitality and health care industry, the survey authors noted.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 59% of respondents had experienced the effects of work-related stress. The most common complaints were low salaries (56%, up from 49% in 2019), long hours (54%, up from 46%) and lack of opportunity for growth or advancement (52%, up from 44%).

About 44% said that they intended to find jobs outside of their company or organization in the next year, up from 32% in 2019. These numbers were even more striking among certain groups — 58% among Hispanic workers, 57% of Black workers, 56% of LGBTQ+ workers and 63% of workers with disabilities.

“Stress at work can have broad negative consequences for employers and employees alike, including loss of productivity, high turnover and repercussions for the employee’s physical and emotional health,” said APA CEO Arthur Evans, Jr. “A workplace that pays attention to worker well-being is better positioned to recruit and retain engaged and productive staff.”

Nearly 60% of workers said they had felt negative effects of work-related stress in the past month, including a lack of interest, motivation or energy (26%), difficulty focusing (21%), or a lack of effort at work (19%). Among front-line workers, 67% said they had negative effects of work-related stress and 35% said they were often fed up at work.

Workers who perform manual labor, or customer service, sales or entertainment were more likely than those who work in desk jobs to have experienced physical fatigue (51% and 53% versus 38%, respectively), mental weariness (41% and 44% versus 29%) and emotional exhaustion (41% and 40% versus 25%) often in the past 30 days.

The online survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, questioned more than 1,500 U.S. workers between July 26 and Aug. 4, 2021.

Among workers, 87% indicated that there are steps that employers can take to improve employee well-being and maybe reduce turnover. The employees thought flexible hours (34%), encouraging employees to take care of their health (32%), encouraging employees to use paid time off (30%), and encouraging breaks during the workday (30%) would improve conditions.

“During the pandemic, many employers switched to remote work where possible, thus providing greater flexibility for their employees,” Evans said in an APA news release. “Policies that promote flexible hours and breaks during the workday and provide other forms of support for employees to take care of themselves may also help employers retain staff in competitive markets.”

More information

For more on the effects of COVID-19 on the economy, head to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Oct. 4, 2021