You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Employees Say Unsustainable Workloads And Expectations Are Driving Them To Quit

Forbes logo Forbes 3/9/2022 Emmy Lucas, Forbes Staff
Employees Say Unsustainable Workloads And Expectations Are Driving Them To Quit getty © Provided by Forbes Employees Say Unsustainable Workloads And Expectations Are Driving Them To Quit getty

Unsustainable workloads are one of the top factors contributing to the Great Resignation, along with uncaring managers, inadequate compensation and lack of career advancement potential, according to a new survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Company released Wednesday.

The survey, which queried nearly 600 employees between December 2020 and December 2021, looked at employees who left a job without another lined up and those who returned to work.

Much of the analysis of how to solve the Great Resignation has focused on giving workers higher pay, better career opportunities or nicer perks such as days off, mental health therapy or better family leave. But there has been less attention paid to the actual workloads employees have—and how employers plan to address that issue—at a time when more people are thinking about their values and how work fits in with the rest of their life.

“We’re not doing the best work because the conditions in which we’re operating is a constant mental sprint,” says Helen Beedham, a leadership consultant and author of The Future of Time. “People are realizing that they’re feeling like they’re working like machines, and we’re not designed to work like that.”

About 35% of respondents said unsustainable work performance expectations were the reason they left a job without another in hand, the same percentage that said uncaring leaders or a lack of career development and advancement potential were the reasons they resigned. Following those top three reasons were a lack of meaningful work, dearth of support for employee health and well-being, inadequate compensation and lack of workplace flexibility.

In some cases, employees are experiencing burnout due to the sheer volume of work increasing. As companies adapt to the Great Resignation, McKinsey & Company senior partner Bill Schaninger, who is also an author of the survey, says few employers are revising expectations when it comes to things such as revenue, output and volume counts.

“You basically have companies trying to do the same amount of work, same amount of sales, but with a third less employees, or a quarter less, however much they are down,” he says.

Compensation ranked sixth as a reason for leaving, according to McKinsey's survey, evidence that pay isn't everything, but means something to employees. Schaninger says it’s easy to blame compensation, but employees who work in an environment they like, find purpose in their work and have relationships with others are staying.

When it comes to returning to work, 47% of the 600 respondents polled who left their jobs returned to the workforce, about a quarter taking up nontraditional work and 76% going back to traditional employment. Of the nearly 600 respondents who voluntarily left a job without another lined up, 44% said they have little to no interest in returning to traditional work in the next six months, the study found.

Only 21% returned to work in the same sector. Industries where employee attrition was seen the most were consumer and retail, healthcare and education.

“I’ve really hoped for a bit of a boomerang,” Schaninger says, “where they went back to where they were [working] after taking maybe four to six months off, and that’s just not showing up. The boomerang is definitely dramatically smaller than we thought.”

Ranking highest for why people returned to work were policies that address workplace flexibility, at about 40%. Post-pandemic workplace flexibility includes not just flexible hours but flexible place, space, time, empathy and understanding.

Cali Williams Yost, founder and CEO of Flex+Strategy Group, says it goes beyond the hybrid work model.

“Hybrid keeps people stuck, because it’s keeping us way too focused on the number of days on site versus remote,” Yost says. “Really this is about how, when and where an organization operates across workspaces, workplaces, time, technology used and the pace at which work is done.”

The report says that while compensation and benefits reviews are a first step, companies need to create a “sticky” workplace where employees want to remain. Ideas include conducting “stay” interviews rather than just exit interviews, creating wellness days and implementing collective time management practices, such as building a few minutes into the schedule between Zoom meetings or scheduling “no meeting” days. Beedham says workplaces that create time to debrief and have downtime, identify boundaries and personalize schedules to employee needs are ones that thrive.

Laura Putnam, founder and CEO of Motion Infusion and author of Workplace Wellness That Works, says companies need structural changes, not “superficial Band-Aids.”

“Organizations and employers really need to take a hard look at whether or not they’re actually willing to do the work to make the structural changes to actually deal with things like work overload,” Putnam says.

The returnees to work cited a lack of career development, inadequate total compensation and a lack of meaningful work as the top reasons they could leave again, the survey found.

“As we move into the next phase of change, it really is important that [the work itself] is prioritized,” Yost says. “We tend to want to make this a quick and easy solution, but it takes effort and it will take time.”

AdChoices
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Forbes

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon