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The vicious cycle of burnout is leading Americans to quit in droves

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Pay isn't the only thing leading people to quit in droves.

While 63% of recent quitters say money was a top concern, 53% cited family and personal obligations as reasons why they left an old employer, according to a new survey from Morning Consult of more than 1,300 people who quit in the last year.

And as the U.S. closes a full year of record turnover with no end in sight, the Morning Consult research indicates understaffing is leading to burnout, which is in turn causing even more people to quit.

Employers have to do more than boost pay

People who quit for new jobs are securing higher pay. In the first quarter of 2022, job-switchers saw their pay grow by 8.7% year-over-year, while wages for job-holders went up by 6%, according to ADP data.

If employers are serious about keeping workers, they have to raise pay and compensation, says Jesse Wheeler, an economic analyst at Morning Consult. But to address workers' second-biggest concern about personal matters, employers have a long way to go to be more flexible.

Some companies, like Airbnb most recently, have made waves by adopting permanent remote work, but Wheeler tells CNBC Make It more needs to be done for those who can't telework.

In these cases, Wheeler says, employers should work with employees to figure out how to support their family or personal concerns. He list a a number of solutions depending on the need: providing adequate paid sick leave, granting more shift flexibility, or figuring out how people can work remotely or socially distanced from others.

The understaffing burnout cycle

Overall, just over 12% of U.S. workers quit a job in the last year, according to Morning Consult, but it's higher in certain industries like information and technology; food and beverage; and leisure and hospitality.

And hiring has only gotten harder in the last year: There are currently two open jobs for every person who wants one.

It's making America's burnout problem worse, particularly in service industries. In a persistent cycle, people who say their workplace is understaffed are more likely to burn out and quit. If employers don't address their overworked employees, they risk having even more people leave and making a staff shortage worse.

Hiring managers are doing what they can to broaden their candidate pools, like by easing educational, experience or location requirements. They can also meaningfully attract and retain workers by providing what people want most, Wheeler adds, like good pay, flexible benefits and a supportive working environment.

Today's tight labor market could lead to long-term change in working conditions

Employers can also be more flexible in granting individual concessions, rather than waiting for enough people to make a request to institute a sweeping organizational policy change, Wheeler adds.

Tightness in the labor market is a good thing for workers, and it could change how we think about the way work gets done in the long-term.

Pre-pandemic, many workplaces were resistant to adopting widespread remote work, for example. "But when you're forced to try it and it does work, you have to be more open about things you were once rigid about in the past," Wheeler says. "As it becomes more difficult to hire, CEOs and managers are reconsidering approaching their employees with more open minds."

Further, he adds, unionization efforts are up nationwide, driven in part by pandemic working conditions, the political environment and a string of recent successes, which could mean better worker protections and working conditions in the future.

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