Of all the labels ascribed to millennials these days, "quitters" might be one they don't mind considering that 43 percent of millennials expect to leave their job within two years, according to Deloitte's 2018 Millennial Survey. And they're not alone: The Labor Department reports the percentage of workers across all age groups quitting their jobs reached 2.4 percent in May, the highest level in 16 years.
At the root of this problem is lack of access to flexibility. For digital natives in particular, flexibility isn’t just a cool perk or added bonus—it’s a necessity. Even companies that have flexibility are often unable to harness its true value, which leads to employee burnout and ultimately, attrition.
In reporting on this distressing trend, the New York Post profiled 25-year-old Sarah Solomon and 29-year-old Tim Mason. Solomon and Mason met in Nicaragua while "chasing the dream" after quitting their high-powered jobs. Solomon had worked as a publicist for a Manhattan public relations firm, but she resented only having two weeks of vacation a year. Mason, meanwhile, earned six figures as a software salesman, but he too only received 10 vacation days each year. Since leaving their jobs, Solomon and Mason have traveled the world and picked up gigs along the way.
Similarly, 31-year-old Grace Halperin moved to Bali after quitting a six-figure copywriting job a year ago. "I had all this money, but I spent it all on therapy and healers," she says. "I started having these panic attacks where I'd wake up and think, 'This can't be my life'—I was stressed and overworked."
But the gig economy can sometimes be a failing proposition due to fluctuating revenue and a limited opportunity to turn social capital into a promotion—and this is especially true for women. A 35-year-old named Jessica, for instance, quit her job as a school counselor this June and now faces an uncertain future. "I was at the point of, like, stay and wish I was dead or leave and be full of anxiety," she says. "I'm beyond anxious—I can't even enjoy my summer because I don't know what's happening with my life."
The plight of workers who’ve left the workforce due to burnout underlines the need for an adaptive workday. For starters, flexibility can forestall employee burnout. Location and time-based modifications can increase employees' work-life compatibility, especially when it comes to pursuing side passions. PartTime, for instance, reduces employees' work schedules while supporting their ambitions and career trajectories. Structuring flexibility isn't just good for employees, it's good for employers, too, as retaining a good employee is easier and less expensive than hiring a new one.
Additionally, flexibility should be a formalized part of companies' reboarding and returnship strategies—so that workers feel supported when they're ready to rejoin the workforce. These sabbatical-takers aren't just burnt-out millennials, either—they might be new parents ready to resume work, for instance, or even veteran workers who had been laid off.
Luckily, solutions are readily available. Werk's FlexMatch tool empowers employers to measure their employees' need for and access to flexibility—and to see how those flexibility gaps affect their people metrics, including employee net promoter scores, and retention and burnout rates. (Just check out how one biotech company used FlexMatch to get its net promoter score back.)
Some people may be wanderers and adventurers for the rest of their lives. Other people may be content working in the gig economy. But many workers—millennial or otherwise—want full-time jobs with structured flexibility, and Werk is ready to help employers keep these workers engaged and productive.