3 min read

The major shift driving the Great Resignation that's not being talked about

People no longer want to work insane hours (even if the pay is great).
The major shift driving the Great Resignation that's not being talked about
Photo by Icons8 Team / Unsplash

Sustain issue #15 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

You can’t escape the headlines talking about The Great Resignation — where employees en masse are set to quit their jobs.

Why? People are burned out and are being asked to give up the silver linings of the last 15 hellish months to go back to an office. In fact, new research from my company confirms that stress and burnout are two of the top three reasons employees plan to leave their job.

But I don’t think The Great Resignation fully conveys the tectonic shift that’s happened since the start of the pandemic. It shines the spotlight in the wrong place.

Pre-pandemic, many people traded their time and soul for a (oftentimes hefty) paycheck. They endured crazy commutes, dealt with micromanaging bosses, and worked 60-80 hours a week. We didn’t like it but it was normalized.

But what became important — truly important — changed as we battled through a deadly pandemic and racial injustices. Lots of work and little everything else stopped being an accepted norm.

Instead, we want to prioritize well-being and own more control of our time. And we’re willing to let go of hefty paychecks from workplaces that are burning us out. It’s not so much The Great Resignation, it’s more like The Great Reprioritization.

Said more simply The Great Reprioritization is:
Pre-pandemic: Money > control over time
Post-pandemic: Money < control over time

As one proof point, in a recent LinkedIn poll I ran with 215 respondents 84% said they’d rather work 30-40 hours paid fairly vs. just 16% that said they’d rather work 60-80 hours a week with hefty compensation.

Just because you’ve finally (yay!) placed your well-being at the top of the list doesn’t mean it’s easy to act on that within your current company. So, the mandate for organizations is to create programs and a culture that allow people to place their well-being top of the list or risk losing them — and fast.

If you’re seeking out a new job to improve well-being and prevent burnout, DO NOT ask in interviews if the work-life balance is good. It’s a very subjective question.

Use these questions to probe for wellbeing while interviewing

  • How often do you email/slack nights and weekends?
  • When I take time off, am I able to completely disconnect from work?
  • Is my success judged on how many hours I work or based on the work I produce?
  • Do you feel implicit pressure to have the ‘green light’ lit up next to your name?
  • Do people regularly block off time for focused work? Is it respected?  
  • How are new priorities handled? Do you absorb them into your already busy workload or do tradeoffs happen?

Remember, these aren’t questions a lazy employee asks. They are questions a hard-working employee asks that want to bring long-term value to an organization.

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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