Before You Say ‘I Quit,’ Consider Doing These Things

December 2021

Image: Getty Images

No doubt 2021 will be remembered for several phenomena beyond an inability to bring COVID-19 under global control. Ransomware gangs worked up the cyber food chain to disrupt critical infrastructure and spread their malware through the truly novel ransomware-as-a-service. The previous year’s persistent toilet paper shortages were a precursor to broader supply chain issues. And, a record number of employees said, “I quit.”

By some estimates, one in four U.S. employees had voluntarily left their jobs (largely for other, better paying ones) by early fall, according to a CNBC report. A record 4.4 million left in August alone, with the majority of newly unemployed in their early to mid 40s and tenured in their positions.  The mass resignations led a Texas A&M scholar to coin this The Great Resignation. Others have since reframed it as The Great Reevaluation or The Big Quit.

Regardless of a chosen moniker, this was a seismic labor movement spurred, like so many other things, by the ongoing pandemic. Employers, particularly in retail, service and hospitality industries, discovered they couldn’t continue to offer low pay and poor benefits in increasingly hostile or unsafe work environments. Flight attendants needed combat training. Healthcare managers filled nursing pipelines with active students, not just recent graduates, to help with high turnover.

At the root of many resignations (especially after pandemic-related unemployment benefits disappeared) were health issues such as long Covid and chronic stress. Even after the kids went back to school or daycare, too many of us knowledge workers lacked clear delineations in our days between work and home life. And each time a team member left, someone had to pick up the slack until a new hire was onboarded—if ever.

Contending with job burnout

Most of us who remain on the job have or will experience job burnout. That’s because conditions are rife for common contributors, according to The Mayo Clinic:

  • Persistently heavy workloads that lead to longer work hours until those long days become the norm.
  • As a result, it becomes more difficult to maintain a proper work-life balance.
  • Then there’s the lack control from unrealistic expectations and feeling at the mercy of unempathetic people prone to exploit.

Though job burnout is more common in “helping fields” like social work and healthcare, those in content marketing are not immune. We all have contracts to fulfill and clients to please. We may find project deadlines accelerate or months-long initiatives are abandoned due to market shifts or new management. Or we feel forced to take on extra work to cover unexpected expenses or a dry spell.

Medical research has long shown a link between job burnout and cardiovascular and/or mental health. Chronic job stress has been linked to insomnia, fatigue, substance abuse, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and a suppressed immune system.

If you are experiencing job burnout, consider making the following changes in the coming year to:

Meditate. Spend 10 minutes (or more) each morning or evening—or both!—practicing mindfulness through guided meditation. There are plenty of apps, videos and online communities to help you establish a practice.

Get health and dental check-ups. Check in with a licensed healthcare professional to evaluate your current health condition and to determine if job stress is a factor in any troubling findings. The same goes for the dentist, given many of us grind our teeth in reaction to chronic stress. If fortunate to be given a clean bill of health, promise yourself you’ll stay healthy by practicing more self-care.

Make exercise and sleep daily priorities. We’re approaching that time of year when we vow to move more and sleep better in the year ahead. To make new habits stick, you need to drop other activities to make time in your day. A good start is a daily, vigorous walk in lieu of checking social media feeds throughout the day. Also limit the amount of caffeine you consume to avoid the drug disrupting a good night’s sleep.

Ask for an alternative work schedule. More companies are letting their workers choose their hours, so long as they complete their work. Our company a couple of years ago set up a four-day work week that’s allowed us to do the same amount of work in fewer days.

Don’t say “yes” by default. This is easier said than done if we work with someone who is selfish or manipulative. If you find you can’t turn down an assignment, ask instead for the person making the request to determine what other project[s] get pushed to the back burner. This takes the heat off of you. Remember, you are trying to preserve your high productivity and protect your work quality when you occasionally decline a project.

If you try these tactics and still suffer from chronic job stress and anxiety that impacts your relationships and health, then it may be time to resign—especially if you try to negotiate for better terms with people unwilling to do so. The good news: A lot of companies are hiring now and offering better wages and benefits. They also are more likely to partner with independent contractors if you choose that route. Perhaps someone’s departure will lead to your next job adventure … this time with a company or clients that admire your work and compensate well for it.

Thank you for reading this,

Anne