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The Big Stay

The mass disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a storm of social and economic shifts. Think back to 2021 and you might remember terms like the “Great Resignation,” the “Big Quit,” or the “Great Reshuffle” making headlines and employment news.

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The Big Stay


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With plenty of time to pause and take stock, many Americans reconsidered their careers: has my wage stagnated? Would I prefer more flexible conditions? Am I valued? Am I fulfilled? The outcome was a wave of voluntary resignations, with an approximate 47 million Americans leaving their jobs in 2021, and 50 million more following out the door in 2022.

Dr. Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor at UCL School of Management in London, was the first to coin the phrase “great resignation” and was also amongst the first to predict the plateau of this phenomenon in 2023.

He was right. Resignation rates have now returned to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the hiring rate declined from 4.6% to 3.5% between November 2021 and 2023–that's not only below the average pre-pandemic rate in 2019 of 3.9%, but the lowest rate since 2014.

After the trauma of high turnover, are companies treating their staff better? Has a looming recession and high cost of living prompted workers to hold on to their jobs? Or are we all just scared we will be replaced by robots?

To understand the psychology behind this change we surveyed 1,049 Americans to understand more–and help forecast if this “big stay” is long-term, or whether some feet have begun itching.

Key findings

  • Four out of five employees (79.6%) don't plan on changing jobs until at least 2025.
  • On average, respondents' previous job role lasted 1.6 years, but now plan to stay in their current role for 2.4 more years.
  • Employees are less likely to job hunt now than during the pandemic, citing improved work-life balance (43.7%) and general improvements in the company (42%).
  • Almost half of Americans worry about job loss (44.9%).
  • Six in ten (59.7%) have been with their current company for less than two years.
  • Despite intending to stay for an average of two more years, nine in ten (92.3%) Gen-Z workers check out other job opportunities.
  • “Lazy-boy job?” Gen-Z men are the most likely demographic to be coasting at work (18%).

Only 5% of respondents had been with their company for more than five years

According to a 2023 Employee Benefit Research Institute, the median tenure of an American worker in the last forty years was five years.

However, many workers were “reshuffled” during the disruption of the pandemic–voluntarily or involuntarily. Considerably less than the EBRI statistic, the average length of time respondents stayed in their previous job was 1.6 years.

However, the survey shows that employees are now interested in staying much longer in their current role: when asked how much longer they plan to stay in their current role, the average answer was 2.4 years.

How long do you intend to stay with your company?

Despite no active plans to leave, nine in ten (92.3%) Gen-Z workers have wandering eyes

Although the “big stay” is a trend amongst the majority of respondents, this isn't to say that younger generations aren't eying up other opportunities (even if they don't actively make plans to leave). Although eight in ten (81.52%) Gen-Z workers (those aged 18-27) said they intended to stay for a year or longer (at an average of two years), they were nearly twice as likely than average to have wandering eyes (92.3% sometimes or actively look for new opportunities).

Older respondents were both far less likely to “keep their options open” and most likely to want to keep the same job indefinitely. One in five (20%) of 44-59 year olds said they would like to stay indefinitely or indefinitely if there was career progression, rising to a quarter (25%) of 60-69 year olds.

Do you look for new job opportunities in other companies?

What is your age?I am actively looking for a new jobSometimesNo
18 - 2771.3%21.0%7.6%
28 - 4341.5%48.1%10.4%
44 - 5941.7%33.9%24.3%

Three in ten (31.4%) junior employees plan to stay less than a year in their jobs

Junior employees were the most likely to actively look for new job opportunities (67.7% compared to an 46.37% average) and the most likely to also look for a job within the next six months (8.6%). However, despite this, Junior employees were still likely to look to stay in their current role for an average of 2.25 years more.

The only group planning to spend on average less than two years in their current role were C-suite executives, with 1.87 years. Managers intended to stay for 2.4 years more, and owners three more years.

How much longer do you intend to stay with your current company?Junior roleManagerialC-suiteOwnerGrand Total
0 - 6 months8.57%1.01%1.33%1.92%2.06%
6 months - 1 year22.86%15.32%28.00%13.46%17.31%
1 - 2 years25.71%38.89%42.67%23.08%36.56%
2 - 5 years31.43%33.50%25.33%38.46%32.81%
5+ years11.43%11.282.67%23.08%11.26%

Consistent with this, a good salary is a clear incentive to stay put. Higher earners (earning between $100,00-$149,000 annually) were twice as likely to intend to stay indefinitely (21.2%) whereas 35.8% of those earning $24,000 or less planned to leave within a year.

The most common reason employees stay in the same job is because they find their work interesting (40.9%)

The most common reasons employees stay are because they find their work interesting (40.9%), financial stability (38.4%), and because they like their management (30.4%). Only 5% cited a lack of job opportunities as a factor, and only 9% said they felt changing companies was too risky.

Employees stay if they find their work interesting

Much of this is not new–wanting interesting work, a nice boss, and enough to pay the bills has been the basic criteria for a good job since jobs existed. However, since the seismic shift of the pandemic, what are the more subtle changes in our approach to work?

Improved work-life balance is the most common reason (43.7%) employees are now more likely to stay

After the woes of the “great resignation,” HR teams are increasingly sensitive to staff feedback with an increased necessity to meet employee expectations. To gauge what efforts have paid off, and what HR teams might be missing in their mission to retain talent, we asked “If you are more/less likely to look for a new job than two to three years ago, why?”

Our recent report on remote-working trends revealed that remote roles have decreased by a quarter since 2021–despite a survey revealing that 85% believe that all-jobs, where possible, should be remote first.

Championing flexibility and resisting the trend to pull employees back into the office also has a significant impact on retention. The most common reason employees are less likely to look for a new job now than two to three years ago is because of an improved work-life balance.

When asked whether climbing the career ladder or work life balance was more important, 86.5% chose work life balance, and 88.5% agreed that a flexible or remote working policy would make people stay in the same company.

Work-life balance is important

Those that are more likely to look for a new job now than two to three years ago cited a lack of career progression as their main incentive (40%), a new challenge (37%), and because the company was asking for more in-person work (34.8%).

Three in five (65.4%) began freelancing in the last three years

Reflective of the pandemic freelance boom, the majority (65.4%) of freelancers we surveyed began freelancing within the last three years–with the largest proportion (29.2%) setting up two to three years ago. Gen Z and Millenials were most likely to be freelancers–with almost nine in ten (87.3%) of 18 to 27 year olds stating that they currently freelance, followed by 71.8% of 28-43 year olds.

However, compared to 31.8% of employed persons, half (51.2%) of freelancers are actively looking for jobs in companies. To find out what tempts freelancers back into the workforce, we asked ex-freelancers why they rejoined employed life.

Almost half (47%) of ex-freelancers quit freelancing because of the amount of administration they had to do. But normally, there were multiple factors involved in the decision to quit freelancing, including lack of opportunities (39.7%) and financial insecurity (37.7%). Recruiters looking for more talent should take note that 35.6% of freelancers were persuaded to go in-house by attractive job offers.

If you have freelanced, but don't now, why?

  • Too much administration: 47.3%
  • Lack of opportunities: 39.7%
  • Financial insecurity: 37.7%
  • Received an attractive job offer 35.6%

Quiet-quitting? Not anymore. Only 10.5% said they were disengaged at work

Despite the terms “quiet quit” and “lazy girl job” trending across social media, and 65.1% feeling less ambitious than they did two years ago, only 10.5% said they were disengaged at work. Women were more likely to report being highly engaged at work (31.2%) than men (19.9%). And whereas 62% of Gen-Z women reported being highly engaged at work, the most disengaged demographic were Gen-Z men (with 18% reporting that they were disengaged).

But overall, most people reported working harder than they did 2-3 years ago. Four in five (78.6%) said they work over-time more regularly or pick up more responsibilities outside their job description and three quarters (76.3%) said they are working harder than they were two to three years ago to keep from losing their jobs.

One of the motivations behind the great reshuffle was finding a role or making a career change that was more fulfilling. It seems to have paid off: 86.3% said their work made them happy and 70.9% said they are more happy with their jobs than they were 2-3 years ago. And there is a clear age trend in the data, with younger respondents most likely to be happier and older respondents less likely to be happy at work than 2-3 years ago.

No more quiet quitting


Between 02/16/24 and 02/19/24 a total of 1,049 adults were surveyed about their current jobs, their previous jobs, and their job satisfaction: 99% of this sample were currently employed or self-employed.

Respondents in various industries were asked about their current job satisfaction and employment status and how this compares to two to three years ago. The study also asked these employees what their upcoming career plans are–what would make them stay and what would make them leave their current job.

©️©️ This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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