How The Great Resignation Of 2021 Exposes Work Issues Of Burnout, Flexibility, & Value

What opportunities will you get out of all this?

double image of tired woman at work Prostock-studio/shutterstock

Brewing for decades, the issues behind the Great Resignation open opportunities for work improvements now. 

Ironically, one good thing emerging from the pandemic is renewed attention to burnout and the value of work. Too often our work lacks meaning, autonomy, and respect.  

In September alone, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, hoping for more flexible circumstances and improved pay.   

The good news is that your own questioning and questing can lead to renewal, based on fresh assumptions about yourself and the value of your work. This can lead to a revitalization when it comes to your thoughts about identity, meaning, and self-sufficiency.  


Whatever you want in life and work, you have reassurance and practical guidance to convert burnout to self-care and related work-life issues to effective transitions.   

RELATED: How To Find A Career You Love — 5 Steps To Identifying Your Passions & Your Dream Job

What has the Great Resignation 2021 done for our burnout, flexibility, and meaning?

The Great Resignation and burnout. 

According to Mayo Clinic’s review of symptoms, factors, and dangerous consequences, burnout is "a special type of work-related stress." 


It reflects a state of emotional and physical exhaustion, including “a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” 

This can also relate to personal situations. 

How to lessen burnout with self-care.

You can moderate or escape burnout and frustration with current situations through many of your choices and actions.  

If any of these or similar situations apply, consider which aspects relate to longstanding, yet addressable, issues within yourself and external situations. 

Then, identify examples of self-care options that could ease transitions away from burnout and towards healthier outcomes for yourself and possibly for others.


This can help mediate the extra effects you may be facing from the Great Resignation, whether because you've been left to fend for yourself at work, or because you've left your job and are struggling to figure out the next steps. 

For feelings of exhaustion:

Do you think that doing more is better? That four-letter word has no boundaries. Instead, identify what you can and want to do. Negotiate realistic, effective boundaries with others insofar as possible.

Do you tend toward perfectionism? You’ve no doubt heard the perfect is the enemy of the good. Well, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder and, essentially, a dead-end anyway. What's enough for now?


Who are you trying to please? If it’s you, how about some self-talk about making expectations and standards manageable? If it’s someone else, it’s time to see if your assumptions are accurate. At least, clarify other people’s expectations as a prelude to negotiation. 

For a sense of cynicism or detachment:

Explore what you may be protecting, hurt, or angry about. Describe to yourself what applies briefly in writing to yourself and/or address it with the source, as appropriate. 

Easier said than done, but better to try than succumb to silence or let your feelings gobble time and energies. 

For a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment:


Here you’ll find fertile ground for transitions to improved or additional skills, strengths and capacities by identifying specifically what to learn and how to apply better habits. 

Do an inventory of your top 5-8 positive qualities. Explore free online learning sources such as Coursera and Khan Academy. Experiment with descriptions of what you want to learn on the Internet.

Revisit and renew assumptions about what you want to do and how you want to do it. Start with unexplored interests and topics that excite you. 

See how they mesh with your values, skills, and passions. Snoop in libraries and have open conversations with people connected with or ancillary to your interests.  


You can use some tech tools for work search to add to your repertoire.

Set aside regular, manageable time to address main blocks with positive actions that boost your self-respect and build bridges. Move beyond what’s routine and merely comfortable for you. 

Appreciate that you're not alone in experiencing burnout and questioning your situation, given external and comparable situations that others face. 

In fact, there are opportunities lurking in change, whether disquieting or promising. You can benefit from more respectful employers hungry to hire in face of labor shortages.  

RELATED: How To Use Your Authentic Self To Boost Your Career, According To A Career Coach


Longer-term Great Resignation trends continue in your favor.

Coined by Texas A & M Professor, Anthony Klotz, The Great Resignation 2021 exposes outdated aspects of conventional work arrangements already in motion.

Way before the pandemic, remote work, freelancing, and gig work were accessible choices.

Fostered by an entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to risk, as well as an erosion of employer’s loyalty, workers at many levels have been increasingly choosing better, flexible routes. 

By 2027, 50.9 percent of the workforce is estimated to become freelance.  

According to Cornell labor historian Louis Hyman, worker choice and shifts in values have been reflected in the 94 percent of American jobs created between 2005 and 2015 for "alternative work."


How do you support this transition brought about by the Great Resignation?

There isn't one or best way to make transitions, given your unique potential and abilities as well as the dynamic economic, political, and social environments.

In the process, create a foundation that offsets any natural anxiety about change and prepares you to deal with contingencies. 

As you explore possibilities online and with people you enjoy and respect, strengthen the following with your own ideas:


Save as much money as possible, consider safe investment strategies, and put yourself on a reasonable budget.

Identify and obtain temporary sources of income, especially ones related to your future interests.

Continue cultivating your connections, formally and informally, making sure you serve their interests with information, leads, suggestions, and good company.

Obtain tangible and intangible support through intellectual, social, spiritual, and emotional sources.

Sustain your sense of humor and hope as you deal with the natural ups, downs, and all-around strengthening and changing your habits and actions. You can’t control others, but you can influence yourself for the better.


After all, there's only one of you. 

Honor what’s original about yourself and what you truly want, continuously rewarding yourself for any progress. Keep recrimination to a minimum, identifying only what you can learn from choices that don’t work out.  

Finally, make each transition like the Great Resignation work for you instead of resigning yourself to what confines and keeps you static. Instead, turn work issues to your advantage with self-care and smart transitions.

RELATED: How To 'Future-Proof' Your Career For Long-Term Success

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She shows clients how to access their strengths, make visions for current and future work viable, and sustain self-sufficiency with her seventh book, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future.