More than two in five workers plan to quit their jobs, a sign the 'great resignation' could soon hit New Zealand - research

More than two in five workers are planning to look for a new job, a sign the 'great resignation' could hit New Zealand shores over the coming year, new research shows.  

There's been talk of a 'great resignation' during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people re-evaluate their priorities, and/or to take advantage of new opportunities. While it's been largely anecdotal, New Zealand's tight labour market is well-documented, unemployment hitting an all-time low of 3.2 percent in the December quarter

Employee Sentiment Index research released by HR software provider ELMO on Thursday, shows looking for a new job is a priority for a growing number of Kiwis.

Having surveyed 520 Kiwi workers from October to December 2021, it shows 43 percent of workers plan to actively look for a new job in 2022.

Just under a third (31 percent) of workers said they plan to quit their current job as soon as they're accepted for a new one, while 15 percent plan to quit without another job lined up. A quarter of workers (25 percent) said they'd consider a career change.

Danny Lessem, founder and CEO of ELMO, said survey results show there's potential for the 'great resignation' happening in the US and internationally to take hold in New Zealand. 

"While many have speculated about its possible arrival, it seems New Zealand workers are willing to embrace the notion of a 'great resignation', Lessem said.

"More than two in five workers say they plan to search for a new job and a third say they are just waiting on a new role before leaving their current employer," Lessem added.

New variants of COVID-19 including Omicron, are adding to workers' concerns, almost two-thirds (64 percent) saying they worried about catching COVID-19 at work.

A similar number (63 percent) of workers said they worried about working alongside unvaccinated colleagues. The results showed strong support of compulsory vaccinations at work, with just over three-quarters (76 percent) supporting vaccination mandates. 

As the Omicron variant, described as 'more contagious' than other variants, spreads across the country, Lessem said results showed the importance of having robust workplace practices to protect staff.

"Managing the spread of the Omicron variant in the workplace will need to be high on employers' agenda as 64 percent of workers are concerned about being at work while new variants are spreading," Lessem added.

Having endured almost two years' of lockdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, 43 percent of workers said they felt "burnt out". Just under a third (31 percent) said they felt overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do.

This was reflected in an increase in use of mental health leave over 2021, 13 percent of workers saying they'd taken a 'mental health day' in the last quarter, and 13 percent reported to have 'faked a sick day'. 

Around a fifth (38 percent) of Kiwi workers said economic conditions were prompting them to ask for a pay rise, almost a third (33 percent) feeling encouraged to look for a new job.

In terms of incentives, increased pay and bonuses were rated highest by workers, followed by company stability, flexible and remote working opportunities and company culture.

In what continues to be good news for people wanting a new job, SEEK January data shows national job ads were up 45 percent compared to the same time last year (up 33 percent compared to 2019). 

Job applications per ad were down 45 percent year-on-year.

February and March are typically busy months for job-seekers, SEEK NZ country manager Rob Clark told Newshub. It's still a little early to draw conclusions on whether ongoing tightness in the labour market will result in a spike in job applications, and therefore an increase in resignations.