Burnt out and overwhelmed: Meet the quitters of the Great Resignation

From truck drivers to accountants, Chicago-area residents who quit their jobs during the pandemic say they have no regrets.

Curious City quitters thumb
Maggie Sivit / WBEZ
Curious City quitters thumb
Maggie Sivit / WBEZ

Burnt out and overwhelmed: Meet the quitters of the Great Resignation

From truck drivers to accountants, Chicago-area residents who quit their jobs during the pandemic say they have no regrets.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

You’ve heard this one before: 2021 was the year of the quitter. A record number of people left their jobs last year in what’s been called the “Great Resignation.” Experts say the ongoing pandemic and larger labor trends — things like the shift away from manufacturing toward service sector jobs — have contributed to the mass exodus. All kinds of industries, from tech to health care, have been impacted.

So Curious City wanted to hear from some of these people in the Chicago area who quit their jobs. We wanted to better understand what pushed them to the point to call it quits, what they’re up to now and how it’s been going.

Over 100 people responded. We heard from bookkeepers, grocery store deli clerks, architects, middle school math teachers, plumbers, marketing directors, nannies and so many more folks across the Chicago area who put in their two weeks notice in 2021.

Some common themes emerged across their responses, and they probably won’t surprise you. People told us they were stressed, underpaid, burnt out and overwhelmed at work. They were feeling anxious and unable to sleep.

“I loved my job up until the pandemic left me feeling burned out and traumatized. I was pregnant and having panic attacks despite many attempts at finding support from my employer,” wrote Autumn Olin, an occupational therapist.

Still, many shared that deciding to leave their job was an extremely difficult and emotional decision that, for some people, took months to make.

But by and large, the majority of those who responded to our survey said they felt relief after quitting and a new sense of openness — to focus on their physical or mental health, spend more time connecting with loved ones or look for a new job that felt less emotionally burdensome.

Adriana Scurto, a former social work services manager who’s now working as a hair salon manager in her neighborhood, wrote, “It’s a dream to be able to walk to work and actually enjoy my time there and feel like I’m helping out (and be taught how to care for and love my natural curly hair!). It’s also allowed me to focus my energy on studying for my LCSW [exam], which I passed last month.”

Read stories from a few more of them, below.

Thanks again to all the people who shared their stories with Curious City.

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad is Curious City’s reporter. Follow her @AdrianaCardMag.

Jason Marck is Curious City’s senior audio producer. Follow him @JasonMarck.

Alexandra Salomon is Curious City’s editor. Follow her @AlexandraSalomo.

Asia Singleton is Curious City’s multimedia intern.

Maggie Sivit is Curious City’s digital and engagement producer. Follow her @magisiv.