Is Your Department Experiencing the Great Resignation?


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3.6 million people quit their jobs in May, a rate of 2.5 percent. Campus recreation is not impervious to this resignation trend. It is not solely wage, industry or experience-level related but a multitude of factors.

As this article is being written, there are more job postings on (n= 210) and (n= 69,621) than I can ever recall seeing. If I was a job seeker, I would love all of the possibilities. As a hiring manager with multiple vacancies and smaller than usual applicant pools, I am simply hopeful. With the right approach, this trend can give us an opportunity to hire fresh energy and skillsets, shift how talent is sourced, and accommodate the evolving needs of our team.

People are Leaving Jobs — But Why?

Complete a web search on the percentage of U.S. workers considering leaving their job in the next few months and you will find ranges between 2654%, depending on the generation and industry. Either way, the numbers are concerning and leave many wondering, why is this great resignation happening? A few reasons employees are quitting include:

  • A desire to continue working remotely.
  • They saved up a financial cushion providing more flexibility to pursue their passion.
  • They’ve had time during this pandemic to reconsider the critical role that work plays in their life. Many employees felt happier, healthier and more balanced during the work from home period.

How do we respond? It seems we have an action plan for everything in campus rec, and usually this includes vacancies. Oftentimes it involves divvying up the responsibilities to remaining employees without any relief of their current duties, a temporary bump in pay or an interim title change. Without pausing to consider the impact on our team, we inadvertently take advantage of employees’ passion, a common habit in higher education that facilitates employee burnout and resignation.

How should we respond? With an open mind to employees’ needs and requests. With creativity, innovation, and (gasp!) perhaps, trying something we have never done before.

Ideas to Stop the Great Resignation

  • Start with a workplace culture audit. How are your employees doing with the transition back to work in the office? What aspects of the workplace culture are positive for them and which are harmful to their mental health?
  • Consider how an outward facing position can be given some remote work opportunities. Could you use a hybrid model? Employees already proved they could work from home and still be productive during this pandemic. Even one day per week may make a difference. Could remote work be offered during university break periods such as spring break, winter break and in between academic sessions? This could also aid in preventing burnout after especially busy times.
  • Extend lunch break periods to 1.5 or 2 hours to allow for an unrushed workout, a relaxing walk with an audiobook, or even an opportunity to run errands so they don’t have to do them at 5 p.m. while fighting traffic. And if you’re concerned with productivity, don’t be. A refreshed employee is way more productive than the one eating at their desk.
  • Reconsider office hours. Not everyone is a morning person and struggles through the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. Our night owls could work 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. some days if that works better for their personal life. Their personal life matters and affects their mental health and performance.
  • Lastly, take time to reconnect with your team to learn about how the last year and a half may have redefined their values, passions and goals. Help them develop and build their future by assigning challenging projects/committees, and then recognize them for their innovation and achievement. While we all want our department to be a great place to work, there is nothing wrong with it also being a great department to be from.

Research demonstrates that opportunities for creativity and innovation lead to higher job fulfillment and satisfaction. So, who knows but in an effort to reenergize your team, you may just reenergize yourself in the process.

EXTRA CREDIT: There is a national lifeguard shortage. Here are tips on recruiting and retaining lifeguard staff for your campus recreation center.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Katie White, M.Ed., serves as the associate director of programming and assessment at Towson University Campus Recreation. Her portfolio includes competitive sports and athletic training, fitness facility and programs, outdoor adventures, student development, adaptive recreation and departmental assessment. She has over 12 years of progressive campus recreation experience that includes three major facility construction projects and the creation of a dedicated wellness department. She is a graduate of Cleveland State University and Kent State University. Katie can be reached at

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