Over Half of Frontline Workers Willing to Leave Jobs

frontline workers feature

More than half of frontline workers (54%) said they would leave their field if something else presented itself, indicating the level of dissatisfaction with these critical positions at a time of low unemployment and the difficulty of staffing up workforces, a new survey found.

The survey comes as frontline employees, who gained the spotlight as essential workers during the pandemic lockdowns, are becoming increasingly vocal about workplace conditions and safety, as well as the level of pay. Last week, Amazon warehouse workers called proposed raises of 50 cents to $1 an hour “a poke in the eye” and “a slap in the face.” These conditions have led to a resurgence in union organizing activity at major employers like Amazon, Starbucks and most recently Home Depot, while emboldening the Teamsters as they gear up for a contract battle with UPS in 2023.

The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of SafetyCulture, included online responses from 1,976 frontline workers in the U.S., the UK and Australia taken during August 2022. Workers came from a range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, logistics, transportation, restaurants and hospitality.

Of those surveyed, 64% said the challenges and pressures they face have increased in the past 12 months, with a third calling it “intense pressure.” A fifth of respondents said they have experienced a workplace injury due to inadequate processes or communication, with 25% saying they know a colleague who has.

While nearly all respondents (96%) said they would report safety issues, only 29% said they were confident management would do something about it.

There was some generational variance among responses over workplace safety, SafetyCulture found, an area where Amazon has fallen under federal scrutiny. For instance, younger workers were likely to have experienced workplace injury due to inadequate processes or communication (31% for Gen Z and 31% for Millennials, compared to 15% for Gen X and 8% for baby boomers). However, they were less likely than older workers to report safety issues and have confidence in management addressing them (50% for Gen Z and 61% for Millennials vs. 71% for Gen X and 75% for Baby Boomers).

Feeling increased pressure at work also skewed younger, with 68% of Millennials and Gen X and 75% of Gen Z reporting this, vs. 52% for baby boomers.

Frontline workers are also shelling out for their own protective gear, the survey found. Almost four in ten (38%) said they’ve spent their own money for safety at work in the last 12 months. Australian workers spent an average of $928, followed by those in the U.S. ($872) and the UK (£250).

Kylie Uvodich, General Manager, America at SafetyCulture, said while the hero spotlight isn’t shining as brightly on frontline workers as it was in 2020 and 2021, the pressures they face daily have not abated. She said the survey results pointed out the need for companies to do more to ensure a safe environment and culture in order to attract and retain an adequate workforce.

“There are fewer and fewer people going into these fields, and as we saw during COVID and the great resignation, they’re not going back, whether it’s driving trucks or in the restaurant business,” Uvodich said. “It’s a huge risk for companies who want to make a profit year after year and quarter after quarter if they don’t have the people and talent.”