AP-NORC/SAP poll: 1 in 4 US workers have weighed quitting

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FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2020 file photo, a staffer wears a mask while taking orders at a small restaurant in Grand Lake, Colo., amid the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work. But many of those still working are fearful, distressed and stretched thin, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

NEW YORK – The coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work. But many of those still working are fearful, distressed and stretched thin.

A quarter of U.S. workers say they have even considered quitting their jobs as worries related to the pandemic weigh on them, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in collaboration with the software company SAP. A fifth say they have taken leave.

About 7 in 10 workers cited juggling their jobs and other responsibilities as a source of stress. Fears of contracting the virus also was a top concern for those working outside the home.

The good news is that employers are responding. The poll finds 57% of workers saying their employer is doing “about the right amount” in responding to the pandemic; 24% say they are “going above and beyond.” Just 18% say their employer is “falling short.”

That satisfaction seems largely related to physical protections from the virus, which overwhelming majorities of workers considered very important. Still, at least half also say it is very important for their employers to expand sick leave, provide flexibility for caregivers and support mental health, and workers report less satisfaction with efforts in these areas.

Lower income workers were especially likely to have considered quitting — 39% of workers in households earning less than $30,000 annually versus just 23% in higher income households.

John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, said those findings likely reflect fears of exposure of the virus among those who can't work from home. Hourly wage workers are also less likely to feel attachment to a job, making them more likely to search for safer work, he said.

“This is perhaps the most surprising finding,” Roman said. “The people who can least afford to lose their jobs are leaving jobs in higher numbers. But it fits with the story that they feel unsafe health-wise.”