What If Everyone Quit Their Jobs at Exactly the Same Time?

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
Lots of people dream of quitting their jobs and never working again, but what if everyone decided to do just that? In this video, we take a look at how the world would change if everybody decided to leave their desks, say goodbye to their bosses, and head off into the sunset without any care or responsibility. Sounds pretty neat, right? But, would it all be fun and freedom?

What if Everyone Quit Their Jobs at Exactly the Same Time?

Sure, we've all probably wanted, at one point or another, to take a job and shove it. This is particularly true when The Boss is yelling at us, things are falling apart, or we're just not having a great day. Normally, we don't act on that impulse, and just muddle through our shifts hoping that tomorrow will turn out better.

But, what if we acted on that impulse? What if we just upped and quit, throwing caution to the proverbial wind and seeing if the grass really is greener on the other side? Furthermore, what if EVERYONE made the same decision at exactly the same time?

Well, the short term answer to that question is that things would get really messy, really fast. Sure, there are plenty of industries that thrive on automation, leaving behind the man-powered assembly lines of old in favour of a mechanical process that assembles or creates a product in a uniform manner, each and every time. But even these companies require human hands to manage the machines and handle products at various stages of production. Manufacturing, shipping, and delivery would all be affected. So would agriculture, government services, law enforcement, military defence, travel, and retail, right down to small Mom and Pop stores. Crime would rise and chaos would reign supreme.

Before we continue, we should first define who we mean by “everyone” in this situation. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that we’re talking about blue- and white-collar workers quitting their jobs, while managers, executives, and owners are left to fend for themselves. This would be considered a General Strike, which have actually occurred before. One relatively recent example of such an event took place in France in May 1968, and totalled over eleven million participants. The results were swift and dramatic, bringing the French economy to a halt, and crippling government functions. President Charles de Gaulle briefly fled the country. A General Strike of an even larger workforce could only be worse.

There could be many reasons for such a massive exodus of labor, but for this hypothetical let’s assume that the level of unrest and unhappiness was so great, that the desire to oppose those in power overwhelmed the fear of the hunger, uncertainty, and poverty of joblessness. Perhaps people are just sick and tired of economic disparities, or discrimination in various forms, whether according to class, race, sex, or sexual orientation. A shared experience of resentment unites those unhappy with their so-called lot in life, and at the same moment, everyone stands up at their posts and just . . . walks out!

The word "revolution" would probably be thrown around relatively quickly here, but it's important to note the more immediate reactions that businesses would have to such a major event. For starters, management would have to take on general employee roles. This could entail learning completely new skillsets, and at best only return companies to limited functionality. At the same time, companies would probably try to coax former employees back to work. These “strikebreakers” would be labelled “scabs” and ostracized by former colleagues, and perhaps even friends and family members. Then again, if only some countries had gone on General Strike, businesses might just decide to move their operations elsewhere.

Provided that goods were still available for purchase at all, thanks to companies that had managed to replenish their staff, or suppliers from still functioning countries, such a strike would affect people with savings and assets much less than it did those without. People at the bottom, without a financial safety net, would feel the brunt of such a drastic, global shift . . . and either crack and return to work or starve.

Even in the aftermath of the event, with people starting to return to work, certain industries would be affected much more than others, as people tightened their belts as never before. The "essentials," such as water, food, shelter and clothing would take even more precedence over comparatively frivolous industries such as hospitality and entertainment. As a result, those left in this sector would likely fall hard, while areas such as agriculture and farming would endure. After all, we all need to eat.

It wouldn't take long before reduced spending habits had a severe effect on the economy. It would quickly lead to a recession, and then a depression, while governments – assuming they were still in place – would see massive spikes in the number of those applying for public assistance. This jump in numbers might make the entire concept unsustainable.

Which brings us to how long the situation would take to return to normal. Days? Weeks? Months? Years? It's here where those with survivalist instincts would thrive, as they've long been preparing for such a drastic socio-economic change. Folks with bomb shelters, supply reserves and effective skill sets would both be better prepared to live lean, as well as potentially take protective leadership of their neighbourhoods, defending them from robbery and looting.

This preparedness would be even more important, should those quitting their jobs rush simultaneously to pull their money out of banks and other financial institutions. We might see financial ruin the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression, with currency collapsing, banks failing left and right and the chances of government bailouts being slim to none.

Fortunately, such a scenario is extremely improbable. While we’ve all read books or watched movies in which the reactions to social collapse include rioting, destruction, and revolution, it’s difficult to envision a General Strike of such a broad nature occurring in the near future.

This isn't to say that major, general strikes won't happen again in our lifetime, but rather that their existences will not likely be quite so widespread, or be long-term. Even in the case of the May 1968 General Strike in France, workers did eventually return to their jobs, and the party of French President Charles de Gaulle even won Parliamentary elections held at the end of June.

If everyone really did quit their jobs at exactly the same time, the effects might be similar: a brief period of intense turmoil, followed by resolution, and, finally, in the long-run, normalcy. It would be an explosive situation; but one which would force both sides to return to the negotiating table eventually.