More Than Half of Workers Rethinking Careers Due to the Pandemic

40% now plan to focus on their personal lives, rather than their jobs
Family storytime in a backyard

With some nonessential businesses shutting down and workplaces shifting to remote staffing earlier this year, many workers found their professional lives suddenly taking a backseat to their personal lives and safety. Now, some workers are looking for ways to prioritize their personal lives more permanently.

The pandemic has changed the way many people think about their careers — that’s what global staffing firm Robert Half found when it surveyed workers about their career plans and future goals.

More than half of respondents said the pandemic has sparked some soul-searching when it comes to their professions, with 57% saying their feelings about work have undergone a shift since the pandemic began.

Workers holding employers accountable

Since the beginning of the pandemic, workers have expressed their concern that employers take their personal safety seriously. A survey conducted in February and March found that half of workers thought their office setup might facilitate the spread of COVID-19. Another survey in May showed that a majority of workers were reluctant to return to the office because of safety concerns.

The Robert Half survey suggests that workers are paying particular attention to how employers are responding to this crisis for insight into how they will treat their employees during other challenging times. In fact, 60% said the pandemic has given them new motivation to work for a company that “values its staff during unpredictable times.”

Workers also appear to be looking for more fulfillment, the survey suggests:

  • More than a third — 40% — said they plan to prioritize their personal lives over their jobs from now on
  • One-third — 33% — said they plan to look for a position that is more meaningful and fulfilling than the one they currently have

Younger employees more motivated to change

The younger employees are, the more likely they are to have changed their perspective of their career because of the pandemic:

  • Among employees aged 25 to 40, 68% had a change of perspective
  • Among employees aged 41 to 54, 45% experienced a shift
  • Among employees aged 55 and older, 40% said they’d changed the way they viewed their career

Other surveys have suggested that younger people have also had a more difficult time than their older colleagues adjusting to some of the changes that took place during the pandemic. For example, a survey in April found that millennials and Generation Z workers found it more difficult to adapt to working remotely because of the outbreak.

Among those respondents to the Robert Half survey who experienced a shift in feelings toward work, women were more concerned about a potential employer’s actions than men. In fact, 65% of women said they wanted to work for an organization that appreciates workers during times of uncertainty, compared to 56% of men.

When it comes to prioritizing one’s personal life over the job, a substantial percentage of employees embraced the notion, regardless of whether or not they had children. Among respondents, 41% of working parents and 39% of employees without children said they plan to prioritize their personal lives moving forward.

Methodology: Robert Half surveyed more than 1,000 adult workers who normally work in office environments in the U.S. The survey was conducted May 14-19, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.