There’s no doubt that the events of the last two years have had a significant impact on the global workforce. When millions of people were forced to quarantine, it not only changed the way people work, it changed how they feel about it, too. Today, employee sentiments have permanently shifted. Our recent Workmonitor survey reflects this change.

One significant finding is a shift in employee attitudes about work, specifically the desire for work to fit around their lives. In fact, the majority of respondents see work-life balance as an integral part of their happiness.

58 percent of respondents wouldn’t accept a job if they thought it would negatively affect their work-life balance.

To understand the impact this shift may have on the global workforce, consider some key findings when it comes to employee attitudes:

the pandemic changed things – in some ways for good

The existential threats of the pandemic forced millions to stay home, drastically curb their social interactions, and acclimate to alternative ways of working. This led to changes to the workforce and an ongoing economic trend referred to as the “Great Resignation.”

Around the world, employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs in record numbers. There are several theories behind this exodus, including wage stagnation alongside rising cost of living and healthy safety concerns amidst a pandemic. However, long-term job dissatisfaction and the desire for job flexibility are also frequently cited. Our survey reflects these sentiments.

More than two-fifths of survey respondents said they would quit their job if their employer didn’t take into account requests for better working conditions.

For better or worse, this trend is reshaping the way we work. And while it’s hard to tell what will stick in the long run, some of the changes will be permanent. Consider this statistic:

According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression increased 25 percent worldwide during the first year of the pandemic.

The isolation and restrictions of quarantine impacted everyone, with younger generations feeling the worst of it. In fact, some studies show that American teens are experiencing a mental health crisis. As a result, younger generations are becoming more attuned with their overall well-being. This means that future employees are poised to continue to put a greater emphasis on satisfaction and flexibility in their lives for years to come.

employees want to be happy

Through the changes of the last two years, people believe more than ever that happiness is the key to success both in life and at work. What’s more, they’re ready to let their employers know it. See related infographic.

Consider these key findings from the survey on happiness:

  • Overall, 33 percent of survey respondents said they’d rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job.
  • 58 percent said they wouldn’t accept a job if they thought it would negatively affect their work-life balance.
  • More than two-fifths (41%) would quit if their employer didn’t take into account requests for better working conditions.

It is clear that respondents see job flexibility, such as an emphasis on work-life balance, as a key component to happiness and satisfaction.

Our data also shows some notable factors:

Younger generations place greater emphasis on the pursuit of happiness, with Gen Z and Millennials responding most favorably.

Percentage of employees who would quit a job that prevented them from enjoying their lives:

  • 56%: 18-24 year olds
  • 38%: 55-67 year olds

This aligns with the historical trend that younger generations tend to hold to their ideals. As employees age, job security, compensation and time invested in a company factor into career decisions. However, these numbers clearly highlight the pursuit of happiness across age groups.

Another survey question shows the potential for a long-term trend toward job flexibility in order to achieve satisfaction:

41 percent in the youngest age group have quit a job because it didn’t fit their personal life, up from 25 percent in the oldest group.

Geography played a factor in this answer, with employees in Latin America considerably less tolerant of a bad job than those in North America. At the other end of the spectrum, Japanese employees are among the most tolerant of a job that makes them unhappy.

Overall, Millennials and Gen Z – the future of the global workforce – are leading the way to find greater satisfaction and happiness through employment. In the coming generations, an emphasis on happiness may be here to stay.

employers can help

Today, the global workforce is set to make what was a temporary shift into a permanent transformation. Employers have the ability to accommodate this phenomenon.

acknowledge the changes

Many employees new to the labor market have never stepped foot inside an office. What’s more, talent of all ages now enjoys the flexibility of working outside the office for a variety of reasons. Introducing policy changes with these factors in mind can help eliminate frustration.

In addition to an emphasis on where they work, employees care more now about why they work. 48 percent of survey respondents would choose not to work at all, if money was no object. However, the majority do find meaning in their work.

57 percent of survey respondents feel a sense of purpose through their employment.

This is good news for employers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), purpose is imperative to applying the concept of New Work and raising workforce engagement.

keep listening

During the pandemic, many organizations effectively engaged their employees to learn what they needed to remain productive and engaged.  As the workforce returns to the office, employers that continue to address staff concerns will stay relevant and competitive in today’s market.

evolve corporate culture and workforce strategy

Employees today desire positivity and purpose. Organizations that foster a culture of communication can help address these sentiments. One example is to encourage regular connections between talent and their superiors to clarify individual impact on the broader organization. In addition, policies that are inclusive to the needs of the changing workforce will attract and retain talent.

The tumultuous events of the past two years changed the attitudes of the global workforce in lasting ways. Understanding current employee sentiments can help employers and talent alike find success in the years to come.