The Great Pivot and the Future of the Workplace in the U.S.

Published Dec 08, 2021

Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions at Toluna Corporate

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Not since the Industrial Revolution has the United States experienced such a dramatic shift in the way people work. The pandemic has forever changed the work landscape, with remote work opening new possibilities for employees, such as allowing them to work how, when, and where they wish.

To understand the scope of these changes and the prospects of returning to in-person work, we conducted a survey of 1,135 people in the U.S. between October 23-26, 2021. Here’s what we found.

The Great Pivot

Amidst all the talk of the Great Resignation, exactly half (50%) of respondents were actively looking for work at the time of our research. This included workers who were either actively looking to switch roles (20%), those who were currently unemployed (17%), and those who were looking for additional employment to supplement their existing income (14%). An additional 25% had already left their jobs and secured new employment within the last 3-6 months.

Interestingly, the majority (67%) of these job seekers were looking to change career paths and find work in an industry they hadn’t worked in previously. Retail (17%), professional, scientific, and technical services (12%), and medical/healthcare/public health (10%) were among the most sought-after roles. Other sectors of interest included manufacturing (9%), construction (9%), accommodation and food services (8%), arts and entertainment (7%), and educational services and childcare (6%).

Negative Effects of COVID-19

The pandemic placed immense pressure on employees and businesses alike. Our research found that 28% of respondents reported diminished income due to the pandemic, while 19% said their employment status changed for the worse. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they were not currently working, but only 20% of that group was receiving government assistance.

A Flexible Future

During the pandemic, one in five (20%) respondents were working fully remotely, while another 11% were doing a mix of in-person and remote work (hybrid working). For those who were able to work from home 100% of the time, it opened up new possibilities; one in four remote workers reported that they now live somewhere different thanks to their ability to work remotely.

When asked about preferred working models, most respondents (67%) stated they would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time; 38% believe hybrid working is the way forward and 29% would prefer to work remotely full time. Only a third (34%) said they prefer to work exclusively in person.

Overall, the pandemic’s impact on jobs and the economy continues to cause major upheavals and disruptions in the ways Americans work. It’s been a time of great reflection, and not only has the country experienced a great resignation, but our research shows that we’re experiencing a great pivot, with the large majority of job seekers seeking employment in new industries.

Now that remote working has become the norm, it’s clear that businesses must learn to adjust and be flexible to suit individual employee preferences, given that two-thirds of respondents would like to work remotely at least some of the time. With one in five employees currently looking to leave their positions, staff retention strategies have never been more important, and adopting a flexible work model is just one way to help businesses attract and retain top talent.

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