Unsettled workers eye up their options for the future


More than a year of lockdown has left many feeling restless, and not just for a night on the town, a long drive in the country, or a holiday abroad. According to a new poll by Aviva, 60 per cent of UK workers are planning to shake up their professional life as a direct result of the pandemic, either by finding a new job, learning a new skill or switching career entirely.

The survey of 4,000 workers found those under 25 are most likely looking to make a change, with 87% reporting that they are re-evaluating their careers. That they are re-examining their prospects is little surprise, given the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on youth employment and career opportunities.

However, it was those aged 25 to 34 that were most likely to want to retrain or switch to an entirely different career.

The explanation for this seeming anomaly might lie in a separate survey released in February by workplace learning platform HowNow, which found that the number of workplace promotions was down 48% from the year before. Frustrated by a lack of progress in their current organisation, many are looking to move on.

But this doesn’t really apply to those wanting to change careers. Many who have been working from home for months on end have found that after stripping out the commute and other annoyances, they still don’t love the job they are in.

It remains to be seen to what extent their discontent will translate into action; perhaps now is when many will make the leap. On the other hand, an immediate groundswell may not be imminent.

Although the job market is showing some signs of recovery, there are still significantly fewer vacant positions than immediately prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Some will be discouraged from making a move until the fragile market recovers a bit more vigour.

Either way, employers should heed this widespread restlessness. Those concerned about the possibility of losing staff need to start talking to their employees about what they want out of their careers.

Flexible working patterns and access to training should be a given in today’s market. Other sensible options include job reassessments that allow staff to take on more of the work they enjoy, or even moving to another role within the company.

Action now to settle this restive workforce will avoid unnecessary turbulence along the path to recovery, as well as the hefty costs associated with a surge in staff turnover.

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Posted on April 21, 2021