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In 2020, 68% of U.S. Workers Say Their Job Became More Important Than Ever

March 29, 2021

A year ago, we predicted that 2020 would be the year of job switching. A strong economy with a record-low unemployment rate meant that many job seekers could transition from gainful employment to new opportunities without hesitation in 2019. Of course, no one could have predicted the explosive impact COVID-19 would have on the global labor market in 2020.

As this turbulent year comes to a close, Indeed surveyed 1,000 U.S. job seekers to understand people’s sentiments about work this past year, as well as hopes for their career in 2021. Instead of seeking new job opportunities, more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said they realized their current job was more important to them than ever. Another 67% agreed the pandemic was even a valuable learning experience in their career. Read on for more of what our survey revealed, including how U.S. employee sentiment compares to the rest of the world right now.

Read more: Companies Hiring During COVID-19

How 2020 impacted the U.S. job force

The global labor market has changed in so many ways since COVID-19 began to shake up the economy in early 2020. As a result, our new data suggests that people are overwhelmingly looking for stability in both their personal and professional lives.

The pandemic seems to have impacted workers who are nearing retirement more than their younger counterparts: While 27% of respondents said their personal circumstances have worsened throughout 2020, almost half of those respondents (47%) were over the age of 55.

A quarter (25%) of those we surveyed in the U.S. report that they have received financial or social support from the government since COVID-19 hit, but they felt the measures to support jobs and workers in the country were not enough. Our survey was conducted in the third week of November 2020 — seven months since the federal government began distributing the first round of stimulus payments and four months since enhanced unemployment benefits expired for millions of Americans. Also of note, 22% of respondents indicated their mental health had declined throughout 2020.

The lines between work and life for most people have become permanently blurred. It's now about the work-life blend as 43% of respondents said they agreed with that statement when thinking about the pandemic and how they feel about the future of work. Over a third (35%) of employees said that “more time with family” had the biggest impact on their personal circumstances in 2020, followed by “more opportunities to work from home” (25%) and “greater work-life balance” (23%).

Read more: COVID-19: Unemployment and Job Loss Support

Looking ahead to 2021

With the number of job openings on the rise and new unemployment claims retreating, job seekers are cautiously moving closer to what the “new normal” will look like in 2021.

Many people are feeling hopeful about their income

40% of respondents are optimistic about the job market next year, and more than a third of respondents (36%) said they are very optimistic about receiving a pay increase in 2021.

We’re looking forward to less distractions

Productivity at work has been a struggle for those working from home — especially when one’s virtual team meetings are filled with distractions like neighbors, young children, pets and other responsibilities at home. More than half (51%) of respondents are very optimistic (21%) or quite optimistic (30%) about their productivity next year.

We’re prepared for curveballs

The sudden shift to remote work in 2020 also helped more than half (54%) of respondents to feel confident they could adapt to any changes that might come in 2021.

Job security is most important

An overwhelming 76% of respondents agree that having a secure, stable form of employment will be one of their top priorities next year.

Women are less optimistic than men

Productivity at work has been a struggle for those working from home —especially when one’s virtual team meetings are filled with distractions like neighbors, young children, pets and other responsibilities at home. More than half (51%) of respondents are very optimistic (21%) or quite optimistic (30%) about their productivity next year. f women), salary increases (47% of men vs. 29% of women), work-life balance (54% of men vs. 38% of women) and productivity (60% of men vs. 45% of women).

Read more: Women and the Burden of Emotional Labor During COVID-19

5 things that would make people switch jobs in 2021

Just under a third (29%) of respondents said they are open for other job opportunities but will not actively look for a new job when looking ahead to 2021. According to our respondents, the top five criteria a new job must meet to make them switch jobs in 2021 are:

  • A higher salary: Most survey respondents (62%) said they’d need a pay increase to motivate them to switch jobs. This signals that many employees are happy to settle with where they are—for now.

  • More job security: After an unsettling year with every industry feeling the sting of high unemployment rates, 42% of respondents said they’d consider switching jobs if they felt the opportunity afforded them more job security.

  • A better benefits package: Health insurance and other company benefits only became more of a necessity for people in 2020, with 35% of respondents saying they’d switch jobs for a better compensation package.

  • A step up in their career: A quarter of respondents (25%) said they’d only consider a new job in 2021 if it meant they’d be climbing up the proverbial ladder.

  • More fun at work: Only 15% of respondents cared about their next company offering fun employee perks.

Read more: Survey: 27% of Unemployed Respondents Seek Career Change During Pandemic

How does U.S. worker sentiment compare to the rest of the world’s workforce?

To get a sense of the varying impact of the crisis on the world of work across different demographics and countries, Indeed also polled more than 14,000 job seekers worldwide in the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Australia, India and Singapore.

Globally, respondents were a bit less optimistic about the job market than those based in the U.S.: more than a third (36%) of respondents in the countries we surveyed said they are optimistic about next year’s job market, compared to 40% of those in the U.S. Respondents in India were the most optimistic (with 43% saying they were “very optimistic”) about the job market in 2021, while respondents in Italy were the least optimistic (only 6% of Italians said they were “very optimistic”).

U.S. respondents were also the least likely of the 13 countries we surveyed to agree that government measures to support jobs and workers were effective. Respondents in Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada were all most likely to agree with their respective governments’ responses.

Globally, however, people in other countries are less optimistic about salary increases for 2021 than U.S. workers: Almost half (48%) of global respondents say they are not optimistic with regards to salary increase in 2021, with almost a quarter (24%) stressing they are not at all optimistic. 39% of U.S. respondents, on the other hand, said they are not optimistic about getting a salary increase in 2021.

Lavish company perks originally instated to attract new talent and improve company culture feel like a lifetime ago — buffet-style cafeterias, team retreats and company holiday parties are still unlikely to return anytime soon—but 65% of respondents in the U.S. agree that they would be willing to sacrifice perks for the sake of a secure, stable form of employment. The figure was lower globally, with only 56% of respondents worldwide willing to sacrifice such perks.

One happier outcome of this pandemic is how businesses seem to have emerged stronger and more connected than before the pandemic. Approximately two-thirds of respondents (66%) in the U.S. agree that “as employees, we really pulled together in this time and helped our company weather the crisis” — and the same sentiment (67% globally) was shared in other countries.

Methodology:
Lavish company perks originally instated to attract new talent and improve company culture feel like a lifetime ago —buffet-style cafeterias, team retreats and company holiday parties are still unlikely to return anytime soon—but 65% of respondents in the U.S. agree that they would be willing to sacrifice perks for the sake of a secure, stable form of employment. The figure was lower globally, with only 56% of respondents worldwide willing to sacrifice such perks.

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