Half of employees less career focused since pandemic, survey finds

Experts warn that ‘always on’ work cultures will leave workforces ‘depleted’ and harm long-term productivity

Career progression has become less of a priority for nearly half of employees since the start of the pandemic, a study has found.

The poll of 1,000 employees by Aviva found that 47 per cent said they had become less career focused as a result of the pandemic, and almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) said that flexible working would play a more important role in their future career choices.

However, not every worker polled said that their work-life balance had been positively affected by the changes brought by the pandemic.

While just over a third of workers (35 per cent) said they felt their work-life balance had improved during the pandemic; a fifth (20 per cent) said it had been negatively affected; and a similar proportion (21 per cent) said it had negatively affected how they felt about their job.

The same survey found that more than half (52 per cent) of workers felt the boundaries between work and home were becoming ‘increasingly blurred’; 44 per cent of workers felt they could never switch off from work; and two in five (40 per cent) were concerned about work-related burnout.

The changes to work brought by coronavirus also affected men and women differently: women were more likely to report a negative impact on their work-life balance than men (24 per cent compared to 16 per cent); more concerned about the risk of work-related burnout (46 per cent compared to 35 per cent); and more likely to say they felt life had become more challenging over the last six months (77 per cent compared to 72 per cent).

Women were also less likely to feel entitled to claim back time during work hours than men (64 per cent compared to 72 per cent).

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Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at Aviva, warned that an always-on work culture was “guaranteed to end with people’s batteries depleted”, and said it was essential employers recognised that long-term productivity depended on the wellbeing of staff.

“The pandemic may have been a collective experience, but the impact has been fragmented in so many ways, with women especially facing particularly acute stresses from the blurring of lines between home and work,” Bullock said.

“Businesses who choose to plough on regardless will discover to their cost that if you can’t make time for staff wellness, you will be forced to make time for illness and live with the repercussions.”

Chris Parke, CEO of Talking Talent, added that flexible working was proving crucial for talent attraction and retention. “Organisations shouldn’t see themselves being forced to offer flexible working and reasonable working hours,” he said, urging forms to see flexible working as a commercial opportunity.

“The risk of burnout is real, and if left unexamined, wellbeing issues can reverse positive steps aimed at improving organisational performance,” Parke said.