What workers want
Post-pandemic work/life balance trends
By Leslie T. Snadowsky
The Pew Research Center found low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs in 2021 during the middle of the COVID pandemic, causing This Great Resignation. But job website Indeed rebranded this phenomenon as The Great Reassessment. Indeed states 85 percent of employers agreed the pandemic altered beliefs about what constitutes a good job, and that workers’ top five priorities are higher pay (59 percent), schedule flexibility (58 percent), better work-life balance (56 percent), remote work options (54 percent) and the ability to focus on personal and family responsibilities (50 percent).
“I think COVID gave everybody a chance to stop and reassess,” said Hilton Head licensed professional counselor Dr. Debi Lynes. “The pandemic was a time to reboot and regroup, and I think many people had a chance to reflect on what was really important to them in their lives.”
Dr. Lynes earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and re-frames the work/ balance conundrum into three domains.
“The first is our relationship life, which includes our friends, family and intimate relationships,” she said. “Our second domain is our work and our education. And our third domain is our self-care, including what I call mind, muscle and mouth. It’s how you keep your physical and brain health in check and move and fuel your body.”
Lynes said during the pandemic when many employees worked from home, they had time to realize what was important to them and figure out how to devote enough time, energy and resources to those pursuits.
“If 80 percent of the time we can practice balance,” she said, “being well rounded in each of those domains, we don’t even look at it now as happiness as much as it is achieving a sense of purpose and a reason for living. It allows us to be our best selves.”
When businesses were forced to adapt to hybrid work models, it affected time-management strategies. Flexibility took on a whole new meaning when keeping employees engaged and productive. Company goals still had to be met, whether employees worked remotely at home, kept a blended work schedule or worked exclusively from an office, and flexibility also affected work hours. Employers are now adding flextime options as a benefit, so an average workday is not always from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“COVID had a huge impact on our time management and how we want to spend our time,” Lynes said. “Many of us are all about work, work, work, and we forget to take a few minutes for ourselves, to pace ourselves to manage our time.
“It used to be, you were the best employee if you were the first one at the office and the last one to leave,” she said. “Now people are being rewarded for the opposite. They’re being rewarded for their quality of work, not the time they’re at work. People are being rewarded for working smarter, not necessarily longer or harder. I think a lot of employers are stepping out of the old paradigm of a traditional workday, and now they’re looking for efficiency and outcomes as opposed to just hours spent at the office working.”
Spending time at home during the pandemic enabled many in the workforce to spend more time taking care of children and older relatives. Childcare and adult care-giving benefits are perks employers have realized keep their employees from quitting, reducing their hours to part-time, or taking sick days and unpaid leave.
“I think families are being considered a lot more,” Lynes said. “Compared to around the world, we were kind of late on the uptick for considering family obligations and choices in the workforce. At the center of everything are your core values. If you are living your core values, you will achieve a work/ life balance. I think when COVID hit, a lot of people asked themselves, ‘Am I living my authentic self? Am I living my core values? What is my purpose? Am I money driven? Am I purpose driven? Do I want to be closer to my family? What’s really important to me?’ The pandemic has presented a really good opportunity for change.”
Dr. Debi Lynes – Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. Debi Lynes is based in Hilton Head and has an extensive career exploring the relationship between the physical environment and its influence on health and wellness.