There is no doubt at all that the pandemic, and the measures taken to counteract it, has impacted people’s mental health. That is true not just in the UK but around the world – and with the threat of yet another wave this winter, the situation could well get worse before it gets better.
Unsurprisingly, many people used lockdown to re-evaluate what they wanted from their life and their work. Last summer, the Independent reported that half the workforce in the UK was considering a change of job – with the medical profession, teaching and landscape gardening top of the wish list. The general feeling was that ‘life was too short’ to be doing a job people didn’t like.
It would be easy to dismiss that as an initial reaction to the pandemic and lockdown. By early 2021, however, even more people were looking to change jobs, with the website Totaljobs.com reporting that more than 70% of people wanted a change of direction. Flexible working, the option of being able to work from home and working for a company that ‘shared my values’ were all high on the list of boxes to be ticked.
So far, so understandable – but if we look at the situation from an employer’s point of view it is very worrying. ‘The war for talent’ has almost become a cliché among HR professionals and employers are going further and further to recruit and retain the best people.
One UK company – London stockbroker Finncapp – is set to offer the ultimate employee perk from next year, in a bid to counter staff burnout. The company will offer unlimited holiday, with staff having to take a minimum of four weeks leave, plus ‘two or three days’ every quarter. Unlimited paid leave has to date largely been the preserve of US tech companies, but it is gradually starting to appear in the UK.
One of the early pioneers of the practice was Netflix (named one of the world’s best employers by Forbes) with staff allowed to take as much holiday as they want. Days off are not tracked: it is purely down to individual employees.
In theory the practice should work well – but in practice many firms have found that staff actually took less time off. As Rishi Sunak recently commented, the people who tend to get promoted are the ones that are in the office.
It is undeniable that the pandemic has brought changes in working practices that are not going to go away. Young people entering the workforce want very different things to their parents’ generation. The problems for employers will persist – but so will problems for employees. We are clearly going to see more people changing jobs in the future. They will work for a variety of different employers and may well have career gaps. That is going to make financial planning around areas such as pensions and mortgages more important than ever.
Remember that we are always here to answer your questions: whether that is about your own career and financial planning – or the future careers of your children.