The pandemic got people to reevaluate their careers

Almost 50% of people in strategy's State of the Nation survey are thinking about new jobs after a year working from home.

It’s safe to say that one year into life in lockdown made its mark. And while strategy’s editorial team had some idea of how the industry was coping when it released the State of the Nation survey, what stood out the most was the fact that many are considering a career change, having been triggered by the pandemic.

Last month, strategy‘s editorial team reached out to readers to get a sense of how the advertising and marketing community has been coping as we approach one year into life in lockdown. With over 400 participants, largely identifying as either brand-side marketers or agency-side advertisers, the survey’s central finding points to uncertainty around career choice, but it also paints a picture of flexibility and fortitude, while acknowledging that we all might work a little too much.

Almost 50% of respondents across the Canadian marketing and advertising industry indicated pandemic conditions have them thinking about a new job.

The survey specifically asked whether or not the past year had respondents considering a change in career, not due to a particular dissatisfaction in their chosen vocation, but rather because the pandemic may have allowed them to find inspiration or the motivation to explore other options.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents say they aren’t considering a change, with 25% replying “maybe” and the remainder a definitive “yes,” with responses running fairly consistently across both brand and creative agency survey participants.

Over 60% of those surveyed say senior leadership made active changes based on the new work-from-home normal, specifically in terms of how the company communicated internally and externally, and how they inspired and educated team members. These changes typically took the form of increases in communication, (more) flexible working hours, surveys and discussions around diversity, inclusion and mental health, along with enforcing a less “corporate” culture in favour of a more personable one.

The biggest benefit of working from home, according to agency respondants, was time saved in the absence of any form of commute (36%), followed by saving money (27%) and an improvement in work-life balance (19%). Interestingly, a lot more brand-side respondents say they benefited from time saved commuting (50%) and slightly more say they have an improved work-life balance (20%) versus agency folk.

Saving time and money, along with better work-life balance, seem like great benefits on the surface; however, they lose a little lustre when we realize most respondents (71%) also indicate working more hours, approximately 10-20% more over the past year.

And with more time at home providing more time to work, just over 50% of survey participants replied that working remotely did not affect productivity, with 35% saying WFH “somewhat affected” work output, and 11% admitting that not being in the office negatively affected the quality of work.

The most significant challenge across the board was isolation and lack of social interaction, followed by mental health challenges (stress, anxiety, depression), and struggling with child care challenges. The agency versus brand comparison saw some differences here, with brands highlighting isolation and “cabin fever” at the top of their concerns, and agencies struggling with isolation and mental health more than anything else.

Going forward, State of the Nation survey respondents overwhelmingly favoured a flexible/hybrid WFH arrangement when offices are allowed to open up again (85%), with most saying they’d like to spend two days in office and the rest of the week remotely (45%). Also, one-fifth of participants relocated as a result of the pandemic and lockdown measures (20%).

Looking ahead, brand-side survey participants were asked what was going to keep them up at night as far as challenges and concerns around their business. Many (22%) pointed to small or shrinking budgets, but even more (almost 40%) selected N/A, either unsure of how to answer, or confident in their ability to drive growth moving forward.