The Next Normal: The Future of Work After COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of our daily lives. The abrupt lockdowns of early 2020 not only altered how companies operated, but they also spurred significant changes in how employees worked. Many of these changes, such as staff members working remotely, will likely be part of the “next normal” in some form. However, the next normal won’t be the same for workers across all sectors.

Worker uses laptop to attend meeting remotely.

Data from Pew Research shows that at the start of the pandemic, while many white-collar, high-income professionals found they could perform their jobs remotely, those in the retail, hospitality, and food service industries could not. According to an October 2020 survey, approximately 68% of employed respondents with a postgraduate degree and 58% of employed respondents with a bachelor’s degree said their professional tasks could be done mostly from home. In contrast, roughly 83% of respondents with a high school diploma or less and 71% of those who had completed some college coursework said that working remotely was not an option due to the nature of their jobs.

The trend toward telecommuting, its resulting inequities, and other shifts in the job market related to the pandemic have prompted many workers to reevaluate what’s important to them in the post-pandemic workplace, such as flexible schedules, work-life balance, and career advancement opportunities. Below are just a few of the ways that COVID-19 has sparked employees’ interest in reinventing their careers.

What the Pandemic Revealed About How We View Our Jobs

When workplaces closed and employees were required to work from home, the experience led many workers to begin reevaluating their relationships to their jobs. Some professionals who had been working long days and late nights started questioning whether their pre-pandemic work life still made sense. Those trapped in toxic work environments with gossipy or abusive staff, whose positions required constant off-hours communication, or who felt overwhelmed by micromanagement began to reconsider their work satisfaction.

Pandemic-forced introspection about these and other future-of-work concerns have prompted some workers to seek long overdue changes to their employment situations.

How COVID-19 Is Reinventing the Workforce

A December 2020 New York Times article reported that the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery is likely to be imbalanced, leaving out many low-paid workers in service industries such as transportation, janitorial services, and hospitality.

Will janitors still have work if companies keep less staff on-site? What will happen to servers at restaurants in downtown business corridors if lawyers, executives, and secretaries continue working remotely? Will retail employees’ schedules face permanent cuts as consumers continue to shop online? Concerns like these have sparked workers’ interest in pursuing new career paths.

3 Reasons Workers Say They Plan to Change Jobs After the Pandemic

Changes in workers’ attitudes about their jobs aren’t just being reported anecdotally. Data from Prudential’s March 2021 Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that from telework to company culture, COVID-19 has called attention to what people value most in employment. According to the survey, “87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely at least one day a week, post-pandemic. Among all workers, 68% say a hybrid workplace model is ideal.”

The survey also found that 26% of workers plan to look for new opportunities once the pandemic has subsided. The reasons people plan to shift careers are varied.

  • Career advancement. Hourly workers often lack access to career advancement opportunities. Completing a college degree and pursuing an alternate career path often come with increased earnings and career advancement potential.
  • Flexible work arrangements. Workers throughout the U.S. have shown their employers that they can be just as productive, if not more so, while working from home. Consequently, many professionals are drawn to the idea of ditching their twice-daily rush-hour commute.
  • Work-life balance. Eliminating the need to commute saves workers countless hours every week. In addition to giving people more time to handle day-to-day household tasks, telework arrangements have also allowed workers to spend more time with their families. Many of those in industries that can’t accommodate telework are planning to move to new fields where remote work is possible.

Tips to Reinvent Your Career

If you’re among the millions of Americans interested in reinventing their careers, these steps can help guide you toward your goal.

  • Consider different What are you passionate about? What career paths would you like to explore? Create a short list of jobs and opportunities that intrigue you. As the saying goes, you need to know where you’re going to figure out how to get there.
  • Network with former colleagues or classmates. Career opportunities don’t exist in a vacuum, and networking with former colleagues and classmates can help you generate leads. In some instances, your contact may learn about an opening at their company before the job is posted.
  • Identify your skill gaps and focus on self-development. If you want to shift to a new career path, update your skill set. Does the field you’re interested in require enhanced cloud computing skills? Would learning a second language help land your dream job? Online classes can help you enhance or develop the skills you need to make a change.

Shape the Future You Want

Reinventing your career can have a wide range of benefits: greater job satisfaction, improved work-life balance, even the opportunity to follow a dream. If you’re among the millions of Americans who plan to make a change, we’d like to take a moment to congratulate you.

Are you ready to take the first brave step forward? Discover how Maryville University’s online degree and certificate programs can help prepare you for the job you want.

Recommended Reading

Certificate vs. Degree: Which Path Is Best for You?

Conquering Back-to-School Anxiety: Emotional Side of Learning

Work from Home Safety Tips for Online Security


Career Contessa, “10 Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment”

Employee, “10 Tips to Reinvent Your Career in the Time of Coronavirus”

Forbes,”Covid-19 Is Causing People to Pivot Careers — If You Want to Reinvent Yourself, Here’s How to Start”

Forbes, “Why Millions of Employees Plan to Switch Jobs Post-Pandemic”

New York Times, “Reinventing Workers for the Post-Covid Economy”

Pew Research Center, “How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has — and Hasn’t — Changed the Way Americans Work”

Prudential, “Increasingly, Workers Expect Pandemic Workplace Adaptations to Stick”

Time Magazine, “The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work”

Training, “How to Identify and Approach a Toxic Work Environment in the Age of Remote Work”

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