This month marks two years since much of the world was upended by the pandemic, leaving many people to make life-altering changes in how they approach work.
According to clinical psychologist Avigail Lev, the changes occurred in two stages: in the beginning, people were afraid to lose their jobs. Then, the perks of working from home began to be a beacon of light amidst the fear of uncertainty.
However, as employees worked harder than ever before, companies reaped the benefits while workers saw little increase in pay and recognition. This led to what is now referred to as the Great Resignation, which can be described as an awakening many professionals have had about what they desire from their work experience.
“People are suddenly being faced with the fragility of life,” said Lev. “A boss might ask, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ But maybe we don’t even have five years guaranteed to plan for.”
Prior to the pandemic, work-related stresses were often dealt with outside of work hours. Now, people are emboldened to take action in order to improve what they spend the majority of their life doing: working.
Sahaj Kohli, a therapist-in-training and founder of Brown Girl Therapy, explained that many people used work to cope with the pandemic’s impact on their identity. For some, the last two years caused them to rethink what they wanted to do with their lives, and for others, it was the final push to encourage them to pursue other endeavors.
For Kohli’s patients, many of whom are children of immigrants, the culture of overworking came to a boiling point, leading them to introduce better boundaries between their sense of self and their career.
Dr. Shoaib Memon, a psychologist based in Chicago, also noted that as time has gone on, his patients have discussed work-related microaggressions and harassment less and less.
“People are finding work to be just a part of your life, or just a thing you do, and you can have more flexibility in doing it,” said Memon. “I can’t say if they’re more happy or less happy. But they have more of a say in what their work life and identity looks like.”