Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.
The pandemic has changed the way many of us think about our time, and it suddenly feels like the whole country — young and old — is contemplating retirement or a shift in their approach to work.
It might be an understatement to say that the year in quarantine was really hard for some — in big and small ways. However, many are finding a silver lining in the form of a new mindset toward time and money that may promise a better way of life. For some, that means an immediate and complete retirement. Others are transitioning to a different type of work.
Huge numbers of people are leaving their jobs
People are leaving work in unprecedented numbers. The U.S. Labor Department reported that a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone.
Some are leaving for better work or a higher-paying gig. Others are seeking to gain more control over their time, a new way of life, flexibility, and more happiness.
Many are reconsidering the meaning of work.
Beyond money: Two reasons many are rethinking work
Burnout and a new mindset are two reasons people are exploring a new approach to work.
From doctors and nurses caring for COVID-19 patients to grocery store workers who helped keep us all fed, some workers experienced extreme stress throughout the coronavirus pandemic. And, the research suggests that those are among the people most likely to be seeking a new way of working.
A new approach:
However, the biggest sector leaving the workplace or switching jobs are restaurant and hotel workers — many of whom were furloughed or worked fewer hours throughout the pandemic. Some of these workers found flexibility and a new mindset with regard to work during the pandemic.
And, even those who were able to work from home are also rethinking their 9-to-5. With high vaccination rates, it is possible for many people to return to the office, but occupancy rates for many businesses remain low.
Many people like working at home. According to Gallup, 45% of full-time workers in the U.S. are still working remotely. And, surveys show that most people really like working from home. In fact, 86% of those working remotely say they would be interested in continuing to do so after the pandemic.
Is time now considered more valuable than money?
Tsedal Neely, a professor at the Harvard Business School and author of “Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere,” told NPR: “We have changed. Work has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed. Workers now crave the flexibility given to them in the pandemic — which had previously been unattainable.”
Your time is what you trade for money when you are working. And, work income is what you give up when you gain time at retirement.
It seems now that people may be trying to find more balance between the two.
Time is what you gain when you leave work or retire
Americans have been notoriously bad at balancing the trade-off between time and money. While we are no longer the most overworked country in the world, we are in at least the top 10.
Popular wisdom has always tried to set us straight:
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannnot get more time.” — Jim Rohn
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” — Carl Sandburg
“Time is money. Waste it now. Pay for it later.” — Benjamin Franklin
“One today is worth two tomorrows. Lost time is never found again. Time is money. Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff that life is made of. You may delay, but time will not.” — Benjamin Franklin
6 big work-life decisions people are considering post-pandemic
Wondering if you can quit too? Consider the following six questions.
1. What is the value and importance of your time?
This question can be tricky. There is the:
- Money you are paid.
- Nonmonetary value you derive from both paid and non-paid activities.
- Efficiencies (and inefficiencies) of both how you earn money and how you spend time. (Is a frugal habit worth the amount of time it takes you, for example?)
- How you want to be spending your time.
- Your financial and emotional needs.
2. Are you safe and comfortable at work?
The pandemic has caused many people to question the safety of their work. But, this is not necessarily a new phenomenon. As we age, work can sometimes become more perilous — triggering decisions to retire early — at least from certain types of jobs.
It is important to consider if your current work is compatible with your safety and comfort.
3. Is your work compatible with your purpose in life?
This is a big question.
It is perfectly acceptable to work for money — nothing at all wrong with that, especially if you can derive meaning and purpose outside of work. However, the pandemic is causing people to seek more meaningful work.
Ikigai translates from Japanese to “reason to live.” Ikigai is the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for.
What is your ikigai?
4. With whom do you want to be spending time?
Spending quality time with family and friends was a massive casualty during the pandemic.
So, many are now trying to find ways to spend more time with those they love and finding work that enables more focus on relationships.
5. Are you living where you want to be?
Remote work has enabled people to eliminate commutes and relocate to less expensive areas with lifestyle options that are more compatible with interests.
6. How much do you really need to quit or retire?
This is not necessarily the million-dollar question. People can find future financial security for much less.
How much you need is entirely based on your current assets, future spending and a flexible approach to whatever may happen in the years ahead.
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