The Great Resignation was fueled by workers’ obsession with flexibility. Big Tech layoffs have scared employees reprioritizing what they need

January 26, 2023, 7:46 PM UTC
Workers have demanded more flexibility since the onset of the pandemic. But that's shifting now.
Milos Stankovic/Getty Images

The pandemic brought job flexibility into focus as it never has been before. Workers across a range of industries started pushing back on employers’ demands to be in the office five days a week and clamored for better work-life balance. 

More than a few were even willing to walk away from a job in order in favor of the promise of a more flexible working environment. 

That makes sense when it’s a workers’ job market. But the good times seem to be over. With mass layoffs making headlines and many experts predicting the U.S. is heading into a recession this year, workers are now prioritizing job security over flexibility. 

More than half of workers (56%) say that job stability is more important to them than flexibility amid the current, uncertain economic environment, according to the latest edition of LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence survey of 6,573 U.S. professionals.

Arguably, it's still a job seeker's market: There were 10.5 million open jobs as of November. But the very public layoffs—particularly in the tech sector—have rattled workers’ confidence in securing and holding on to a job. Additionally, 42% of workers see any upcoming recession as a possible threat to their job security over the next year, according to a recent survey from job search site About 19% say a recession would pose an extreme or immediate threat to their employment. 

Yet not all sectors are seeing the same threat of layoffs. The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector had the highest average layoff rate of 3.1% from June to November, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other top sectors for layoffs in recent months include construction, the information industry, and professional and business services, which includes jobs in accounting, engineering, and computer services. 

On the other hand, LinkedIn has previously found that sectors like utilities, education, consumer services, and even government jobs tend to be fairly stable.  

For all the headlines, unemployment is still fairly low, and the most recent data shows that the layoff rate has remained relatively flat throughout the last two years—essentially with no real massive shifts upward even as the headlines scream doom and gloom. 

Even when Goldman Sachs analysts recently reviewed advance layoff notices filed under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, they found that while these filings have ticked up recently, they remain a “bit below the already historically low pre-pandemic rate.” Interestingly, analysts also found that many recently unemployed workers have managed to find new jobs at a “healthy pace.” 

Nearly half of workers (45%) aren’t planning to wait around to get a pink slip before looking for other sources of income, saying they plan to get a side gig amid the economic uncertainty. Some of that may take the form of freelance opportunities, but many Americans are looking at the gig economy as well. 

DoorDash, for example, is already seeing an uptick. About 44% of Dashers have a separate, full-time job, according to the company’s recent survey. Moreover, there’s been a 50% increase in workers returning to the platform as of the third quarter of 2022. 

Even if you’re fairly confident in your job security, it never hurts to have another income stream—especially when times are uncertain. 

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