Humans’ fundamental need to perceive life as meaningful — which comes from the feeling that one’s existence has purpose and significance — is nothing new. But the prolonged fear, uncertainty, isolation, and grief brought about by the pandemic has caused many people to reexamine what gives their lives meaning. Numerous studies show that when people are thinking about death and other heavy existential topics, they become more focused on what makes their lives feel fulfilling because meaning reduces existential anxiety by helping them feel like they’re part of something larger and longer-lasting than their brief, mortal lives. This search for meaning can influence job-related behavior and decision making — including about where to work.
Many people are taking this opportunity to reevaluate how their work fits into their lives. In a survey conducted in March, 26% of American workers said they’re planning to leave their current jobs and look for new ones when the pandemic is over. (That number goes up to 34% among Millennials, the largest generation currently in the workforce.) Here are three ways managers can support (and hopefully retain) employees grappling with these existential questions.