New Year Blues: Weary Professionals Usher In 2021 with Lack of Motivation and Optimism, According to Korn Ferry Survey


Majority of Professionals Say They Have Less Drive and are Stressed, Bored and Sad 

A new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey of professionals shows that 2021 may not be bringing in a new era of optimism.

More than half (58 percent) of respondents say it’s harder this year to return to their post-holiday work routine and 52 percent say they have less energy and drive than in years past. Sixty percent say stress, boredom and sadness best describe their mood about returning to work.

“It’s been one thing after another for people, and the ongoing uncertainty regarding the pandemic, the economy, social unrest and political discord is taking a toll,” said Korn Ferry Senior Director and engagement specialist Mark Royal. “While employers can’t control external issues, they can focus on ways to keep employees engaged.”

The survey shows that an emphasis on employee satisfaction is critical to business continuity and employee retention. More than half (54 percent) of respondents say they are planning on looking for a new job in 2021. The top reasons they cite include a bad culture fit, boredom and a quest for a higher salary.

Of those planning on staying at their current job, 54 percent say they do not plan on asking for a raise. The top reason is that there is a freeze on raises at their company (56 percent) followed by fear of getting turned down and creating an awkward situation (27 percent).

The survey does offer some glimmers of good news for the coming year. Despite the challenging environment, more than three-quarters of respondents (81 percent) believe they will be more productive overall in 2021, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say they are more loyal to their company based on their employer’s response to the pandemic.

About the survey

802 professionals responded to survey in early January 2021.

Survey responses

Is it harder this year than in years past to return to your work routine post-holiday?

It’s harder this year                                                                             58 percent

It’s easier this year                                                                             42 percent

Would you say you have more or less energy/drive regarding returning to work this year?

More energy/drive                                                                               48 percent

Less energy/drive                                                                               52 percent

What best describes your mood about returning to work?

Ready and excited to return                                                               40 percent

Stressed                                                                                              37 percent

Bored                                                                                                  12 percent

Sad                                                                                                      11 percent

Are you more loyal or less loyal to your employer based on the way leaders have treated employees through this crisis?

More loyal                                                                                           63 percent

Less loyal                                                                                            37 percent

Do you think you will be more productive at work in 2021 than in 2020?

I was more productive in 2020                                                           19 percent

I will be more productive in 2021                                                        81 percent

Do you plan on looking for a new job in 2021?

Yes                                                                                                      54 percent

No                                                                                                       46 percent

If you are planning on looking for a new job in 2021, what is the top reason?

I’m bored, need a new challenge                                                       26 percent

Culture doesn’t fit with my values                                                       26 percent

I have either lost my job or expect that I will                                        2 percent

Higher salary                                                                                       26 percent

Bigger title                                                                                             4 percent

My boss                                                                                               16 percent                  

Are you planning on asking for a raise in 2021?

Yes                                                                                                      46 percent

No                                                                                                       54 percent

If you are not going to ask for a raise, what’s the top reason?

Our company has put a freeze on all raises                                       56 percent

I’m afraid I’ll get turned down and it will be awkward                        27 percent

I don’t really deserve one at this time                                                17 percent

If your company has put a freeze on raises, how long would you guess it will before raises are resumed?

Within the next 3 months                                                                    10 percent

Within the next 6 months                                                                    15 percent

By the end of this year                                                                        54 percent

I don’t think they will resume raises                                                    21 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

Media Contact:

Tracy Kurschner


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