Strategy & Leadership

Recovery, Resilience and the Road Ahead: Rethinking US Workplace Priorities to Pursue Short- and Long-term Success

August 25, 2021


US Workplace Priorities

August 25, 2021

Yuxin Lin

Senior Manager, Policy & Insights

Yuxin is a senior manager on the Policy & Insights team. She leads research and analysis projects across a range of sectors including financial services, technology and NGOs. Based in Washington DC, Yuxin specializes in international trade and finance, demographics and workforce, emerging markets, and megatrends.

Prior to joining the Economist Group, Yuxin was vice president at FP Analytics of Foreign Policy, where she consulted with governments, international institutions and companies on trade, energy and social policies and investment strategies.

Yuxin holds an MBA from McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University and a BA in Management from University of International Business and Economics.

Waves of substantial disruption are the norm in business, not the exception. The challenges of 2020-21 have been unusual, but workers and organisations can never assume that stability will persist. The US employment landscape was already seeing substantial transformation long before 2020. That said, covid-19 has revealed the future of work faster than anyone expected. Digitalisation has accelerated; widespread working from home has left many workers eager for more; and the joint experience of navigating through immense disruption has profoundly affected workplace relations. The great unknown is how much will last and how much will be seen in retrospect as a temporary blip.

To shed light on the major shifts taking place, The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Prudential, conducted an in-depth survey in November and December 2020 of over 5,800 US workers and executives across five key industry verticals—healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, the public sector and unions—in order to explore the impact of the pandemic accelerated new work paradigm. Specifically, we asked about organisational and worker concerns, priorities, remote work experiences, digital maturity, technology investments, skills and capabilities, and likely future challenges. This executive summary reports the overall findings from the survey, while other pieces will discuss insights relevant to the specific industry verticals.

Key findings:

  1. Workers and their organisations were largely on the same page as they addressed the workplace implications of dealing with covid-19-related disruption in 2020.
  2. The economic turmoil that the pandemic unleashed had uneven results with, perhaps surprisingly, more workers saying that their company culture and workplace relations improved rather than deteriorated.
  3. Although workers are currently optimistic about their employment, there are widespread concerns about longer-term financial security.
  4. Talent largely values better pay and job security, but organisations may be prioritising other factors and some risk focusing insufficiently on worker engagement.
  5. Digitalisation will continue to reshape the workplace but also intensify the competition for digital talent.
  6. A lasting legacy of the social response to the pandemic will be retaining remote working as a mainstream option.


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