Is it actually true that nobody wants to work?

First came “The Great Resignation”. Then there was “quiet quitting” (and the reaction, “quiet firing”). Countless stories about workers checking out from their job over the past year—either literally, or just mentally—painted a bleak picture of the modern workplace, but one that new data suggests bears little relationship to reality.

Driving the news: Multi-year research from University of Toronto sociology professor Scott Schieman found that Canadians’ attitude towards work hasn’t changed much at all since 2019 and that trends like “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” are over-hyped.

  • By some measures, Canadians are actually more comfortable in their jobs now than pre-pandemic. While in 2019, 24% of workers said they were “very likely” to try to switch jobs within a year, that number has now dropped to 17%.
  • And of those who are considering a switch, only 26% report being unhappy in their job—most are just looking for a new (or better) challenge.

Other studies point to a similar conclusion: Some aspects of work may have changed during the pandemic, but people’s feelings about their job have stayed pretty much the same.

  • A Gallup poll tracking people’s attitudes toward their work shows the share of people who feel disengaged from their job (17% this year) has barely changed over the past 20 years, moving only a few percentage points in either direction.
  • And while Kim Kardashian claims “nobody wants to work,” Statistics Canada data shows that total hours worked and the share of adults working has been steadily ticking up for more than a year.

Zoom out: The recent wave of anti-work trends like “quiet quitting” may be more media invention than fact, but the major changes in how many people work have created real anxiety and tension for both employers (many of whom believe remote workers are less productive) and employees (who overwhelmingly disagree).