Preston was stuck in a career that he didn’t enjoy, working 65-80+ hours a week. He questioned whether he would ever find a career opportunity that he enjoyed, and after months of searching, began to give up hope. Work was no longer fulfilling for him; instead, it was draining him of his energy and passion.
Lisa found herself at a crossroads. She was confident in her profession and area of expertise, but no longer felt that the long hours she was contributing to her job aligned with her priorities at her stage in life. The excitement she once felt in her work had stagnated, and her vocational experience was far less rewarding than it had once been.
Burnout. Questions around calling. Work overload. Work/Life imbalance. Lack of motivation at work. In our work with clients, stories like this are common. Work is hard.
That’s why we created the Work Dilemmas Project.
Every year, VOCA embarks on two studies to listen to the people we serve. In the Fall, we ask a general audience, “What are your greatest challenges and dilemmas in your work life?” In the Spring, we deploy a questionnaire specifically to learn more about the lived experience of women in the workplace.
Why? Our reasoning is captured by the following proverb:
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
We have embedded systemic listening into our annual rhythm to serve thousands of Christ-followers with timely, winsome counsel.
We are excited to invite you into the processing of our results this year. Below you’ll see comparisons of the top six issues from our current study, 2023, and the prior year’s work, 2022.
* VOCA provided more options in 2023 as compared to 2022, which we believe explains lower percentages among top dilemmas selected.
WHAT IS THE SAME YEAR OVER YEAR?
“I’m Burned Out.” Many are claiming the burnout diagnosis. Perhaps the logical result of working being too big or demanding, workers have passed exhaustion to a place of not caring and underperforming. The Quiet Quitting phenomenon of 2022 aligns with this pattern.
Work Is Too Big. Work is perceived as consuming too much of respondents' lives, and the demands are unmanageable. Job demands regularly encroach on other areas of life they feel are equally or even more important.
WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE 2022?
Shift 1: “Quitting My Job” is replaced by “Calling Uncertainty” and “Not Feeling Motivated in My Work.” Preston had to undergo a crisis of calling before he discovered his next career. Lisa had to struggle through questions of passion and fulfillment at work before revamping her role. The data backs up what we’re seeing with our clients: people are struggling with motivation and calling. 2021 (2022 Report) was the year when workers faced such an abundance of opportunity that they were asking a practical question: “Should I stay or go?” In 2022 (2023 Report), the questions shifted to purpose, meaning, and even divine direction. We estimate that as much as 40% of the workforce has changed jobs since the onset of COVID. What lessons might job changers be learning as reflected in this finding?
Shift 2: “Dealing with Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives” and “Criticism of Faith Values” is replaced by a more positive concern: “To Bring Redemption to Workplaces and Industries.” Could it be that our sample community is sensing less hostility this year? Perhaps they’ve settled into more faith/values-friendly assignments. Or maybe there’s less energy for maintaining the radical polarization of the last few years, and respondents are seeking ways to make a positive difference.
Shift 3: “Work From Home and Return to Office” questions are replaced by “Dealing with the Talent Shortage” and “Team Member Churn.” How to manage the incredible turnover of the last three years, as well as the challenge of finding and keeping great people, has eclipsed personal questions about whether I will work from home or go into the office. Existing team members must fill the work of empty positions. New hires require onboarding, training, and time to become productive. The talent challenge got harder this year.
A NEW QUESTION THIS YEAR
This year we asked a new question, “What brings you joy at work?” 56% of our respondents
selected having an impact on people as their top source of joy. This was followed by 25% indicating employing their skills to see progress in their jobs. Most workers care. Most find joy in the human interaction embedded in work. Perhaps the clues here point to 1) our divine design and 2) overcoming the balance and burnout challenges that are not going away.
In spite of the challenges, we see growth. Preston found a new job that he loves. Lisa restructured and revised her role with her employer to better fit her natural abilities. She is reenergized by the work because she is doing work she was wired to do. Pain is not the end of the story, but for many workers, it’s a major part of the narrative.
Using the above findings, VOCA will do a deep dive into each of these topics in the form of podcasts and articles, sharing solutions to this list of dilemmas that are biblically rooted and professionally sound.
Do these dilemmas hit close to home? Don’t wait — schedule your free consult with a VOCA coach today to start your journey towards better work.
Listen to our podcast episode on this topic, "Dilemmas Report: 2023 Findings"