New Workers, New Normal: Future of Work Report 2022

March 2022

Report summary

For more recent data and analysis, see the State of Workers Report 2023.

Average U.S. adults and their employers are planning the transition to a “new normal” of working — one that is still murky despite the term’s ubiquity. Although employers have spent countless hours and dollars preparing for how their employees will “return to the office,” there has yet to be an in-depth evaluation of who is returning and how their values differ from one other.

Key Takeaways

  • Early enthusiasm over a physical return to work has abated: Fewer than half of fully remote adults want to go back to the office, a figure that has slipped since fall 2020. Remote workers also feel they’ve become more productive amid the work-from-home pandemic lifestyle.
  • Workers will flex their newfound choice and power: The current employee market means workers have an emboldened sense of choice and control over where and how they work, and employers should take note.
  • The “Great Resignation” is actually a “Great Reprioritization”: Instead of accepting what they can’t change, workers are changing what they will no longer accept: 14% of workers have left their jobs since the pandemic began, with many citing a toxic work environment and better work-life balance as major reasons why.
  • Meet the 5 types of new workers in our new normal: Minimalists don’t expect much from their work; Transactionalists view their jobs as a utility; Aspirationalists are in love with their careers; Traditionalists embrace a more traditional approach to work; and Lifestylists look to work to enable their personal priorities and hobbies.
  • The importance of competitive pay, work-life balance and a diverse leadership team varies across these 5 types of workers: Health care benefits and working for a company with a good reputation are the most appealing attributes to Aspirationalists, for example.


This report draws from survey research conducted Jan. 21-25, 2022, among 6,610 U.S. adults, including 3,535 employed adults.

The bulk of the analysis in this report was done using a cluster analysis technique, which is a specific, (semi-)automated way of segmenting our respondents. Cluster analysis requires some human decisions and input, including which features to include in analysis and method of choice.“Features” refers to the existing variables that were selected to be used in the cluster analysis.

Morning Consult data scientists used partitioning around medoids (PAM), also known as k-medoids, to develop the clusters in this report. This cluster analysis method is robust, with the ability to include outliers and allow users to input exclusively quantitative or mixed features.

The PAM analysis develops clusters by placing respondents into relatively homogenous groups based on distances between responses to the selected features. For this report, the features were selected for the cluster analysis with the intent to sort respondents based on their experiences with and perspectives on work, as well as how they value work in their lives. Throughout this report, the results of a five-cluster PAM model with mixed feature inputs are used for analysis.

Some of the research shown here is also from Morning Consult’s Return to Normal project—which polls 2,200 U.S. adults every week on issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. All interviews were conducted online, and the data was weighted to approximate respective populations of adults based on gender, educational attainment, race and region.

Topline results from the January survey have a margin of error of +/-1 percentage point.

About the authors

A headshot photograph of Joanna Piacenza
Joanna Piacenza
Head of Industry Analysis

Joanna Piacenza leads Industry Analysis at Morning Consult. Prior to joining Morning Consult, she was an editor at the Public Religion Research Institute, conducting research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy. Joanna graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications and holds a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Colorado Boulder. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

A headshot photograph of Amy He
Amy He
Head of Industry Analysis

Amy He leads Industry Analysis at Morning Consult. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Amy served as the executive editor at eMarketer, and was a China reporter for many years. She graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and East Asian studies. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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Robin Graziano
Content Research Senior Director

Robin Graziano is Senior Director of Content Research at Morning Consult.

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Matthew Howe
Senior Manager, Travel Intelligence

Matthew Howe is the senior manager of travel intelligence at global intelligence company Morning Consult, where he conducts research, writes analyst notes and advises leaders in the travel & hospitality industry on how to apply the latest industry trends and findings.
For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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Charlotte Principato
Lead Financial Services Analyst

Charlotte Principato previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead financial services analyst covering trends in the industry.

A headshot photograph of Laura Maxwell, Ph.D.
Laura Maxwell, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President

Laura Maxwell previously worked at Morning Consult in data science.

Emily Moquin previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead food & beverage analyst.


Lindsey Roeschke is a travel & hospitality analyst. Lindsey’s work focuses on behavior and expectations in travel (among other categories), particularly through a generational and cultural lens. In addition to her research and advisory background, Lindsey has more than a decade of experience in the advertising world.
Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.

Lisa Whalen previously worked at Morning Consult as an automotive and mobility analyst.