Britain's bosses to face a rush of resignations as fortysomething workers chase fulfilment

Article date: 11 May 2007

  • Over half planning second careers that let them make a difference by 45

Britain's bosses face a rush of resignations from fortysomething workers putting satisfaction before success - almost half of Brits want a second more compassionate career by 45, according to a new study.

Two thirds (66%) told researchers for Norwich Union they are "unfulfilled", "miserable" or "drifting" in their jobs, and over half (52%) claim they'd happily earn less money in a role that made them feel better about themselves.

Now, in a new UK career trend being labelled "Zenployment", almost half (47%) say they aim to be in a second career that offers fulfilment and the chance to make a difference by the age of 45.

Animal welfare worker, counsellor, and yoga teacher, feature on the list of compassionate careers being planned.

But one in four (28%) are calling on their current employers to provide them now with the opportunity to do unrelated charity, or pro bono work in their field.

William Nelson, of trend analysts the Future Foundation, said: "This research is further evidence that we're entering a new era, with a society that is less selfish and increasingly focussed on personal fulfilment.

"In fact, rising affluence and high employment levels mean most of us now feel pretty secure in providing for our basic needs, especially once we are established in careers and the housing market.

"The ethical and spiritual dimensions of work therefore are more of a priority, and people want to believe their careers contribute towards a better future - not just for themselves but for society as a whole"

The Norwich Union Life study also found:

  • The road to Zen is, on average, a nine-year plan, with 36 the typical age at which those planning second careers begin preparing.
  • More than one in four (27%) put making a difference to others top of their second career agendas - twice the number who want to make money (12%).
  • Withdrawal from work is being rejected in favour of Zenployment, with half saying they will not follow the traditional retirement path of their parents (50%), and do not aim to put their feet up in a country cottage or villa abroad (52%).
  • Two thirds (66%) aged 45-54, and seven in 10 (72%) over 55s, are seeing an increasing number of their friends move into second careers.

Financial commitments (66%), lack of training/qualifications (34%) and also fear of failure (25%) restricts workers from moving into compassionate careers now.

Simon Quick, who led the study at Norwich Union, said: "Once we dreamed of retirement to a country cottage or villa abroad, but this research reveals British workers now aim to do something that offers them fulfilment in the second stage of their lives.

"That clearly has a major impact on our financial planning, and those hoping to downsize to perhaps less lucrative, but more compassionate careers, need to consider now how they can finance that life change."

The Zenployment study also reveals that:

  • The North East, the North West and Scotland have the highest proportion of dissatisfied workers (77%, 70% and 70% respectively, compared to a national average of 64%).
  • The North East is home to the highest number of "drifters" - six in 10 workers (60%) claim they are drifting compared to a national average of 36%).
  • Workers in Wales are the most likely to describe themselves as miserable in their jobs (12% versus a national average of just 7%).
  • Londoners would be most prepared to earn less money in exchange for fulfilment (42% compared to a national average of 36%).

And the study found the nation's top 10 second careers include:

  • Animal welfare officer
  • Counsellor
  • Charity worker / volunteer
  • Gardener
  • Alternative therapist
  • Artist
  • Teacher
  • Local political or community representative
  • Climate campaigner
  • Sports instructor or personal trainer.


Media contacts:

For Lexis PR:
David Lucas
Telephone: 0207 908 6422 

Leila Bateman
Telephone: 0207 908 6550 

For Norwich Union:
Sarah Horner
Telephone: 01904 452828/07800 691 569

Notes to editors:
Norwich Union commissioned to interview 1,218 fulltime workers in April 2007. Regional statistics are available on request.

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is the largest insurance services provider in the UK. It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societies and other leading UK brand names including CIS and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

Back to top