NEW YORK — Think 2020 was bad? Half of Americans are calling 2021 the “worst year of their lives so far.”
The survey of 1,000 adults — conducted by OnePoll on Dec. 13 — aimed to get an “end of year reflection” on many subjects and found that 53 percent feel 2021 has been a very unpleasant year for them. However, seven in 10 still have high hopes that 2022 will be an improvement over the previous year.
Millennials (ages 25 to 40) are the most dismissive of 2021, with 66 percent saying it was a tough year. Sixty-two percent of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 24) and 43 percent of Gen Xers (ages 41 to 56) also shared that 2021 wasn’t their best year. Meanwhile, 56 percent of boomers (ages 57+) disagreed entirely.
When asked about their overall outlook on life, nearly eight in 10 respondents (78 percent) describe themselves as optimists. Another 61 percent also identified themselves as idealists, who “envision things as they could be,” while 19 percent prefer to be realists, who “see things as they are.”
Parenting in a pandemic
The study also put parenting under the microscope and found that being a mom or dad was even more hectic in 2021 than last year. However, three-quarters (73%) of parents are optimistic they’ll make up for lost time with their children in 2022.
Eight in 10 men (79%) are looking forward to 2022 compared to seven in 10 women (70%). Despite this feeling, 66 percent of the 861 parents polled add that parenthood has become more difficult for them in 2021 than when the pandemic began in March 2020.
Millennial parents (ages 25 to 40) were especially likely to cite parenting difficulties (72%), followed by 62 percent of Gen Z parents (ages 18 to 24), and 58 percent of Gen Xers (ages 41 to 56). Conversely, 39 percent of boomers (ages 57+) say parenting wasn’t challenging for them at all this year.
Sixty-one percent of respondents believe the pandemic made them completely rethink how they parent their children, including more men (68%) than women (57%). In fact, only one out of every seven parents (15%) say they haven’t reevaluated their parenting style.
Parents also shared the reasons why parenthood felt more difficult in 2021, citing homeschooling, “getting my kids back to [in-person] school,” the “cost of living increased due to the coronavirus,” and “keeping the kids safe” from the virus. Aside from these obstacles, the poll asked parents what systemic changes they’d like to see in 2022.
A quarter of the poll (24%) want to see better, more accessible childcare options, while one-fifth want federal paid leave implemented (20%), and more remote or hybrid work options (17%). Other popular requests for the new year include the COVID-19 vaccine for children under five (13%) and a better healthcare system (9%).
Back to the grind?
The survey also looked at American work lives, finding that nine in 10 employed Americans are excited to head back to work in-person full-time in 2022. Out of the 861 workers polled, 87 percent are ready to ditch virtual meetings and cannot wait to head back to their physical workplaces in the new year.
Despite a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases related to the Omicron variant, 48 percent expect to be back at work in person next year, while 21 percent don’t see themselves going back to an office. So far, only 14 percent of respondents have already returned to a physical workplace.
Those excited by the prospect look forward to catching up with their co-workers and meeting new ones (60%), attending in-person meetings (48%), sitting and working at their desks again (48%), and wearing business attire or their job uniforms again (47%). Others are thrilled about going out to lunch (46%), eating cafeteria food (41%), and commuting (40%) again.
However, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say the thought of making small talk with co-workers they haven’t seen physically in a while gives them anxiety. Sixty percent of respondents even admit they wish they could permanently work from home to avoid social awkwardness.
On the bright side, nearly seven in 10 of all those polled feel optimistic they’ll get a better job in 2022 (68%) and a similar percentage of workers feel confident they’ll get a raise or promotion at their current employer next year (67%).