The phenomenon was first remarked in the United States where at the end of the Covid-19 crisis, millions of workers decided to leave their jobs, largely due to a lack of job satisfaction and the sense that they received too little in return for what they invested in their work.
A similar trend seems to have taken root in Belgium as well with more and more people giving up on their jobs and finding new roles which offer them more fulfilment. Some experts suggest that the perceived brush with mortality we all had during the coronavirus pandemic prompted many to reconsider their lifestyles and life goals.
Many of those who make a drastic change say it is because they believe life is too short to be stuck doing something you hate.
Banker to baker
One such person is Martin de Patoul. He used to work in finance but now runs a small artisanal bakery in Beauvechain, Walloon Brabant. De Patoul used to issue shares and bonds for a banking institution, but this work became an empty occupation over time. "I found myself less and less interested in what I was doing. I had the impression that my function was useless and I, too, felt useless. I needed something else."
The solution was a complete change in profession: from servicing the financial markets that seem increasingly disconnected from the real economy to a very down-to-earth job, connected to one of our most vital needs.
"What I liked when I discovered the bakery was bread! Bread is a primary need. Being able to make a product that we eat on a daily basis made a lot of sense and today my children better understand what I do in life."
Finance to family hotel owner
Martin is not the only one who wanted to leave the world of finance. Laurence Quittelier spent 23 years with a major Belgian bank but decided to make a change. "The gap between the values of the banking world in relation to my personal values began to grow and weigh me down, especially after the 2008 crisis, the major mergers," she said. "I feel like we've lost a sense of what the customer is and what they want."
So she decided to change her path in 2017. "I remember receiving my pension form that told me that I still had to work for 20 years. I didn't see myself staying in that job another 20 years." She then embraced a new project: renovating the old post office in her village and transforming it into a small family hotel which opened a few months ago.
Weapons manufacture to green solutions
Manoël's case is also telling. Before the Covid crisis, he worked as an engineer in a weapons manufacturing company. But it was the health crisis that triggered him to about his future. Manoël no longer recognised himself in such a job and needed an activity more in line with his values.
"I joined another company in Liège and I am now in charge of new green initiatives involving hydrogen. In retrospect, I tell myself that even if the health crisis was a difficult moment, for me it was an electroshock that woke me up and pushed me to find a job more in line with my aspirations."
For sociologist Marc Zune at the UCLouvain, these stories show a change in attitude, with people choosing to follow their passions and ideals instead of working to exist.
"It’s normal to ask, do I have a good salary, are my working conditions the right ones, etc. Today, more people are asking: Who am I? How can I express myself as a singular being? And so far, the world of regular work has not been able to satisfy these questions for many."