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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After nearly a year and a half of COVID-19, Americans are looking to prioritize living and playing over work in the post-pandemic age.

The big picture: What Americans choose to focus on will have downstream impacts on where they choose to live, how they want to work and what they'll want to spend money on. Cities that were built around supporting work first and foremost will need to adjust.

By the numbers: In data first provided to Axios, the PR agency The Brand Guild surveyed about 1,000 Americans about their attitudes toward work-life balance, and found that just about a quarter ranked work as the most important aspect of their life, down from nearly a third before the pandemic.

  • Work in fact came last, with 43% of those surveyed prioritizing living and 31% prioritizing play.
  • Americans are willing to relocate to find what they want, which turns out to be space and amenities. About 50% of those surveyed reported COVID-19 made them at least think about moving to a new area, and 82% said suburbs were better than cities — a fact that a majority of city dwellers surveyed agreed upon as well.
  • "We see this as a shift to live, then play, then work," says Jayne Sandman, the co-CEO of The Brand Guild. "It's a new normal, and it's going to affect where people live and how they want to spend their time."

Details: The survey focused on four real estate markets in transition — New York, Washington, D.C., Miami and Houston — and found differences in how residents were looking at the post-pandemic period.

  • In relatively wide-open Houston, living ranked highest because of its "more affordable quality of life," says Hannah Josi, brand strategy manager at The Brand Guild.
  • In more space-constrained New York, urban amenities were the biggest draw, especially as city life begins to return to normal, while Washington residents — where office life may have changed less — still prioritized work at higher levels than elsewhere.

The bottom line: With remote work eroding the value of downtown office clusters, cities that want to thrive in the future "need to create exciting urban clusters that people actually want to go to work in," says Sandman.

Go deeper

Austin tech salaries climb

Expand chart
Data: Hired.com; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

More good news for Austin's tech workers: Local salaries increased 5% in the last year and aren't far behind tech workers' pay in California, a new report found.

Local takeaways: Of the 12 cities examined by job marketplace Hired, Austin ranks No. 6 with an average tech salary of $144,000, coming close to California cities despite differences in cost of living.

  • San Diego trailed just behind Austin, and Los Angeles ranked No. with an average of $149,000, while San Francisco topped the list at $165,000.
  • Dallas ranked near the bottom, with an average tech salary of $124,000, declining 9.5% from the previous year.
Updated 9 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 10 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.