Labor Day weekend is over, but labor shortages persist. A Conference Board survey offers clues as it found many employees harbor return-to-work anxieties, want more flexible work arrangements and view this as a good time to look for greener pastures.
More than 40 percent of the 2,400 employees surveyed last month expressed concerns about returning to work as infections from the COVID-19 Delta variant spike and Mu, a new mutation, lurks around the corner.
The survey found women are more concerned than men about COVID exposure, job security and mental health, as 25 percent of female respondents said they felt pressure to return to the workplace to keep their jobs. The survey also found Millennials are more concerned than other generations about COVID exposure, job security and mental health.
More than one-third of employees indicated they might leave their current jobs in the next six months. Men appeared more certain than women they would remain in their current jobs.
Inflexible work arrangements were the top reason given for looking for a new job. More than 80 percent of survey respondents pointed to flexible hours and work location as a reason for pursuing a new job. Work arrangements are more important to women than men and more important to Millennials than other generations, the survey revealed.
Respondents rated a “flexible work” location slightly higher than “better pay” and “career advancement” as the most desired aspect of a new job.
“The long-term effect of extended remote working arrangements has left its mark. Employees are much less willing to embrace the rigid, conventional work policies of the past about how and where work gets done,” says Rebecca Ray of the Conference Board. “Especially for women, to whom the bulk of caretaking and household responsibilities still unfortunately fall, the flexibility to choose what works best for them is critically important.”
Ray said some companies are offering flexible work arrangements to recruit and retain top talent in a “tightening labor market that is only to become more difficult.”
According to survey findings, 67 percent of workers are willing to work a hybrid work schedule with some days remotely and other days in the workplace. Only 4 percent said they wanted to work completely in the workplace, while 20 percent favored full-time remote work. More women than men and more Millennials than other generations want to work entirely remotely.
As remote work has become normalized, concerns have crept in over the loss of connections with colleagues, blurred boundaries between work and home life and career stagnation. Millennials expressed the most concern about the loss of personal connections. Women were the most concern about the lack of work/life boundaries.
A desire to work remotely doesn’t mitigate legitimate concerns about the downsides of remote work. Those who want to work remotely – women, Millennials and individual contributors – are also concerned with a lack of connection with colleagues.
“A desire to work remotely doesn’t mitigate legitimate concerns about the downsides of remote work,” says Robin Erickson, Ph.D., principal human capital researcher at The Conference Board. “For example, those who are more likely to want to work remotely – women, Millennials and individual contributors – are also most concerned with a lack of connection with colleagues when doing so. As organizations make long-term decisions about a future with remote work, they will need to bear this in mind and continuously monitor employee experience and well-being.”
A larger number of survey respondents noted engagement levels with employers have declined from pre-pandemic levels – and from just a few months earlier.
Ray summed up the survey findings as workers dreading a full-time return to the workplace, eager to maintain or achieve greater work flexibility and eagerly seeking better job opportunities. The “Great Resignation”, she says, isn’t going to fade any time soon.