The great migration to remote work in the pandemic had a profound impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. Now, “the great resignation” is in full swing as millions of workers rethink how they want to live their lives after the pandemic, and they’re not willing to settle for less. Some want a job with more work options such as better benefits, more money, shorter commutes and more flexibility. And some simply are looking for a safer workplace.
According to the Labor Department, four million people quit their jobs in April, 2021, and the job market, as we know it, is changing. In a quickly rebounding economy, a newly empowered workforce has clear conditions about health and sustainability for their offices. Studies show the primary reasons employees quit their jobs is when office health and sustainability expectations go unmet and they feel underappreciated and undervalued.
No longer should employers assume employees will be enticed back into the office because they miss perks like catered breakfasts or happy hours, according to a new SWNS poll of 2,000 Americans. Employees realize they don’t have to go back to business as usual, and 57% said they would willingly give up free in-office food for free mental health resources. In fact, a total of 62% consider it a “red flag” when they encounter job listings that describe “how fun it is” to work for a prospective employer, while 53% feel similarly about office perks like ping-pong tables or in-house coffee shops. Job seekers have become more discriminating in regard to substantive benefits. The research, commissioned by Vida Health and reported by OnePoll, found that for almost six in 10, health benefits ranked as the most important non-salary-related factor they consider.
Similar findings emerged from Joblist’s Job Seeker Index in which healthcare, sick and parental leave and flexible work schedules were the most valued workplace benefits, with over 50% of job seekers citing these as very important. According to Joblist’s Q2 job market report from over 30,000 job seekers, the presence (or lack thereof) of these benefits is currently a major factor in attracting employees, with 55% of job seekers saying they would even consider taking a lower-paying job if it offered better benefits. The report also found that job seeker confidence is growing and has been trending upwards since December. Currently it’s at the highest level (67.3%) since Joblist began tracking this metric. Job seekers believe employers need to re-evaluate the healthcare benefits they offer after the pandemic; hospitality jobs are unpopular, and people are unwilling to work in hospitality; vaccinations are improving optimism in the job market; and even more factors are impacting the job hunt following the pandemic. Other key findings include:
- 74% of job seekers believe employers need to re-evaluate the benefits they offer after the pandemic.
- 43% of job seekers said that benefits are more important than financial compensation when considering a new job.
- 60% of job seekers would not consider working in a restaurant, bar, hotel or other hospitality job. Of those, 70% of survey respondents said nothing would convince them to work in hospitality. Plus, 38% of former hospitality workers said they are not even considering a hospitality job for their next position.Just 26% said that higher pay would incentivize them to change their minds.
- A majority of job seekers (55%) would consider taking a lower-paying job that offered better benefits.
- 48% of recent grads say the pandemic has made them rethink the kind of job they’re looking for.
Another recent survey by McKinsey & Company found that more than half of employees want their organizations to adopt more flexible hybrid virtual-working models. Microsoft put the figure as high as 73% of employees. What does this mean for employee health and wellness? In this environment, employers face the interwoven challenges of keeping employees motivated in their work and highly engaged in their health. What can health plans and employers do to keep physical care, mental health and general wellness top of mind? Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile, thinks health plans will need to step up their digital patient outreach in a big way to keep members engaged in their own health while working in hybrid or fully remote scenarios. The large, self-insured employers he works with are using automated tools to do just that, helping members stay on top of important preventive care, surgeries and other health issues.
According to another new report from NEXT Energy Technologies, employees returning to in-person work have clear conditions about health and office sustainability measures. The survey of 450 remote employees and 150 senior managers found that returning to the office is creating a growing rift between workers and managers. Most employees (74%) said they are willing to leave their jobs if existential issues like health and sustainability are not adequately addressed in the workplace. “We’re seeing a standoff between companies that, for a variety of legitimate reasons, want their staff to return to in-person offices and a high-demand workforce that is holding more decision-making power than ever before,” said Daniel Emmett, founder and CEO of NEXT.
While both employers and employees agree WFH has not diminished overall productivity, they are starkly split on what to do next: one-third (32%) of companies represented in the report are requiring employees to return to the office full-time now that the Covid threat is subsiding. Employees want control over their health through office space influence. When asked to recall their old in-person work schedules, 57% of employees said working in the office negatively impacted their health. Employees cited a number of factors they believed took a toll on their health including the tax on their mental health, a lack of sunlight and inadequate space between employee workstations. Employees prioritize climate and sustainability with a heightened appreciation and outlook of their personal health,. Many workers are focusing on how external factors, those beyond their control, impact their physical well-being.
“Employees being asked to return to work are not willing to compromise their beliefs,” concluded Emmett. Employees expect their companies to take the climate crisis seriously in conjunction with the ongoing pandemic, and they want their business leaders to make changes to the office that reflect this. Or else.
“There are steps HR leaders can take to mitigate the impact of resignations and proactively address voluntary turnover year-round—not only when it becomes a crisis,” said Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Visier. “This starts with taking a data-driven approach to understand which employees are most at-risk of leaving and why. The answers aren’t always straightforward, so using workforce data and analytics can help uncover underlying trends that are impacting resignation rates so organizations can implement a more strategic approach to talent retention,” he concluded.
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