The COVID-19 pandemic has provided businesses with a unique opportunity to rethink and reset the world of work, putting worker prosperity at the center of our concerns as we shape a future of work that works for all. But the world of work has fundamentally changed since the start of the pandemic. Millions of office workers have still barely seen their desks in the past eighteen months. As of January 2021, 93% of workers globally lived in countries that had implemented some form of workplace closure, according to data from the International Labor Organization. In the United States, 52% of all workers and 72% of office workers worked from home all or part of the time between October 2020 and April 2021, according to Gallup analysis. Before the pandemic, around 5% of European workers said they regularly worked from home – that figure has now risen to around 12.3%.
This huge change in the way we work has caused many workers to rethink the type of work they want to do and the role that work plays in their lives. In the United States, four million people left their jobs in July 2021, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A number of different factors seem to be at the origin of what has been called “the great resignation”, including pay, flexibility, happiness and a reassessment of work-life priorities. A recent Qualtrics poll found stress and burnout be a main reason among senior employees.
As the research cited above suggests, companies need to focus on the “people” in human resources as we rethink how to attract and retain talent. It is clear that businesses and governments must work together to ensure that all workers have access to the basic foundations of their prosperity, such as access to a secure and adequate income, health care and housing. But the pandemic has also given companies the opportunity to go beyond the basics and examine what we can do to improve workers’ well-being and their motivation at work. As we look to the future of work, this will become a key differentiator between companies it is desirable to work for and those that are likely to struggle to find top talent.
Connect to employees in the workplace
Adapting to this changing world of work presents new challenges for leaders. Some organizations now have up to five different generations represented in their workforce – traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, generation Y (Millennials) and generation Z. These different generations all have changing needs and priorities as they move through different phases of their lives. Today’s leaders must be able to recognize the different needs of their team members and support them accordingly. But one Microsoft survey during the pandemic found that many leaders were disconnected from their teams. Sixty-one percent of executives surveyed – who were more likely to be Gen X or Millennials and men – said they were ‘booming’, while working mothers, Gen Z, early-career employees and frontline workers reported struggling the most during the pandemic. In the United States, Gen Z were the generation most likely to report that their mental health had deteriorated as a result of the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association.
Leaders need to be able to listen to employees, understand their individual needs, and find ways to support them so they can do their best. For example, with the shutdown of child care, many parents of young children have spent the pandemic juggling home child care and working remotely. Giving these workers more flexibility in their workday was one way to ease the tension of the lockdown. Other workers living alone and therefore isolated during lockdowns may have needed more informal contact time with their leaders and teams.
As leaders, it is vital that we recognize the unique and diverse lived experiences of our teams and how they change over time. In doing so, we can be better equipped to help them thrive at work, thereby improving the well-being of the worker and our organizations.
Experiment with new working models
One of the benefits of the pandemic is that it has drawn the attention of senior leaders to the importance of worker well-being and is quickly becoming a key differentiator for employers. Millennials and Gen Z – who now make up 48% of the full-time workforce in the United States – named concern for employee well-being as the number one attribute they look for in a workplace. employer, according to a survey conducted by Gallup. This suggests that well-being has an important role to play in companies’ talent attraction and retention strategies. In fact, sixty-eight percent of senior human resources executives said employee well-being and mental health was a top priority in a recent survey by Future workplace. The impact of worker well-being is not limited to attracting and retaining talent – well-being is essential for worker productivity and therefore business performance. Failure to ensure the well-being of workers can have dramatic negative consequences for business results. An investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) before the pandemic found that lost productivity linked to depression and anxiety could cost the global economy $ 1 trillion a year.
New work models, such as flexible and hybrid working, have an important role to play in the future well-being of workers. A McKinsey A study found that 20% of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as well as in the office. Many studies have found productivity has actually increased with a switch to teleworking.
Despite the challenges faced by some workers when working remotely, flexibility has quickly become an essential part of any strategy for attracting and retaining talent. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would look for a new job if they didn’t have the option to work remotely after the pandemic, according to a survey by Flexible jobs. Studies suggest this trend is particularly prevalent in women and young workers and also includes a desire for flexibility to pursue other interests. One third of workers responding to a PwC survey said they would give up some of their earnings to have more free time to pursue activities they care about, such as volunteer work.
However, as noted above, remote working and increased flexibility have drawbacks. For many workers, remote working has fostered an “always on” work culture made possible by new team communication technology. Eighty-six percent of remote workers said they experienced significant burnout, compared to 69% of in-person workers, recent study finds TINYpulse survey. Flexibility must therefore go hand in hand with the well-being of workers and it is essential that managers recognize that flexibility will be different for different types of workers. Failure to do so could lead to more stress and burnout among workers.
The pandemic was a global remote working experience for office functions. Overall, we have shown that many organizations and workers are very adaptable. But, to shape a positive future of work for all, we need to make sure that we work with many types of stakeholders to understand their needs and develop new ideas that support the well-being of workers – from workers to policy makers, through educational institutions. The key is to keep it simple – for example, by exchanging knowledge through series of lectures and workshops to share best practices and build on ideas.
Putting workers’ prosperity at the heart of the future of work
As part of a Worker Prosperity Task Force for the Future of Work initiative led by Verizon and Xynteo, we explored how we can rethink work in the future to improve both worker well-being. workers and company performance. Our hope is that through initiatives like this we can raise awareness among workers about the future of work and help them prepare for it.
As we rebuild the world of work after the pandemic, we have an exciting opportunity not to return to normal, but to go beyond. It is clear that maximizing the overall prosperity of workers – including well-being with basic needs such as income and health care – must be at the heart of how we build the future of work. By focusing on the prosperity of workers, we can ensure that we create a future of work that works for business, workers and society alike.
This is the last article in a five-part series on the Future of Work initiative.
Learn more about the Future of Work initiative: