More than a year after the pandemic spurred the shift to telecommuting, many employees in the U.S. are taking stock of their work situation.
For some, it’s not a pretty picture.
In fact, there is growing evidence of a disconnect between employers and their remote workforces on several fronts.
Increased stress over work-life balance, productivity doubts, lack of employer-employee engagement and seeming indifference to worker concerns are setting the stage for clashes between the two camps.
Because of some of these factors, a rising number of remote employees already have one foot out the door.
On the job hunt
Fifty-two percent of workers plan to look for a new job in 2021, up from 35 percent the previous year, according to a survey by Achievers Workforce Institute. Respondents said they were looking for a better work-life balance (25 percent) and better compensation and benefits (35 percent).
“We suspect that going through a crisis has highlighted company values and culture, causing employees to become more discerning about the type of organization they want to work for,” Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist for Achievers, wrote in the study. Achievers is a provider of employee-experience platforms for businesses.
In addition, those who plan to remain in their current roles are staying for the work-life balance (23 percent) and recognition (21 percent). Employees who have a proper work-life balance are able to fulfil personal obligations, such as childcare, and have time to rest, the report says.
“Organizations must focus on balance to attract and retain employees,” Baumgartner advised.
It’s not only concerns about safeguarding a work-life balance that is driving remote workers to the brink.
Employees stress about perceptions of productivity
Half of the respondents in the poll reported feeling that upper management doubted their productivity while working remotely. Employee burnout may be associated with this, the study suggests, as 44 percent of employees reported logging more hours from home in response to worries that their managers questioned their productivity while telecommuting.
Employers also are falling short in recognizing and engaging remote staff, the survey found.
One in five employees said feeling underappreciated for their contributions was hindering their engagement at work, according to the study.
At the same time, 46 percent of those who began working remotely during the pandemic said they felt less connected to their company than they did before the health crisis. One in four employees said their company had not made efforts to kindle connection with remote personnel.
In addition, 42 percent reported that company culture had diminished since the onset of the pandemic, with most employees placing the blame on a lack of communication (26 percent) or lack of effort to make remote employees feel connected (25 percent).
“The simple power of consistently saying ‘thank you’ is often underestimated, yet creating a culture of recognition will not only reduce turnover but will increase engagement and productivity,” Baumgartner said in the report.
She emphasizes that this is lack of engagement and recognition with remote staff is a big but correctable mistake being made by organizations.
“From virtual social events to online team building, finding ways to build and maintain connection during the Covid-19 crisis is critical,” she said. “The easiest way to identify the support employees need is to ask them directly through a survey.”
Employee feedback with no action from employers
To be sure, businesses are soliciting feedback from employees, but the problem is that most of them are not doing anything with the information, the poll found.
Sixty percent of employees said employers have requested feedback on how to improve the “employee experience,” and 52 percent have solicited feedback on how to improve work culture throughout the pandemic, the survey said.
Still, only 34 percent said their manager/employer was “OK” at acting on the feedback, while another 18 percent reported that their manager/employer was “horrible” at taking action on feedback and never did anything with the information, the study showed.
“Without consistent action, you are likely to see an increase in what we call ‘inaction fatigue’ whereby people are less likely to answer surveys or contribute … if they believe nothing will come of their feedback,” Baumgartner said.
The Achievers Workforce Institute, the science and research arm of Achievers, surveyed 2,000 employed respondents in Canada and the U.S. in February.