On March 11, 2020, the world changed forever. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and the entire planet began to grapple with how to respond to the growing threat. Millions of workers suddenly found themselves in a new environment with different standards. Remote work quickly became the norm as companies rushed to keep their workers safe and their operations ongoing. Now, as we dive into 2023, the pandemic has largely receded into the background, but the effects on work culture have endured. In this article, we’ll explore some of the lasting trends that have arisen over the past few years.
A Majority of Workers Prefer Remote/Hybrid Work
Working from home is no longer viewed as unusual or quirky. There were certainly people who worked from home prior to the pandemic, but the millions of people who took on work-from-home during the pandemic were often experiencing it for the first time in their life. It made a lasting impact on those individuals and on their impression of what work could be.
Code Summit reported on a survey conducted by FlexJobs about employee preferences when it comes to their feelings about remote and hybrid work. Here’s what they found: The overwhelming majority of employees surveyed want a work arrangement that includes at least some remote options. 58% reported that they want a fully remote job. Meanwhile, 39% said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement. That leaves only 3% of workers who want to return to an office full-time.
According to the data, the strong preference of people who have had a taste of remote or hybrid work is to continue working in this way. They don't necessarily want to return to the office because they view home as a better environment to avoid distractions and get work done. Not only that, but many employees say that they have found greater balance in their personal life by having the opportunity to make work fit seamlessly within the rest of their lives.
You don't need to look any further than the recent fiasco between former Twitter employees and their new boss, Elon Musk. In mid-November 2022, Musk released a memo to employees telling them to either commit to working "extremely hardcore" or leave the company. A huge number of employees made the choice to leave the company rather than try to commit to the new directives of Musk. Several even used the company's internal Slack channels to sign off with a salute emoji that indicated that they were headed for the doors. This is just one recent public example of employees advocating for a healthier balance between their work life and the rest of their life. There are companies across the country that are experiencing the same internal rebellion. Companies can either adjust to these new expectations or struggle to attract talent.
What do Work Hours Look Like Now?
The overall number of hours that the average American puts into their work week has remained surprisingly consistent through the course of the pandemic. There was an initial dip in the average number of hours worked per week in the very beginning of the pandemic based on early layoffs. However, the average quickly recovered and returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Burnout is More Prevalent Than Ever Before
Although the average number of hours worked across the board hasn't moved that much compared to pre-pandemic levels, the amount of burnout has. Burnout is described as a physical and emotional experience of exhaustion brought on by excessive work that doesn't contribute to one's sense of self-identity or accomplishment.
The American Phychological Association (APA) conducted a survey in which it found that 79% of workers reported that they experienced work-related stress in the last month. A significant number (26%) of those within that number reported a lack of motivation for their work. Emotional exhaustion was reported by 32% of those surveyed, and 44% said they have physical fatigue from their job. The perpetual labor shortage across many industries exacerbated this challenge with amplified strain for employees who remain amidst layoffs and downsizing.
How to Communicate With Employees Effectively
Workplaces must adapt to the culture and the environment that they find themselves in today. The only way forward is to listen to employees and their needs. Some important tips to consider include:
- Slack & Teams - In lieu of yelling across the office, workers are adapting to conversations amidst real-time direct messages and channel-based conversations in tools like Slack and Teams. Careful management of the culture around productivity tools like these can help ensure that they become useful places for workplace collaboration as opposed to notification centers which add little value.
- Email - While younger office workers tend to prefer chat-based communication tools, a significant cohort of office workers continue to stand by email. A well-crafted email tends to have more enduring pull than a Slack message and can be easier for recipients to organize in an inbox.
- Text Messaging - Believe it or not, there are some employees who say that text messaging is their new favorite way to receive messages from their employer. Companies used to view text messaging as unprofessional, but that idea is starting to take a turn. As companies like Twilio have enabled companies to reach their customers in new personal ways via text, some companies have found similar success leveraging traditional text and phone calls for business purposes. These methods tend to be most effective for informal communications that require fast turnarounds.
Any of these tools can potentially make sense for those who are trying to communicate with their team in a way that is respected by those employees. It is certainly best to consider mixing things up and breaking out of the rigid patterns that companies have operated in before.
Benefits that Matter
According to a recent Bank of America study, the things that employees care about most when it comes to the benefits that they receive include:
- Work/Life Balance
- Quality Healthcare Coverage
- Flexible PTO
- Remote Work Options
- Professional Skills Development
Not every company can match Google’s compensation or benefits, but every company can approach compensation and benefits with an honest, constructive perspective.To improve work life balance, companies have an obligation to consider how they can best support their workforces needs. For instance, a new computer or relevant industry software is a common foundational benefit to give employees the tools they need to succeed.
Xembly, an emerging leader in the AI Chief of Staff software space, is a new benefit that’s increasingly being offered by leading companies like Qualtrics, Rover, and Twilio to support the everyday scheduling, notetaking, and task management needs of employees. These mundane tasks can cripple an employee’s capacity to focus on their true skillset (e.g. engineering, marketing, sales). If you’re interested in exploring this benefit, sign up for Xembly's waitlist. The labor market and business in general has never been more competitive than it is right now. Let Xembly help you and your team navigate the challenges of today’s working world.