US employees are very settled about where and how they are working, according to a new study by mental wellbeing provider Vitality.
The research found that one in three US employees are likely to change jobs if their employers’ plan for the future of work doesn’t match theirs. If they were asked to return to the office full time, 45% of hybrid workers and 60% of remote workers would be at risk of quitting.
Therefore, to maximize retention and prevent losing staff in the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’, Vitality suggests that companies listen carefully to employee preferences around where they want to work.
Ultimately, “a one-size-fits-all approach for returning to the office isn’t going to work. While some teams may be required to be on-site full-time, flexibility is needed where people can and are working remotely or hybrid today”, according to Vitality.
Along a similar vein, Vitality’s survey of 1,000 employees in the US found that workers are worried about adapting to a new mode of working once more. 72% of remote workers and 75% of hybrid workers are anxious about what the future holds.
This anxiety is linked to having to spend more time commuting (and the related extra expense of that), issues with their care responsibilities, and less flexibility of working.
So what must employers do? Vitality noted: “Careful consideration is needed for return-to-office plans, both in how they will work and change management, appreciating the significant anxiety many workers have and the turbulence this may introduce into their personal lives”.
Focus on the needs of younger employees
To help ease anxiety about returning to the office, Vitality calls on employers to provide more wellbeing support to employees.
While US employees largely think that their employer has been good at supporting their wellbeing during the pandemic (54%), the figures are much lower for younger and more junior employees.
Only 21% of entry-level employees felt supported by their employers, compared to 42% for more senior workers.
This suggests that wellbeing programs are not trickling down to younger and more junior employees. They have also benefitted least from remote working and are feeling socially disconnected from colleagues, as well as friends and family. Therefore, it is no surprise that their attrition rate is looking likely to be higher than for older employees.
Another challenge for younger employees is workplace technology. While 47% of all workers think that technology has helped them be more productive, Gen Z is overwhelmed by the digital tools at use in the workplace.
“This is surprising and worrying, given that Generation Z grew up with technology. It indicates that pressures in life and work are compounding to such a degree that additions feel overwhelming and distracting,” noted the report.
So Vitality recommended that employers pay special attention to the needs of younger employees, and particularly encourage managers to lead on mental wellbeing support.
Be clear on vaccine mandates
Vaccine mandates have been all the rage in the US over the last few months as employers seek to balance employee health and safety with a desire to get workers back in the office at least a few days a week.
Vitality’s study found that employers are largely supportive of a vaccine mandate. 49% of all employees and 65% of senior workers said that companies can and should implement COVID-19 requirements to return to the office.
In addition, 53% in the US said they would be more comfortable returning to the office they knew everyone there was vaccinated.
Therefore, Vitality said employers must take a stance on vaccinations to ensure that staff are comfortable about returning to the office.
Also, Vitality noted companies must encourage employees to get vaccinated including by “linking certain benefits to vaccine status (for example, reduced health plan contributions for vaccinated individuals)”.