The COVID-19 pandemic led to a global economic crisis and the highest unemployment rates of this century.
In the US alone, unemployment skyrocketed in March 2020 to 14% and is yet to return to pre-pandemic figures, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In this context, job satisfaction in the US reached a 20 year high in 2020 (56.9%) according to a survey of 1,000 US workers by The Conference Board. In addition, employee engagement grew from 53.2% in November 2019 to 54.3% in November 2020.
The Conference Board attributes this growth in job satisfaction to the fact that companies focused more on employee wellbeing during the pandemic.
Workforce became the second most important concern of boards – after liquidity – according to a different Conference Board survey of US public companies.
Companies stepped up and focused on updating their workers’ health plans, performance reviews, flexible working hours, and more sick leave. As a result, The Conference Board’s study found that work life balance grew slightly from 43.9% in 2019 to 44.1% in 2020.
Interestingly, job security also did not drop in the pandemic; it remained unchanged between November 2019 and November 2020.
Young workers are struggling
According to The Conference Board’s research, remote workers did not report higher job satisfaction.
While there were some benefits – increased flexibility and no daily commute – this was cancelled out by a lack of in-person interaction and a less good working environment, linked to inferior equipment and lack of space.
The research found that job satisfaction was not consistent across age groups.
While the over 55s experienced a growth in job satisfaction, this declined for the under 35s. This is not surprising – and according to The Conference Board is normal in recessions – because young workers are disadvantaged by their lack of workplace experience, meaning they are not necessarily as attractive a hire.
They also may benefit less from companies introducing healthcare plans or flexible working hours than older workers who are more worried about their health and may need to balance work with child-caring responsibilities.
This finding is in line with other studies. For instance, a recent report by Microsoft found that the 2020 working environment challenged Generation Z more than older generations — Z’ers struggled to strike a work-life balance and find their place in the remote world of work.
The future of job satisfaction
The Conference Board vice-president of human capital Amy Lui Abel commented: “The compassion, flexibility, and support shown by companies in 2020 played a large role in this increased job satisfaction.
“As the pandemic subsides and the residual impact on employee mental health and wellness becomes clear, companies will need to continue this support if they hope to maintain this upward trend.”
As a result of this – and an improving economic situation – Conference Board expects to see a continued improvement in job satisfaction in 2021 and beyond.