On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The past two years felt both long and short as the world changed at a breathtaking pace. Between mask mandates, vaccines, and remote work, almost every aspect of our lives was affected. The world of work, in particular, has changed. We teamed up with Workhuman, a human capital management software solutions company, to take a deeper look at the pandemic’s affect on human resources. In the report, Two Years into COVID, Workhuman collected data across industries and countries to determine the state of human connection at work.
HR professionals everywhere now realize the importance of putting their people first. As Adam Grant, bestselling author and organizational psychologist said, “People are not the most valuable asset in your company. People are your company.” So, what do the numbers say?
2D vs. 3D Work
Covid has transformed the experience of work into two distinct categories: 2D and 3D. As described by Workhuman’s report, “For 2D work, you can work out of the comfort of your home office on a screen, collaborating on video calls and in constant virtual connection with your colleagues. For 3D work, you interact directly with people and materials. The place you conduct business likely hasn’t changed, but additional health and safety measures have certainly become the norm.”
Most industries have at least 25% of employees working either hybrid or fully remote. Of all survey respondents, 15% work entirely remote, 37% are hybrid, and 48% work on-site.
Change is always intimidating, especially so in these unprecedented times. When faced with change within their organization, 30% of hybrid workers feel confident while 38% of remote workers feel uneasy. Belongingness and company culture play a huge role in these statistics; Afterall, people are your culture. “Both hybrid and on-site workers feel more of a sense of connection to colleagues – thanks to at least some face-to-face interaction – than fully remote workers.”
Chris French, EVP of Customer Strategy at Workhuman, says, “If you follow these past two years, the beginning was all about the mechanics of getting work done and being physical safety. Then it was, ‘How do we collaborate? The piece that was completely left out was how much the employees themselves took care of each other just by being in close proximity to each other in the office.”
The Great Resignation
The lack of connection and sense of belonging brought on by remote work is a key factor in today’s astronomical resignation rates. French explains, “People’s social connections aren’t happening organically. If you’re not finding a way to create those in a 2D environment, then it has a massive impact.”
People who see turnover around them are twice as likely to be looking for a new job themselves. With 36% of workers planning to look for a new job within the next 12 months, turnover is a huge cause of concern for many companies. The chances of resignation are even higher for employees hired during Covid. 50% report planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months. Beyond losing talented personnel, when workers leave, businesses face increased recruiting and retraining costs, and employees face increased workload and smaller support networks.
While the talent pool is competitive, employers can still consider former employees—62% say they would return to a former employer.
Part of the Great Resignation puzzle is learning how to put meaning into work.
An essential aspect is company culture. People need to feel seen and appreciated, both for the work that they do and also for their lives. Be it a small congratulations for a successful presentation, or a baby shower for an expecting coworker, when employers celebrate employees’ life events, people are more likely to enjoy their time at a company. In fact, 39% of workers feel valued as individuals when their job acknowledges and celebrates a personal life event.
Even determining a hybrid work schedule is essential. French explains, “It’s not just as simple as hybrid work three times a week. You have to be more conscious about what happens those three days you’re in the office, that you’re maximizing not just the work product collaboration, but the connection between employees.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), though nothing new to HR professionals, is important to workers. 72% of employees say that DEI is somewhat to very important to them, and the number is even higher for Gen Z workers (86%) and Black workers (87%).
“DEI is an absolute imperative,” French says. “Simply saying ‘I notice you, and thank you for your contribution,’ is a huge helper for generally inclusion. People want to feel a sense of belonging and be psychological safety at work. Unless employers have a very clear plan for DEI, people are not going to want to join their company.”
Burnout is defined as “a condition experienced by workers and other professionals in which they develop depression-like symptoms as a result of aspects of their role.” It can manifest as physical, mental, or emotional symptoms.
Burnout has been a constant cause of concern throughout the pandemic: 52% of people feel mentally exhausted and drained after each workday. 58% report they don’t think much about what they’re doing at work and function on autopilot, and 44% say they have trouble staying focused at work.
The remote and hybrid work environment have not helped alleviate symptoms of burnout. If anything, ““The expectation may be stronger in the hybrid group due to an ‘always-on’ mentality, whereas fully remote workers may have better established boundaries between work and personal time.” When it comes to taking much needed sick time, 52% of hybrid workers and 44% of remote workers feel they’re obligated to continue work while remote, even when they’re sick.
How to Make a Positive Change
While these statistics and affects of COVID-19 may be daunting, companies can still make a positive change. Workhuman recommends modernizing HR practices, giving praise, and building a human workplace.
People thanked in the last month are half as likely to be looking for a new job, twice as likely to be highly engaged, twice as likely to feel respected at work, and three times as likely to see a path for growth within their organization.
To build a human workplace, employers should: 1. ask for feedback and listen, 2. communicate your values, 3. be human, and 4. say “thank you” and mean it. French recommends “thinking about the whole human as opposed to just the part of that person who happens to do some work product for your company. Your relationship is bigger than that.”