What Are Employees Looking For in the Post-COVID Workplace?

Since March 2020, the American workplace has undergone many evolutions. Millions of employees across the country have transitioned from working full-time at the office, to working full-time from home, to a hybrid model of part at-home and part in-office work. Even for employees who have returned to working entirely from the office, it’s clear that expectations have changed.


Now, traditional employers must adapt to attract and retain talent as scores of people continue to voluntarily quit their jobs in search for opportunities that offer better compensation, better benefits, and greater work-life-balance. Which begs the question—what benefits and perks do employees really want from their post-COVID workplace?


How has the pandemic affected employees?


It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic turned employees’ day-to-day work lives upside down. For employees of all industries, the pandemic caused a significant spike in levels of stress, fear, and anxiety. For the over 18 million Americans who were either let go or furloughed, panic ensued about how they would sustain their livelihoods. But even those who retained their jobs were forced to confront new and significant challenges, including the introduction of remote working, social distancing, and additional protocols in place for frontline and essential workers.


The stress and isolation of remote and pandemic work led to an uptick in poor mental health and burnout among American employees. The increase in stress coupled with family-care demands, uncaring leaders, and unsustainable work performance expectations influenced millions of employees to leave their jobs, often without another position in place.


For many, the pandemic led to occupational reckoning, forcing them to redefine what they want out of their jobs and how to better establish balance between their home and work lives.


How has the narrative around stress and burnout changed?


Before the pandemic, stress and burnout were not often discussed in the workplace. Now, the prevalence of persistent and indefinite stressors—and the reality of their impacts—has changed how employers address their employees’ risk of burnout.


According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 71% of employees felt stressed or tense during the workday in 2021, and three out of five employees reported that their work-related stress negatively impacted their performance.


Today, stress and burnout are no longer fringe subjects. To keep employees motivated, employers are exploring ways to reduce workplace stress and help employees maintain balance, including increasing benefits such as paid-time off, family leave, and improving healthcare coverage.


What is the “great resignation”—and is it still in effect?


The “Great Resignation,” also called the “Great Attrition,” refers to the recent wave of employees leaving their jobs for similar positions at different companies (often those that provide better benefits) or leaving their jobs without another position already in place.


The reasons behind the “Great Resignation” vary. But according to one survey conducted between December 2020 and December 2021, 30-40% of respondents reported leaving their positions on account of the following:



  • Uncaring leaders at work

  • Unsustainable work performance expectations

  • Lack of career development and advancement potential

  • Lack of meaningful work

  • Lack of support for employee health and well-being

  • Lack of workplace flexibility


Though the numbers of people leaving their positions are falling, the motivation behind the trend is still very much in effect: employees are prioritizing work opportunities with benefits that support their health and wellbeing, have a clearly defined work-life balance, and make them feel valued.


How have employer attitudes toward health and wellness changed?


Health and wellness are top of mind for both employees and employers. With less of a stigma associated with frequent job changes and gaps in résumés, employees are more liberated than ever to search for work opportunities with the best health and wellness benefits. In response, employers are prioritizing their offerings to compete in today’s marketplace.


Specific programs in which employers are expanding support include those that focus on mental and emotional health, work-life balance, and financial wellbeing. In addition to attracting talent, revitalized health and wellness programs may help to reduce absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, and improve engagement and performance in the workplace.


What are employees looking for from employers?


Benefits, benefits, benefits. In a survey of 2,000 employees, 80% of respondents said they wanted benefits or perks more than they wanted a pay raise. In addition to better health, dental, and vision insurance, employees surveyed wanted better mental health resources, more flexible work hours, more vacation time, work-from-home flexibility, and paid family leave.


But in addition to benefits and perks that support their physical and mental health, research suggests that post-pandemic employees want to feel valued in their work. Uncaring leadership and meaningless interactions no longer make the cut. Today’s employees want a fulfilling employee experience where they feel that their work—and their wellbeing—is being cared for.


But how can an employer make their employee feel valued? Survey results show that bonuses and other financial perks on their own aren’t enough to strengthen relationships between leaders and employees. Building meaningful relationships in the workplace requires more than a one-off transaction—it requires an investment in every employee’s whole person.


This is where preventive healthcare can help. Providing employees with health coverage that prioritizes preventive care will support their health and wellbeing in the long run. Partnering with a company like Forfend enables organizations to provide practical and effective preventive healthcare for every employee, helping them to live longer, and healthier lives.


Sources


Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Employment Situation News Release and Data. (2022.)


Gone for now, or gone for good? How to play the new talent game and win back workers. (2022.)


‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours. (2021.)


Occupational stress and psychological wellbeing during COVID 19: Mediating role of positive psychological capital. (2022.)


The American workforce faces compounding pressure. (2021.)


The Pandemic Has Heightened Young People’s Dedication to Their Health. (2020.)


The Top 6 Things Employees Want in Their Next Job. (2022.)


What Employees Want. (2022.)


When the grass is truly greener: How companies are retaining frontline talent. (2022.)

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