As the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic begins, the American worker is emboldened with expectations of raises, promotions and more accommodations to better balance their new hybrid job routines with their home life.
Those are just some of the interesting, but perhaps understandable, takeaways from an extensive survey by Prudential and Morning Consult on the “Pulse of the American Worker.” It’s the seventh such poll done since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The survey, conducted in early February, polled 2,000 full-time workers nationwide.
The survey shows workers are transfixed on financial stability and have adapted to an ever-changing work environment, but are in the catbird seat when it comes to job demands and choices. Nearly a quarter of the workers surveyed have switched employers since the start of the pandemic - up from 13% in April of 2021 - with half saying they are actively searching or considering new jobs. And 47% said they expect a salary increase of 6% or more when they find one.
Seven in 10 said the pandemic has made them more concerned about their finances, up 5% since last fall, and economic uncertainty is shaping their career planning.
As companies return to the worksite, more workers are shifting to a hybrid work model — a mix of in-person and remote - and most believe the routine is here to stay. Just over half of hybrid workers said they are on-site once or twice a week, and 72% said the hybrid model is beating expectations.
“Hybrid is the future of work,” said Rob Falzon, Prudential’s vice chair. “Adopting this new working model will require employers to play the long game and chart a clear and flexible path forward rooted in what is best for their workforce.”
Prudential officially adopted a hybrid model in mid-March, exactly two years since it started remote working, Falzon said.
There are concerns about new work order, however. Just under half of hybrid workers say the new model may make it harder for them to advance in their careers (47%) and learn new skills (45%). Since returning to the worksite, 57% of hybrid workers say that the experience has increased their stress levels. There are also challenges while at the worksite. More than one-third of hybrid workers said they are finding it hard to maintain productivity levels, and just over a quarter of hybrid workers say it’s difficult to engage with colleagues who work remotely.
The survey also found that feelings of burnout among managers are high, as they take on much of the responsibility for shepherding employees through remote work and into hybrid. While six in 10 said the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, 44% of managers with remote staff are worried the pandemic caused them to fall behind in their own career development.
A majority of workers say the pandemic has made them more concerned about their finances, both immediate and long-term financial security. But, surprisingly perhaps, 42% of workers say their financial situation has improved over the last two years. This includes 54% of Generation Z (age 25 and under), and 49% of millennials (26 to 41 years old). Women, however, were much less likely to report their financial situation has improved (36% compared to 48% for men).
Although a majority of those surveyed said they expect a raise this year, a significant number - one in five - said they would be willing take an average pay cut of up to 10% if it meant better work/life balance or that they could work for themselves. One in five millennials and 20% of Gen Z workers said they took on a job or “gig” to supplement their income, compared to 15% of all workers.
Financial stability and the way it relates to home life was a recurring theme in the Prudential survey.
Aside from better pay, workers considering switching employers said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they were offered better retirement plans, increased flexibility around their schedules and a clear path for advancement.
“The best investment a company can make is in their talent,” Falzon said. “Employers must recognize the path to financial security begins in the workplace, through gainful employment, comprehensive benefits and durable careers.”
Doug Bailey is a journalist and freelance writer who lives outside of Boston. He can be reached at [email protected].