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The State of Work in America

Many vertical markets, such as the manufacturing industry, are ripe for innovation and a new way of working. We are living in an era where inflation is high, many say there is an impending recession, and remote work is a common phrase, as workers demand flexibility. But are the tables starting to turn, even slightly? Is it once again becoming more of an employer’s market? One new report suggests there is a lot shifting at the moment—and businesses need to be aware of the transition that is happening.

The new report comes from Morning Consult and looks at how employed U.S. adults feel about work today, in 2023. The organization surveyed 6,610 Americans and asked them about where they are working, how satisfied they are with their jobs, and whether employers face a retention threat. Let’s look at some big takeaways.

An Era of Remote Work

Perhaps the first one is that fewer Americans are working remotely now compared to 2022. The share of millennials saying they do most of their work remotely dropped 6 percentage points, from 29% to 23%. The drop was even steeper for those who earn $50,000 to $99,000 annually.

At the same time, the appeal of remote work has diminished a bit. The survey suggests a higher share of Gen Z adults who have worked remotely said communicating with their manager is harder when away from the office. Interestingly, a larger majority of Gen Z adults do most of their work in person compared with their older counterparts, and this young cohort also shows the strongest overall preference for working in an office.

Still, companies should be aware of the top reasons some of these workers do not want to come to the office. This includes not wanting to commute, not liking the work-life balance, and feeling more comfortable working remotely.

Layoffs, Resignations Ahead?

Despite many of the headlines, this study suggests labor market churn is staying steady across the various generations. Now, to be fair, the report acknowledges the big tech layoffs that were happening early in the year, but it doesn’t necessarily take into account the bank and commercial real estate layoffs that have been happening more recently.

Still, the report suggests job hopping—the impetus for the Great Resignation—has slowed. While employees are mostly satisfied with their jobs, they are tired and working long hours. Roughly three-quarters of adults said they always, often, or sometimes feel too tired after work to enjoy the things they like to do in their personal life.

When comparing the different generations, Gen Z are often less engaged and are more likely to ‘quiet quit.’ When asked how often they feel too tired to enjoy their personal lives after work, 81% of Gen Zers said always, often, or sometimes.

Additionally, while fewer workers are interested in leaving their job, feelings of being underpaid also persist. Salaried caregivers and those with children under 13 are among the most likely to be interested in leaving their job. Also, Millennials and men saw big year-over-year drops in wanting to leave their jobs. The top three reasons workers are interested in leaving their jobs are feeling underpaid, wanting a better work-life balance, and feeling burned out.

A Closer Look at Gen Z

I was compelled to take a closer look at Gen Z and what this the study revealed about the younger generation just coming into the work scene. As we already know, they prefer an office and often feel too tired after work to enjoy their personal life. They are also the generation that is most likely to quiet quit. 59% of this generation will use a phone or work computer for nonwork. 48% will leave work or log off early. 40% will take long breaks. 38% will embellish how long it takes to complete tasks. And 26% will call in sick when not sick. All of these stats are higher than other generations.

All and all, this report suggests bargaining power is slowly shifting back to the employers. It seems the Great Resignation is subsiding. Still, employers should be aware that workers are still often exhausted by work and unhappy about pay. Companies with young staff must also be aware of how Gen Z views work differently than previous generations. Otherwise, companies might be stuck with young workers who don’t necessarily resign, but quiet quit instead.

Hmm…maybe it’s time to think about nurturing our talent so they want to stay. We need people with the emotional leadership and intelligence that others want to learn from and follow. These amazing individuals are the next generation of leaders who understand today’s worker wants life-work balance. As we pass the baton to the next generation of leaders these are the ones that must be in tune with every generation’s needs.

Again, as I have said many times before, that means having empathy for the people and understanding what you actually can’t see but need to recognize. Staying patient, listening, and leading in all situations. This is how we will retain our workers and see an end to the people leaving for something better, because they already have a leader that is too good to leave. It’s better than the job. It’s a person who understands and works with them. Sounds like we are going full circle once again…

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