News of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine this week has brought a wave of optimism and hopes that in 2021 we will see a return to the office on either a permanent or hybrid basis. Attitudes to working from home may have been positive in the first lockdown, with McKinsey reporting at the start of June that 80% of people were enjoying it, but now we have come into the second lockdown, how are levels of job satisfaction faring for home workers?
Having surveyed over 1,200 individuals across various industries, demographics, and seniority levels, global market research firm The Martec Group reported in August that job satisfaction, motivation and company satisfaction have been negatively affected over the course of the pandemic, alongside a significant decline in mental health. And this October The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people in England – almost a fifth of the population – will need new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of COVID-19.
While the pressure of the crisis is felt variously on both a collective and individual level, over time the experiences of those working in sub-standard conditions like cramped bedrooms in shared apartments versus those enjoying life in gilded studies overlooking their gardens may reveal themselves more and more, as may the consequences of longer working hours and ‘ePresenteeism’ at home, the dissolution of boundaries between our professional and private lives, Zoom burnout, and the loss of camaraderie that comes with working under lockdown. Add to this the lack of pay rises and opportunities for learning and mentorship and the scale of the potential problem comes into focus. It is incorrect to assume that working from home is a natural boon for our happiness and productivity, and new solutions are required to ensure job satisfaction in the long term.
How you look after your people and enhance their remote job satisfaction in this moment matters more than ever. You need to consider:
1. Checking in regularly: carry out what McKinsey term as ‘pulse checks’, which involves asking employees how they are doing on a regular basis and making it easy for them to access help and relevant resources.
2. Reviewing your training and engagement programme: with awareness of the UK’s record surge in redundancies, some staff may be holding back on sharing how they feel, in the belief that this could harm their relationships with co-workers and employers and may put their jobs at risk; indeed, according to a survey by employee experience company Limeade, only 30% of employees have disclosed a mental or emotional health issue in the workplace and 47% of workers who have disclosed such an issue have experienced negative consequences, indicating a gulf in understanding and the ongoing necessity of appropriate training and engagement.
3. Trialling a more sophisticated digital solution: there is a growing market for employee mood analysis that draws on AI, behavioural psychology and data science. One such company is media firm House of Cheer, who teamed with UK-based human insights company The Happiness Index to launch a tool called Happyness.me, which allows employees to give feedback using online surveys 24/7 and analyses their thoughts and emotions, summarising the results in real time.
If you really want to avoid losing talent post-COVID, you need to lay the foundation for a mature hybrid workplace that offers as much flexibility, autonomy and empowerment as possible, which ultimately are the best guarantees of job satisfaction.