US Workers’ Job Satisfaction Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Thanks to Remote, Hybrid Models

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U.S. workers’ job satisfaction seems to be back to pre-pandemic levels, as work from home proves to be a driver of employee happiness, according to a new workplace study.

See: 34% of Remote Workers Would Rather Quit Than Go Back to the Office
Find: How Much You’re Saving Still Working From Home

With ongoing remote work, factors such as the allowance of flexible work schedules and time saved without a commute are shaping the new normal, and a hybrid working model is leading the way, the new study from people management platform Hibob shows. The study also shows that with strong job satisfaction while remote, the rollout of the vaccine will not prompt employees to run back to the office five days a week. Some even say an obligation to return to a physical workspace would push them to look for a new job.

One of the key findings of the study notes that only 10% of employees surveyed want to return to the office full time, showing that flexibility to work from anywhere is key.

Ronni Zehavi, CEO of Hibob, tells GOBankingRates that this finding is not surprising.

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“People want control over how and where they work, and employees cited flexibility with family time and the elimination of commutes to be the biggest benefits,” Zehavi says. “Remote and hybrid work also makes balancing work and family life easier for working parents; it’s easy to step away for lunch or school pickup, and to make sure you’re home in time for a family dinner. People should work to live, not live to work, and a hybrid setup helps make that a reality. Now that employees have had a taste of flexibility, they want to keep it, and from our perspective, companies should allow it to support the needs and happiness of their workers.”

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The study also finds that when asked about overall job satisfaction, 62% of individual contributors, 66% of middle managers and 79% of senior managers answered they were presently highly satisfied with their jobs. Similarly, pre-pandemic, 68% of individual contributors, 69% of middle managers and 80% of senior managers reported being highly satisfied with their jobs.

In addition, data reveals parents and working women preferred working from home at higher rates — 65% — as it allows for more time with family and flexibility with childcare.

See: 48% of Women Don’t Want to Go Back to Work in the Office Full Time
Find: 15 Ways to Work Better From Home

“This flexibility not only gives women the ability to balance family life and home life, but also gives younger women in the workforce the peace of mind knowing that if they do choose to have a family, their employer will make striking that balance easier for them,” Zehavi says.  “We need to make sure all employees feel supported, valued, and cared for at the office, so if flexibility can help women succeed, it is a policy that we believe has great value.”

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In addition, the study found that 35% of senior managers enjoyed “flexibility with family time” as the best benefit to working from home, compared to 42% of individual contributors who felt that eliminating the commute was the biggest benefit.

Of parents with children under the age of 18, 84% found that benefits of a hybrid/remote work module outweighed the cons.

See: How Work-Life Balance Can Make You a Better Employee
Find: Looking to Work Remotely? These 10 Career Fields Are Adding the Most WFH Jobs in 2021

In terms of the hybrid work model, 73% of managers said two or three days in the office and the rest working from home would be the preferred model, while 54% of individual contributors preferred either a flexible 2-3 days a week or an “at-will” hybrid model.

Asked whether this is a trend that is here to stay, Zehavi says that splitting time between working from an office and working from home will be the way of the future.

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“Also, while its purpose may change, it is important to note that the office isn’t dead,” Zehavi adds. “Instead of requiring people to be in the office a certain number of days, hybrid companies will encourage attendance for meetings, get-togethers, onboarding, collaboration and socialization, and designate work-from-home activity for individual projects.”

See: 6 Ways to Show Your Employees You Care, Even When You’re Remote
Find: More Companies Planning to Reopen Offices, End Work From Home

A forced return to work is a controversial idea, especially for working parents; employees with children are twice as likely as those without children to quit and look for a new opportunity if forced to return to an office full-time, according to the study.

“Once the pandemic happened, though, things changed and the work lives of many U.S. workers were completely upended. While everyone adapted to this new normal differently, the transition undoubtedly had its challenges early on,” Zehavi says. “However, now that we’ve been remote for more than a year, people have adjusted their way of life and are happy with the change. Also, many companies have been incredibly productive while remote and employees have found a new groove. That’s why workers are reluctant to revert back to the way things were.”

And the Hibob data proves it: The study shows that in almost 90% of cases, employees do not want to go back to the office five days per week.

See: The Best and Worst Things About Working From Home
Find: You’re Not Imagining It — WFH Creates Longer Workdays, Harvard Researchers Say

Hibob’s study also notes that because of the shift toward hybrid work, the purpose of the office has also changed. Indeed, it’s evolving from an everyday workspace to a place designated for socialization, collaboration and company culture. Companies implementing hybrid models may use in-office time more for meetings, get-togethers and onboarding, and less for individual work and clocking in and out. However, how it’s viewed now differs for employees based on their roles.

The study finds that 30% of individual contributors ranked socialization as the most important purpose of the office. As for managers, they felt that collaboration is the most important purpose of the physical office, with 37% of senior managers and 36% of middle managers feeling this way.

Finally, the study also shows that even with vaccines helping to mitigate safety concerns, they are not a reason for pushing fully in-person work five days a week, given the proven success of the hybrid model.

See: 11 Reasons a Four-Day Workweek Is Better for Everyone
Find: 4 Valid Reasons Your Company Won’t Let You Work From Home Indefinitely

People in senior positions skewed more toward advocating for the vaccine and returning to the office. In fact, 50% of senior managers prefer to require all team members to get the vaccine before coming back to the office, while only 26% of individual contributors and middle managers feel this way.

More than half of individual contributors, at 58%, stated that they expect their company not to take any stance on people getting vaccinated. In terms of gender, more men felt strongly that companies should require all employees to get vaccinated.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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