ADP: More than money, workers seek satisfaction, security and work-life balance

ADP Research Institute reveals pandemic-sparked shift in workers' priorities

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things. Many employers quickly transitioned their staff to a work-from-home situation, and it seems that is now playing into what workers value as part of their job satisfaction — even more than money.

This year’s “People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View” report from ADP Research Institute found that emerging and escalating workforce trends exposed a seismic shift in employee expectations of the workplace as compared to pre-pandemic.

“The pandemic signaled a paradigm shift, as today’s workers reevaluate the presence of work in their lives, and the stakes have never been higher for employers,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist, ADP. “Our research highlights the extent to which employees’ views of work changed, now prioritizing a wider and deeper range of factors that are more personal in nature. With recruitment and retention among the most business-critical issues, these revelations offer both a challenge and an opportunity for employers as they seek to keep workers engaged and fulfilled.”

According to the global survey of more than 32,000 workers, including the gig economy, from 17 countries, workers want the complete package — one that aligns with their personal values, redefines what job security means, prioritizes their well-being and encourages flexibility, in addition to salary and a few perks.

According to the report, two-thirds (64%) of the workforce would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time. In fact, contrary to assumptions, younger people (18- to 24-year-olds) are the most reluctant (71%) to return to the workplace full-time.

Additionally, if it came to it, employees are prepared to make compromises if it meant more flexibility or a hybrid approach to work location, with more than half (52%) willing to accept a pay cut — as much as 11% — to guarantee this arrangement.

According to the survey, 71% of 18- to 24-year-olds said that, “If my employer insisted on me returning to my workplace full-time, I would consider looking for another job.” That’s a higher rate than among older workers.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Seven in 10 workers (71%) said they have considered a major career move this year.
    Feelings toward flexibility and work-life balance are not limited to parents (74%) who would like to arrange working hours to be more flexible; they are followed closely by 68% of non-parents.
  • Nine in 10 (90%) workers are satisfied in their current employment, though they could be happier: Nearly half of workers (41%) said they are only “somewhat satisfied.”
  • Looking ahead, workers want a durable career: Nearly a quarter of workers (23%) disclosed they are actively trying to change their job and/or move to a “future proof” industry where skills are in higher demand long-term, where they see the best career development prospects and strongest earning potential.
  • Pay and benefits: Salary is a priority, but it’s not all that matters. Pay is still a top priority for workers, although half of workers would trade a pay cut for work-life balance. This importance placed on pay and desired flexibility, many believe, could help to mitigate the amount of unpaid overtime workers believe they are contributing without compensation.
  • Mental health: stress is increasing and work is suffering. While workers are surprisingly upbeat surrounding job satisfaction and outlook for the next five years, stress at work has reached critical levels, exacerbated by a trend that was already in motion prior to the pandemic. The impact on workers professionally, as well as personally, is profound and employers have taken notice by striving to find ways to support their workforce.
  • Remote work and living arrangements: Two tiers of working sentiment are emerging. Those working from home are more inclined to say they are optimistic (89%) about the next five years compared with their peers (77%) reporting to an office, are more satisfied with employment compared with those on-premise (90% vs. 82%), and almost half (46%) believe working from home has made it easier to be a working parent, though a quarter (25%) say it has made it harder. Yet, there is a balance, as those working from home are more likely to feel their work is suffering due to poor mental health compared to their colleagues in the workplace (55% vs. 36%). Those working from home are also more prone to working longer hours, as much as an extra 8.7 hours per week.