The state of the modern workplace is evolving, perhaps more quickly than ever. Increases in diversity, the flexibility and scalability that technology provides, the nature of benefits and work environment that employees are willing to demand—all contribute to an ever-changing dynamic that’s exciting for workers and, to a certain extent, a challenge for employers.
To get a sense of the state of the modern workplace – and a hint at where it may be heading – international professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, conducted focus groups in New York City and online surveys this past May, with 1,385 workers of all types. PwC also surveyed 200 C-Level executives of small to large companies to get an employers’ perspective.
The study yielded some interesting results, showing how employees in the modern workplace are feeling, what motivates them, what they feel is important and how they see their futures. Justin Sturrock, People & Organization leader at PwC, admitted that his organization’s survey merely grazes the surface of complex issues facing employers and companies today and in the near future.
“Being a leader today is far more difficult than it probably was even ten years ago,” Sturrock said. “Because I think the pace of business and the complexity of business and the external factors of business have accelerated and changed and they are constantly changing.” Employees, he explained, simply want more than they used to, and the answer to keeping employers and their workers contently working together could be for each side to meet each other halfway.
Without further ado, here are some of the discoveries PwC made …
A Third Of Workers Are Not Satisfied.
When asked to rate their jobs on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), 60% of the employees gave a rating between 8 and 10. Meanwhile, three-in-ten of those surveyed said they expect to change jobs within six months and 38% expect to move on within the next year. That trend is higher among younger workers—one-half of Generation Z and one-third of Millennials say they are very or somewhat likely to change jobs in the next six months.
But why leave? Well, half of respondents say that work-life balance is very important but only 34% say they have achieved what they’re looking for in that arena. Also, only 36% of workers say that their opinions seem to count at work, and the same percentage feel appreciated at their workplace. “Employees are looking for more than the fee for service, that was the traditional structure,” Sturrock explained. Values, social relevance and purpose are more important than they used to be.
Employers surveyed tended to have a rosier view of the workplace dynamic, PwC discovered: 62% of them view their relationship with employees as a “committed partnership,” while most employees consider it a “marriage of convenience” or a “casual acquaintanceship.” Younger workers are less likely to feel a bond with leadership.
Work Flexibility Is A Key To Contentment
PwC’s survey showed that 38% of workers say they are able to work from home at least one day a week. Those workers tend have a higher rate of job satisfaction. In fact, those workers with remote work flexibility were 48% more likely to rate their jobs a 10 on the “happiness scale.”
Small Businesses Have Happier Employees
In PwC’s survey, employees working at smaller businesses – of less than 50 people – are almost 50% more likely to rate their company as “high-functioning” and 43% say they are happy where they are working. Only 27% of workers at companies with 1,000 employees claimed they were happy. Also, 42% of small business employees said they felt respected at work, compared to 33% at large companies.
Employees at smaller firms are also more likely to feel that they can learn and grow at their jobs. In fact, 80% say they feel appreciated at work.
Smaller companies are also more likely to offer the flexibility to work remotely, which as we’ve noted makes workers feel more content. Of the employees surveyed that worked for larger firms, 86% said they would like to work from home but only 26% do.
PwC notes that the size of companies and its correlation to a positive work-life culture are not set in stone. Larger firms can take steps to adopt the policies that smaller companies have used to make their personnel more content.
Gender In The Workplace
In PwC’s survey, women were less likely to rate themselves as happy in their work. They were also less likely to rate their companies as highly functional, less likely to say that “exciting work” is part of their jobs and do not rate their leaders as highly.
PwC contends that this is because women do not feel they are given adequate opportunities to advance and say that they are not in control of their work. Men, on the other hand, have more positive ratings on these concepts.
Turning this trend around could mean placing greater emphasis on factors women feel are important. Compared to men, women are more likely to place emphasis on work-life balance, the ability to do what they feel is meaningful work and the feeling that they can be themselves in their workplace.
Only a small amount of the U.S. workforce is made up of freelancers and contractors (about 10 million or so, is the estimate), and PwC’s survey shows that employees have mixed feelings about breaking away from larger organizations to work more independently.
Of those surveyed, 41% of non-independent workers expected to become independent workers within the next 12 months and 53% said they would within the next five years. Of all respondents, 86% “at least somewhat agree” that they have a strong desire to work independently, and the reason for that, PwC says, is because they feel it will allow them flexibility, work-life balance, more money and greater control over their work environment. The older employers were, the more they reported having a strong desire to become independent workers—those age 50 and older were about twice as likely to want to work independently.
That said, only 17% of respondents said they expect to start their own companies, says Sturrock, and 16% expect to create their own professional brand. Also, 54% of respondents disagree that, in the future, most people will work for themselves. “Those traditional work structures on one side and the gig economy on the other side—neither of those structures is the complete answer for organizations,” Sturrock explained, “particularly large organizations.”
Dampening the resolve to make the shift to independent work, though, is uncertainty. PwC reported that 39% of respondents felt that not having the steady pay of a non-independent job was the biggest downside of life as a freelancer.
The story originally appeared on the Forbes website.
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