We Need to Fix Work

Do you like your job? So much that you would recommend it — or your employer, for that matter — to your own child or to a young person you care about?

If you said no, you’re not entirely alone. Nearly half of employees worldwide (46%) — including 29% of C-level leaders in the U.S. — said they wouldn’t recommend their company nor their profession to the kids or teens in their lives. That’s according to a new global study from The Workforce Institute, announced this week.

We partnered with our advisory board member, Dan Schawbel, and his firm Workplace Intelligence to survey 2,200 employees in 10 countries, as well as 600 C-suite leaders and 600 HR executives in the U.S., to see how people are currently feeling about work, and what they’re telling the next generation about work.

I’m here to say, it’s looking a bit rough out there.

Consider my opening question from another angle: You may not like your job, but do you dislike it so much that you wouldn’t even wish your job on your worst enemy? Well, our study discovered that nearly half of U.S. workers (45%) and 38% of employees globally say, yes, it’s that bad.

Clearly, we have a problem. We need to fix work!

Many People Feel Burned Out

Think back to early 2020. It’s been quite a journey for the workforce since then. If people were feeling burned out before, well they’re likely feeling completely fried now. A two-plus-year pandemic wrought with resignations, supply-chain complications, and a lethargic labor market, only to be followed by record-high inflation, mass layoffs, and growing concerns of a recession.

If you’re feeling a little nostalgic for 2019, again, you’re not alone. From our survey, we found many people are longing for simpler times, or perhaps missing the closeness, connection, and collaboration they used to have with colleagues and friends in the workplace: 61% of CEOs and 49% of employees say they “miss how we used to work before the pandemic.” Moreover, 64% of employees say they’d switch jobs right now if they could, while 45% are fed up and just “don’t want to work anymore,” period.

This anti-work mindset is shared globally, according to our study, though it’s more typical among full-time (47%) vs. part-time (36%) employees, and most prominent in India (53%) and the U.S. (51%), where workforce activity illustrates how this perspective is impacting frontline work nationwide.

Different Sentiments Among Women and Men in the U.S.

Digging a little deeper into the data from the survey, we uncovered varying sentiments among women and men working in the U.S. For example, overall, only about a quarter (27%) of women reported feeling “energized” in their role, compared with 40% of men surveyed. Rather, women are more likely than men to feel “committed” (39% vs. 35% of men) or “content” (25% vs. 18% of men) in their roles, or, to a lesser extent, say they are “coasting” or “checked out” (9% vs. 7% of men).

Furthermore, 21% of women said they rarely, if ever, take time off — while only 9% of men reported the same, meaning men are more likely to take time off, or at least feel comfortable doing so. This reluctance to take time off might stem from the fact that 66% of women surveyed in the U.S. also said they feel “easily replaceable” in their current work situation, possibly leading 61% of women to say they’d switch jobs right now if they could.

Where we see less variance is within the C-suite, as C-level male and female executives are evenly energized — however, 22% of C-level women say their overall mental health is “average,” “poor,” or “very poor,” compared with just 10% of men.

All Hope Isn’t Lost — So Long as People Can Find Meaning in Their Work

Globally, there is some hope on the horizon, as not everyone hates their job. In fact, 84% of employees surveyed said they would still work if they won the lottery, while 28% in that situation would even want to work the same number of hours at their same job! This indicates that people inherently want to work. Maybe there are a lot of people who don’t like the work they are doing today, or who are struggling to find satisfaction or a sense of purpose in their current role, but that doesn’t mean they hate working.

This data also signals that at least a quarter of organizations are doing things right, by helping their people find a sense of purpose and special meaning in their work.

And that’s key to fixing work — for everyone.

We Can Fix Work

Here at The Workforce Institute, we’re never just about pointing out what’s wrong. We always want to provide solutions, too. With that in mind, here are three actions organizations can take right now to start making a difference for their employees:

1) Connect employees to purpose. Leaders must effectively communicate how every employee is part of something greater — something powerful that has lasting significance. When employees have something to work toward, they’re likely to not only benefit themselves but also the organization.

2) Give employees the feeling of being heard. Whether through surveys, stay interviews, 1:1s with managers, or companywide town halls, listening to employees is a critical way of understanding their needs, wants, and concerns. Furthermore, listening gives managers valuable insights to act on and improve workplace culture.

3) Encourage people take time off, disconnect, and recharge. Our research shows 85% of global employees say they don’t use all their allotted time off each year, and 14% rarely or never take time off. As new challenges arise and existing ones worsen, empowering people to live less stressful lives is more important than ever. Addressing this imbalance today to cultivate employee wellbeing will prepare workplaces for future generations.

Some of our survey findings may seem a bit bleak. But, as I’ve pointed out above, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many great workplaces and millions of people around the world, lotto winners or not, who still look forward to going to work each day, who feel like they can be themselves, and see how their contributions at work make a difference. Not only that, but according to research from Great Place To Work, 89% of people at the best workplaces around the world would “strongly endorse” their organizations to friends and family.

We need to take the great practices from those organizations, so we can fix work and build confidence in the jobs our children and grandchildren will have. Work can be fixed, if we all work together. Let’s start today!

There’s plenty more to discuss from this study. Check out the research report and what it means for employers — and their people, including future generations of employees — moving forward.