Employees Are Frustrated, and It’s Impacting Productivity and Retention

Employee engagement is vital to maintaining a productive and happy workforce. If your employees aren’t engaged, you’ll see lower levels of job satisfaction, more absences, and poorer retention levels. Lack of engagement can dampen your company’s reputation and lead to smaller profits.

According to a 2023 Gallup study, over half of employees are unhappy with their work, and they’re looking for other jobs. That’s the highest level of employee disengagement seen in recent years. A similar report from Gallup in 2022 noted an average employee engagement of 32%. That number was 36% in 2021 and 2020.

What’s behind the drop in employee engagement? Here are some of the key drivers.

The Push to Return to the Office

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, offices shut their doors and allowed employees to work from home. That trend continued throughout the year and into 2021, as cities implemented lockdowns and the search for a vaccine for the illness was paramount.

Fast forward to 2023, and the pandemic is no longer at the forefront of many people’s minds. The CDC allowed the public health emergency to expire in May, and today, society looks broadly the same as before COVID-19. 

As a result, fewer employers see the need for a continued work-from-home policy. Companies with leased office space are demanding that workers return to the office. After all, why pay for an office if no one uses it?

Other companies cite the need for employee collaboration and relationship-building. Admittedly, that can be difficult to achieve if managers don’t properly motivate remote team members or connect with them regularly.

But the push to return to the office isn’t sitting well with some workers. At Farmer’s Group, employees threatened to unionize and quit after the company’s CEO implemented a new policy requiring employees to come to the office at least three days a week.

People became accustomed to the lack of commute, additional time for family, and other benefits of working remotely. Some don’t want to return to the office at all.

A Desire for Less Stress

A full-time, in-office job can be highly demanding for some employees, especially those with significant responsibilities. Not only do they need to balance a commute with family time, but they may also need to work late some days or come in on their days off. 

After three years of a raging pandemic, societal unrest, and macroeconomic problems, work-related stress can be a lot to bear.

Long hours, low pay, and no opportunity for advancement can make any employee feel that their job offers them nothing but a paycheck. They’re more likely to turn their backs on their employer, look for other opportunities, or pursue their interests.

Employees who feel unappreciated are also more likely to feel disengaged at the workplace. Their feelings can spread to other workers, lowering overall organizational engagement.

To reduce burnout among team members, employers should closely monitor their engagement levels and provide opportunities for time off. Minimize late nights and weekends at the office, and offer occasional fun activities that don’t involve work, like volunteering or an after-work happy hour.

A Loss of Trust

In some cases, disengagement stems from a perceived lack of trust from managers. Employees who are told they must come back to the office, despite working from home for several years, may feel their employers don’t trust them to handle their duties from home.

Even if the primary reason for requiring employees to return to the office isn’t declining productivity or fears that a worker’s performance is dropping, if a team member believes that is the reason, they’re more likely to feel disengaged.

Other workers worry about potential layoffs. While fears of a full recession have not fully come into fruition, inflation rose at unprecedented levels last year. Increases in costs for groceries and gas take a big bite out of paychecks. Employees who believe their employer isn’t financially sound or intends to lay off workers in the future may jump ship.

Tackle Employee Engagement Problems Early — Before They Become a More Significant Issue

The last three years have been exhausting for everyone. While the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an emergency, it’s had lasting effects on employees’ feelings about working in the office. 

Workers who got used to performing their duties from home may feel unhappy if they’re called back into the workplace. Some employees may feel burnt out or underappreciated. 

If you sense employee engagement is a problem in your office, alleviate it before it becomes a bigger problem. Focus HR offers several tools that can help improve employee morale and engagement in your workforce. Contact us today to schedule your consultation

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