What do workers want in the post-pandemic workplace?

While the pandemic provided some silver linings, such as the ability to work remotely, there’s no question many people’s careers were forced to take a backseat.

So now the dust has settled, what do employees or jobseekers see as crucial priorities for a happy and successful work life?

In top spot is a company’s culture, says Kate Jolly, head of talent at HR, payroll and benefits platform Employment Hero.

“Now obviously that can mean a myriad of different things,” she says.

“But one of the most important things that they are highlighting is the need for opportunities for growth, progression and learning.”

Work culture

Even if a business isn’t in a position to be able to offer an employee an immediate promotion, they should be keeping their workforce engaged by offering professional development and the chance to upskill in certain areas, she says.

Other aspects of culture, such as working with great leaders, or for a business that has strong values, are also important.

Jolly believes the pandemic has definitely had an effect on workers’ priorities.

“I would imagine that during the time of COVID, people were probably quite focused on just getting through what was ahead of them … kind of head down, waiting to see how things transpired,” she says.

“Now that that has lifted, perhaps they’re in more of a position to start putting their careers first and having more of a laser focus on their own development.”

When it comes to accepting a new job, the money is as important as ever, if not more so, says Jolly. She notes that includes factors like annual pay reviews or anything else that can help with the cost of living.

Also on the money front, Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, which surveyed more than 22,000 people in 44 countries, found that interest in part-time jobs is on the rise for younger workers. However, most don’t believe it’s a realistic option because they can’t afford the pay cut.

The study found that although work is central to their identify, work/life balance is their top consideration when choosing a new employer. And 75 per cent of respondents working in remote or hybrid roles would consider quitting if their employer asked them to go on-site full time.

Gen Z and millennial workers also place a high importance on organisations that walk the talk on environmental sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental sustainability, the survey shows.

More autonomy

Nadine O’Regan, of TQSolutions, says workers are still keen on flexibility, but it’s not as simple as just allowing someone to work from home.

“It is about giving employees the autonomy to choose when and where you work that resonates more,” she says. “Employees want to be treated like adults.”

O’Regan notes companies that insist on mandating office attendance may struggle to attract and retain talent in such a competitive landscape.

And it’s the human aspect of work that most employees are focused on right now, she says, rather than “tangible benefits like onsite gyms, free breakfasts, and table tennis tables in the break room”.

And while hybrid working is now mainstream, employees want it to be supported by digital tools for collaboration and engagement. “They don’t want to feel isolated when working away from the office,” she says.

A common theme is that workers want to work at companies who offer more than just a career. Lifestyle considerations are essential, says Lauren Karan, director and recruitment specialist at Karan & Co.

“Post-COVID, there has been a lot of reflection around the type of lifestyle people are looking for,” she says. “Now companies are needing to be much more creative in the ways that they package their benefits to attract people in a skills shortage.”

Lifestyle factors

Some examples she has seen include employers offering a $10,000 sign-on bonus to new staff members, or a fuel card for employees who travel long distances to work. Other companies have offered staff the option to work remotely from overseas for a month, while still getting paid their full-time salary.

One single dad negotiated to work from home every second week to be with his son.

Karan says workers also want to know more about a company’s future strategies, given the economic challenges at play.

And amid cost-of-living pressures, employees realise that if they’re not receiving a pay rise equivalent to inflation, then they’re most likely going backwards.

Other perks in hot demand?

A company’s commitment to investing in an employee’s continued professional development. Many parents also want the option of working from home during school holidays.

Karan says attracting talent is “not a one-size-fits-all approach”.

“But jobseekers are now approaching a new role with the lens of ‘what’s in it for me?’ and companies that really focus on their employee value proposition are the ones winning the war for talent.”

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