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MainStreet Macro: People at Work: A three-year lookback

April 24, 2023 | read time icon 5 min

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For the past three years, the ADP Research Institute has been talking to workers across the globe to learn about their on-the-job experiences before, during and after the pandemic. Last week we released our latest report in this series, our People at Work Survey

Every year, we survey more than 32,000 people in 17 countries across Europe, Asia, Latin America, and North America, asking them about their confidence and job security, workplace conditions, pay and performance, mobility, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

It’s been quite a journey. This year, trends unearthed by earlier People at Work observations offer perspective and context for 2023.

2021: Workers were shaken

Nearly two-thirds of workers we surveyed in 2020 told us that the pandemic lockdown had affected them professionally. Twenty-eight percent said they’d lost a job, were furloughed, or suffered a temporary layoff. Almost one in four took a pay cut or reported reduced hours or responsibilities.

Despite the major upheaval in their professional lives, workers saw a silver lining. When asked what impact the pandemic would have on work in the next three years, more than half of the global workforce cited both greater flexibility at work and more opportunity to develop their skills.

2022: Workers were on the move

After the initial shock of the pandemic, workers worldwide had a year of reflection. In the U.S., 7 in 10 said they had contemplated a major career move in 2021, and there was a sense that they were questioning what job security actually meant.

Personal wellbeing and life outside work were key areas of focus and intensified employees’ desire for better working conditions, including greater flexibility and remote work options.

Mental health stood out as a growing workplace issue, with 67 percent of workers reporting that they felt stressed at work at least once a week. In one staggering finding, more than half of workers we surveyed said that stress was affecting their job performance.

Workers also told us that their companies were reacting. Employers created more flexible working arrangements, offered mental health resources, and made other efforts to retain their people.

2023: Workers shifted their focus

Which brings us to this year’s findings.

In contrast with our last People at Work survey, career advancement and on-the-job joy outshined flexibility on the list of workplace priorities in 2022.

About 3 in 10 workers we surveyed in October and November said flexibility in hours was important and, as in the previous year, also said when they worked was more important than where. Employees with hybrid working arrangements were more satisfied with their jobs overall.

That finding feeds into the broader narrative that has been building since our survey began. People want a supportive, inclusive and empowering workplace culture, where they’re engaged with their companies and looked after. Notably, 1 in 5 workers said that an inclusive company culture is a key plank of their employer’s support for a positive workplace.

Expectations around pay have also increased. On average, workers reported receiving a 6.4 percent pay increase in the past year. This year, they’re expecting more – 8.3 percent.

Putting it all together

Three years after the pandemic disrupted our lives and jobs, worker priorities worldwide are shifting, but a trend has emerged.

Employees today want a caring workplace culture, one that includes progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, flexibility on work hours and work locations, and training opportunities to help them stay motivated in their careers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but employers looking to retain and engage their employees need to understand their evolving needs.