New SHRM research released today at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2023 suggests the post-pandemic workplace has become somewhat less collaborative and engaged than before, posing risks to employees’ well-being. The most obvious current risk is burnout, which is more widespread among onsite employees compared to those working in remote or hybrid structures. In addition, only 1 in 10 HR professionals and 1 in 4 workers report a decrease in loneliness over the past three years.
Given these potential implications for the workplace, SHRM Research sought to explore the prevalence of employee loneliness and the importance of social interactions from the perspectives of both HR professionals and U.S. workers. Data was collected between November 2022 and January 2023.
Many CEOs believe that spontaneous social interactions among co-workers, particularly those from different workgroups, are important for building collaboration and creativity. Some large corporations have even designed their buildings to promote instances of employees unexpectedly encountering and talking with each other. SHRM Research describes these types of interactions as “casual collisions.”
“This new research shows that Generation Z and Millennial workers tend to experience more frequent loneliness and also to value casual collisions more than working adults in general,” said Annemarie Schaefer, vice president of SHRM Research. “While no work structure is immune to worker loneliness, the data does suggest that unplanned, in-person interactions positively influence employees’ mental health. Remote workforces are also vulnerable because they are physically isolated and less likely to identify their co-workers as friends.”
Compared to onsite workforces (24 percent), remote workforces (35 percent) are significantly more likely to report that their isolation from co-workers has increased. However, they are not more likely to believe they are disconnected from work colleagues or are left out of important work conversations. In fact, they are significantly less likely to feel left out of their workgroup. Yet, they also are twice as likely as onsite workers to say they rarely participate in casual collisions (20 percent to 43 percent) and a third more likely to say they do not consider their co-workers to be friends (21 percent to 13 percent). Not having friends at work may have important consequences for workplace cohesion.
Remote workforces (25 percent) are about twice as likely as onsite (12 percent) or hybrid (14 percent) workforces to report that their environment is less collaborative now than it was pre-pandemic. Although 65 percent of HR professionals state that collaboration is critical for success in their workplace, only 42 percent say managers promote teamwork and only 23 percent say workstations are designed for collaborative work.
Additional key findings include:
- When asked whether their work/life balance has improved over the past three years, 70 percent of workers agree this is at least somewhat true.
- More than one-third of employees report feeling greater burnout from their work today compared to three years ago. Additionally, SHRM data suggests that burnout rates are fairly consistent across generations, with 35 percent of all workers versus 36 percent of Millennial and Generation Z workers reporting burnout.
- Exactly 1 in 3 HR professionals agree that their workforce overall is somewhat or much less engaged now than before the pandemic. This finding aligns with the idea that 35 percent of employees are burned out.
- Yet, when SHRM asked workers about their feelings, 86 percent reported feeling at least as engaged as they were in 2019. Asking the question the other way around—that is, how disengagement has changed—yielded similar results. Nearly 8 in 10 workers feel disengagement has either stayed the same or improved.
- 80 percent of HR professionals said they believe the workforce is as productive or more productive today compared to before the pandemic.
- When HR professionals were asked how common loneliness is among their workforce, slightly more than one-third (35 percent) feel it is more common now than it was before the pandemic.
- Workers were asked specifically whether they felt more or less lonely at work.
- Almost 8 in 10 say they feel no lonelier at work now compared to three years ago. Importantly, there are no significant differences in reports of loneliness between onsite versus remote workforces.
- About one-quarter of HR professionals believe that high levels of collaboration have become more characteristic of their workplaces over the course of the pandemic.
- The same percentage of workers (24 percent) report a higher level of collaboration now, while the majority of workers (62 percent) believe collaboration levels have remained unchanged.
- Among the 24 percent of workers who report that their mental well-being has improved, almost half also report experiencing casual collisions more often now.
- On the flip side, among the 20 percent of workers who report that their mental well-being has declined, nearly half state they participate in fewer casual collisions now.
View the full report here: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Pages/Loneliness-Report.aspx
HR professionals: A sample of 1,357 HR professionals who have worked for their current employer for more than three years was surveyed using the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel in November and December 2022. The data was weighted to reflect the population of U.S. organizations. U.S. workers: A sample of 1,073 working Americans was surveyed in November and December 2022 using AmeriSpeak, NORC, the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. The data was weighted to reflect the population of U.S. working adults. Millennial/Generation Z workers: A sample of 407 U.S. workers born between the years 1981 and 2005 who had worked for their current employer for more than three years was surveyed using the Generation Lab research panel of more than 1.5 million young adults in December 2022 and January 2023. The data was weighted to reflect the population of U.S. adults born during the designated years.