Companies that are mandating employees return to the office after two years of distributed work due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be bringing upon elevated levels of stress and anxiety, according to new search from Future Forum.
The Future Forum Pulse survey, commissioned by workplace communication firm Slack, found that more than a third (34%) of knowledge workers have begun working from the office five days a week, the most since the survey began tracking that metric in June 2020.
Due to that shift, employee experience scores are dropping significantly, with work-related stress and anxiety worsening by 28% compared with last quarter, while work-life balance dropped 17% quarter over quarter, the survey found.
Full-time office workers who responded to the survey reported the steepest declines when compared to hybrid and remote workers. Per the survey, the decline in work-life balance was twice as worse as flexible workers, and the decline in satisfaction with their working environment was 1.6-times worse for in-office workers. In addition, the survey reported a 1.5-times worsening work-related stress and anxiety in full-time office workers.
In the U.S., work-life balance is at an all-time low, while work-related stress and anxiety is at an all-time high since the survey began. This correlates to a rise in the percentage (34%) of employees working full-time in the office, which was just 30% a few months ago in November 2021. The percentage of employees working in hybrid arrangements has also shifted, dropping from over 50% to 45%.
Those shifts come despite the fact that 68% of all knowledge workers who responded to the survey said they prefer hybrid work.
According to the survey, work-life balances are 40% worse than their bosses, suggesting the existence of a double standard with executives demanding employees come back to work and further widening the executive-employee disconnect.
Just 21% of all knowledge workers (both executives and non-executives) say they want to work in the office full-time, but non-executives are nearly two-times more likely than executives to actually be working in the office full-time. Further, 35% of non-executives are making the commute to work each weekday, but just 19% of executives are doing the same.
The survey also discovered that workers not only want location flexibility (79%), but also schedule flexibility, with 94% saying they want more say in when they work, not just where. More than half of workers say their employer doesn’t provide flexible working hours, and 65% don’t have the ability to adjust their hours from a pre-set schedule.
Knowledge workers without the ability to set their own hours report a worse work-life balance, worsening work-related stress and anxiety and worse burnout, the report finds.
In a statement, Brian Elliot, executive leader of Future Forum, said leaders need to move away from dictating days in the office and rigid schedules and focus on aligning their teams around a common purpose and leading by example.
“Trusting your teams with the flexibility to work where and when works best for them will lead to better business results and happier employees,” Elliot said.
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