As 2022 drew to a close, Workhuman’s Human Workplace Index surveyed employees to understand what their regrets are for the past year and what they’re hopeful for heading into 2023. When asked what their workplace regrets were in 2022, workers say work-life balance is a major regret. Adding onto that theme, letting work overshadow their lives showed up often as well. In fact, more than a third of workers (34.3%) said they regretted working too much, a quarter (25.6%) said they regretted not setting boundaries, 13.7% thought they didn’t work enough and 11.3% said they regretted chasing only money.
On a positive note, workers’ predictions for 2023 proved to be rooted in action and positivity. In fact, 40.7% predicted their work-life balance would improve, in contrast to the 21.1% of respondents saying otherwise. Beyond that, 29.2% predicted that workers will be more vocal about what they want to see in the workplace, while 8.3% thought to the contrary, while 21.3% believe creating connections with colleagues will become easier.
I spoke by email with Dr. Meisha-ann Martin, senior director of people analytics at Workhuman. She says the findings that work-life balance was top-of-mind for the new year wasn’t surprising. “More than a third regretted working too much, and over a quarter regretted not setting boundaries. That said, the onus of establishing a healthy work-life balance should never fall entirely on the employees,” she notes. “Companies need to foster environments in which employees feel empowered to take time off, ask for flexibility, and get assistance where needed. That said, an unlimited PTO policy– what many companies might consider a ‘quick fix’ for burnout—doesn’t necessarily mean employees will feel comfortable taking the recovery time they need. The work isn’t just in offering the time and benefits but ensuring employees feel supported enough to take advantage of them.”
Employers are expected to provide physically safe work environments that are free of bullying and harassment. But where does the employer’s responsibility begin and end? According to recent data, almost a third of employers felt that they were responsible for the overall well-being of their employees and 80% of polled employees said stress from work impacts their relationships with friends and family outside of work.
Omer Glass, CEO and co-founder of the talent development platform GrowthSpace, believes managers should focus on supporting specific professional needs as opposed to trying to treat the whole person. “In 2023, companies will continue to transition from HR-led programs to more targeted and focused initiatives owned by business line managers,” Glass predicts. “Learning and development (L & D) will resemble sales with the need to A/B test and show value. Managers will be held accountable for return on investment and to show the business impact of L & D on annual recurring revenue and other metrics. In parallel, budgets will shift from generic programs and tools, usually measured by participation or satisfaction to a more focused, surgical approach that will enable them to prove the impact of business metrics. Based on the data from the last recession in 2008, L & D budgets will stay the same or drop 10% max.”
Martin says the good news is that people are hopeful about improving their work-life balance heading into a new year, and over 40% of respondents in Workhuman’s Human Workplace Index said that employers are taking note of worker’s desire for flexibility and humanity in the workplace. “Nearly 30% also think individuals will start to become more vocal about what they want to see in the workplace” she told me. “This point is especially important, as that critical employee feedback is going to be instrumental in driving meaningful change. Employers must be on a mission to listen—otherwise, they may either be perpetuating a harmful status quo, or making changes that don’t align with their employees’ needs. Leaders should shirk notions of ‘survey fatigue’ and voraciously seek feedback from their people, then ensure that feedback translates into action. You want people to jump at the chance to give you feedback, and that means fostering a culture where they feel both safe to do so, and confident that it will result in progress.”
However, running against employees’ hope is an undercurrent of anxiety, Martin noted. “We asked respondents to summarize their expectations in a single word, and while ‘success’ was a highly popular response, so was ‘recession.’ Employees are feeling the pressure of a turbulent economy just as much as, if not more than, businesses. In short, people need more money. Per recent Workhuman iQ data, higher pay was the number one reason employees sought a new job, and Workhuman’s Human Workplace Index revealed that 49% of employees have taken on a side hustle in the past year, with nearly two-thirds doing so because of financial pressures. And while there’s nothing wrong with having a side hustle, when people feel forced to take on extra work because their primary employer isn’t supporting them, that’s a problem. Our data shows that 62% of employees are worried about their job security in the face of a recession, and with anxiety this high, leaders must take this moment as they start a fresh year to ensure their people feel valued, secure and cared for.”