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Telework clashes, burnout, and strikes. Employees still aren’t OK.

2024’s business priority: Employee retention & workplace flexibility

By Melissa Jezior

With the pandemic largely in our rearview mirror, you might think some of the workforce issues facing employers would also be long gone. But perhaps the opposite is true. 

Take the return-to-office debate. As tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Salesforce issued policies requiring employees to return to the office, workers responded with walkouts and petitions. And the federal government’s move to “aggressively execute” more in-office work has ignited clashes with federal employee unions

Try as they might, it seems employers will have a hard time putting the remote work genie back in the bottle. Despite their efforts, office attendance in big cities is barely half of what it was in 2019.

Flexibility is poised to be 2024’s top competitive advantage 

As organizations continue to evolve their hybrid work policies, it’s important they proactively solicit employee input to maintain engagement, build trust, and ultimately drive retention. 

However, Eagle Hill Consulting’s research on workplace flexibility finds that there’s a definite disconnect, with less than a third of workers saying they’ve been asked to weigh in on the topic. This is a potentially costly oversight as nearly half (47%) of all U.S. workers say they would consider looking for a new job should their employer reduce hybrid work flexibility.

Related to remote/hybrid work, has your organization asked for your input on what you’d like?

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting Workplace Flexibility Survey

The key to success is giving employees flexibility by engaging with them on their work preferences and coming up with solutions that work for both the employer and employee. Organizations that do so are poised to become the undisputed employers of choice, attracting and retaining the cream of the crop when it comes to talent.

Employee burnout is still problematic 

We’ve tracked employee burnout since early 2020. Our most recent research finds that worker burnout is still alarmingly high, with 45% of U.S. employees saying they are burnt out. Burnout levels remain highest for younger workers and women.  

Workers who experience burnout say juggling personal and professional life is one of the top causes. Not surprisingly, they say a four-day work week, increased flexibility, and continuing to work from home would alleviate their stress. It’s important for organizations to consider this feedback as they navigate their return-to-office policies, less they risk further inflaming burnout. 

45%

of U.S. workers report burnout

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting Workforce Burnout Survey

There are pragmatic ways employers can address burnout—from shifting workloads to innovating around work schedules. The key to success here is to actively engage with workers to understand their levels of burnout, the root causes, and remedies. That means don’t guess. Instead, gather qualitative and quantitative burnout information from employees, then develop a specific action plan with metrics.

Worker strikes surge

Also notable in 2023 was the prevalence of worker protests. The strike against the Big Three Automakers dominated the headlines, followed closely by the writers and actors strikes, and some 75,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses and doctors walking off the job. The year also saw striking UPS drivers, airline pilots, hotel and casino workers, aerospace employees, and teachers. 

Overall, striking employees were successful, winning concession like higher pay, improved benefits, increased staffing, more job training, or better working conditions. Some experts predict that these trends could spread across the U.S. workforce. 

Will 2023 issues translate into higher attrition in 2024?

With all the worker issues employers faced in 2023, will this mean continued problems retaining top talent in 2024? It very well could, especially given the chronically tight labor market and other economic drivers. It is no easy task for employers to forecast whether their workers plan to stay in their jobs or head for the exit.   

But in early 2024, employers will have a new tool that for the first time provides early signals of U.S. workers’ likelihood to leave or stay at their job. 

In the coming days, we will launch the groundbreaking Eagle Hill Consulting Employee Retention Index. This indicator will give employers advance signals as to when they can expect employees to stay or go, and insight into what is driving those decisions. We can’t reveal our 2024 forecast just yet… so stay tuned and we’ll share our new Employee Retention Index with you soon. 

In the meantime, be sure to solicit input from your employees, and keep close tabs on your workers’ thoughts on workplace flexibility and burnout. Though these issues may seem like a thing of the past, the concerns in your rearview mirror may be closer than they appear.

Wishing you health, happiness, and resilience in 2024.

Melissa Jezior's signature

Melissa Jezior
President and CEO, Eagle Hill Consulting