Echoing reports of ongoing labor shortages, a new survey confirms that a vast majority of organizations are facing extreme difficulty finding and retaining qualified workers. But, the survey reveals, that these challenges are no longer being driven solely by a lack of manual services workers, as previous trends have indicated. Rather, office workers are now significantly harder to both find and retain than just one year ago.

According to a news release, The Conference Board survey found that 84 percent of organizations hiring professional and office workers are struggling to find talent, an increase from 60 percent in April 2021. And the percentage of organizations struggling to retain office workers more than doubled in the last year, from 28 percent to 64 percent.

The survey of more than 175 US Human Resource executives also underscores the staying power of remote and hybrid work, including the use of these work models to address hiring challenges. For example, organizations willing to hire fully remote workers have increased six-fold since the start of the pandemic.

This marks the fourth survey in the Reimagined Workplace series, which explores the long-term impacts of the pandemic on both the workforce and the workplace. Insights from the survey include:

Office workers are becoming harder to find and retain.

  • 84 percent of organizations hiring professional and office workers are struggling to find talent, up from 60 percent in April 2021.
    • That’s compared to 81 percent of those struggling to hire industry and manual services workers, a rate similar to that of the April 2021 survey (80 percent).
  • 64 percent of organizations with mostly professional and office workers report difficulty retaining talent, more than doubling from 28 percent in April 2021.
    • 73 percent of organizations with mostly industry and manual workers report difficulty retaining talent, a significant increase from 49 percent last year.

There’s been a six-fold increase in the hiring of fully remote workers.

  • Half (49 percent) of organizations are willing to hire fully virtual employees, up from only 8 percent prepandemic.
  • 38 percent still prefer to hire remote employees who can occasionally commute into the office.

Just four percent of companies are requiring full-time, on-site work.

  • Only four percent of organizations are requiring all workers to return full-time.
  • 90 percent are now allowing hybrid work.
  • 60 percent made working completely remotely optional.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen headline after headline focus on the dwindling supply of manual and trade services workers. But our most recent survey reveals that office and professional workers have become a scarcer commodity,” said Robin Erickson, Ph.D., vice president, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “To remain competitive, companies should further leverage hybrid and fully-remote work arrangements, the latter of which has increased six-fold over the last year.”

Productivity has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic—especially with remote work.

  • 62 percent of organizations with primarily remote workers reported productivity increases.
  • That’s compared to the 47 percent of organizations with employees not working virtually that reported increased productivity.
  • 57 percent of HR leaders overall report they believe that productivity has increased since the start of the pandemic.

Burnout has skyrocketed.

  • 77 percent of surveyed HR leaders reported an increase in employees identified as being burned out, up from 42 percent in September 2020.
  • The number of employees seeking support for mental health, the number of employees identifying as burned-out, the number of hours worked, and the usage of the Employee Assistance Plan all increased.
  • Levels of employee engagement/morale and the number of vacation days used both decreased.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, employee well-being has declined and burnout is on the rise,” said Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “To retain workers, HR leaders will need a strong focus on improving the employee experience. That includes both allowing and encouraging employees to integrate their work and personal lives in a way that works best for them.”

Company culture is rapidly changing.

  • 64 percent of respondents report that their organizational culture has changed since the start of the pandemic, an increase of 15 percent since April 2021.
  • Collaborative technology, genuine caring by managers, transparent communication by leaders, and commitment to corporate social responsibility have changed for the better in over 70 percent of surveyed organizations.
  • Over 60 percent of organizations think that the quality of leadership, commitment to innovation, articulation of mission and purpose, and an inclusive environment have changed for the better.
  • However, 25 percent report the level of trust between leaders and employees has changed for the worse.

Source: The Conference Board