Here’s what workers are thinking, and what they need from their employers, a year into the pandemic

Surveyed workers say that they feel more productive and happy when given the ability to work remotely, but many would reject the deal if it came with a lower salary and no other benefits.

By Ted Kitterman      @tedkitkat      
What workers want now from employers

As employers consider the future of work, including remote employee and hybrid work environments, many employees are rejecting any trade off that might lead to a reduced salary.

It’s a proposition that has been floated by some companies, such as tech realty outfit Redfin, as an option for workers who have moved out of expensive cities and want to stay in a remote location after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. However, workers aren’t so keen on the deal.

In research from Talent LMS, 62% of workers in a survey said they would not accept a 10% pay cut to keep working remotely.

(image via Talent LMS)

However, the survey makes a distinction when it comes to how employees feel valued by their organizations. Workers who are offered remote training were more likely (45%) to accept a pay cut than workers who weren’t offered training (30%).

“This difference suggests that employees who feel they’re being invested in by their companies are willing to give up financial compensation for other perks or work-related benefits, whereas those who feel less valued are unwilling to do the same,” the survey states.

Staying motivated

During the ongoing pandemic and semi-permanent remote work, staying motivated is a challenge for many employees. However, Talent LMS suggests that wellness directors can play an important role in helping remote workers feel inspired.

When asked, employees said that listening to music (66%), chatting with a colleague (49%) and exercising (46%) were all top motivators. Communicators and wellness pros can think about ways to incorporate these elements into virtual work experiences to help bolster morale.

When to engage

What are the best times of day to engage remote workers? The biggest segment of employees say their peak productivity is before lunch (40%) or morning (31%).  For communicators and wellness pros looking to lead activities or connect across the organization, the data suggests that earlier in the day will grab more attention—but might also interfere with other important work duties.

(image via Talent LMS)

Perking up with perks

What are the top things employers can offer (besides a pay rise) that will help remote workers feel appreciated and seen during COVID-19?

The survey reveals how employees feel about that, too. The No. 1 perk that workers said they wanted was a stipend to improve their home office. The second most-popular request was a meal allowance to order a lunch delivery. A little more than half (53%) said they would appreciate a subscription to a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu and 49% wanted a gift basket of office supplies.

(image via Talent LMS)

Offering training

Fifty-eight percent of employees said they would like training courses during remote work. But what kind of training are workers looking for? One area that has become popular during the pandemic and extended WFH is emotional resilience training, with companies like Google offering videos and resources around relaxation techniques, breathing and other mental-health exercises.

However, upskilling is a pervasive problem that goes beyond wellness alone. Gartner has identified employee retraining as one of the top priorities for HR leaders in 2021 as the pandemic has revealed a deep need for new skills across organizations.

“Many employees aren’t learning the right new skills—for their personal development or the benefit of the organization,” Gartner states. “HR leaders need to adopt a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying talent, one in which all impacted stakeholders work together and find ways to develop skills as new needs arise. Currently, only 21% of HR leaders say peers share accountability or partner with HR to determine future skill needs.”

The apprenticeship model

One option for organizations looking to improve their training and upskill offerings is to create an apprentice or mentorship program within the organization to tap the expertise of senior pros. It’s a model that works for Chicago’s Alliance Labs, a production and web-design company led by Jon Schickedanz. “For our business, we decided that educating our team would be a fundamental value and it would serve as a datapoint in the measurement of our success,” Schickedanz says. “But building an apprenticeship program doesn’t stop at the initial vision. You also need to have somebody on your team whose job depends on the mentorship program’s success or it’s never going to drive any value.”

The Alliance Labs program has become an essential tool for helping the organization tackle the problem of diversity, equity and inclusion, offering opportunities to young pros from underprivileged backgrounds. “Right now, corporate America’s talent pipeline is completely unresponsive to the needs of employers,” Schickedanz says. “So business owners need to be thinking about how to deal with this basic economic inequity—and how to change it.”

His organization partners with other organizations that are trying to nurture young, underserved demographics. He recommends such partnerships as a great way to find untapped talent. “There are a ton of nonprofits serving the BIPOC community in every major city, and my advice is to find one,” he says. “If you can’t find one—start one. It’s time that big businesses become an active part of preparing and recruiting talented people to work for them.”