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Companies reinvent rules as workers seek flexibility

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Millions of Americans are quitting their jobs and rethinking what they want when it comes to work and work-life balance. Companies are responding, meeting their employees’ needs in areas like remote work, flexible hours, four-day workweeks, compensation and more. This story is part of a series looking at the “Great Reshuffle” and the shift in workplace culture that is taking place right now.

There’s a movement underway in companies across the country.

Perks like remote work, flexibility and four-day workweeks are popping up in job postings to help employers stand out during the “Great Resignation,” also known as the “The Great Reshuffle.”

It’s what LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report calls a “watershed moment” for company culture. Employees are demanding, and often getting more freedom in work hours and location, as well as more attention to their well-being.

“The contract between employees and employers is being rewritten,” said Jennifer Shappley, global head of talent acquisition for LinkedIn.

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“What employees used to accept is no longer acceptable to them,” she added. “When they aren’t feeling care and love from their employers, they are leaving.”

More than 47 million people walked away from their jobs last year, according to the US Department of Labor. While the trend slowed in December, some experts anticipate it will accelerate in the new year, after year-end bonuses and the holiday season.

Many employers are saying they haven’t seen anything like this in all their years of hiring, said Julia Pollack, chief economist at job-search site ZipRecruiter.

They have also been slow to respond, thinking the slew of resignations would be temporary. They now know that is not the case, she said.

“Employers are at a huge disadvantage and are not going to be able to fill all the vacancies they want to fill,” Pollack said.

“What that is causing this is a total rethink of how to incentivize employees and how to retain existing employees.”

It turns out, what job-seekers want most is work-life balance, LinkedIn’s report found, with 63% calling it a top priority when picking a new job. In comparison, 60% cited compensation and benefits and 40% pointed to colleagues and culture.

Some companies, like Bolt, The Wanderlust Group and Buffer, moved to four-day workweeks when the pandemic hit and haven’t looked back. Others are allowing employees to work from anywhere and many are planning larger pay increases this year.

There has also been a focus on mental health, with more than three-quarters of employers citing mental and behavioral issues as the main focus to improve workers’ well-being over the next three years, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson. Offerings include access to therapists, coaching and wellness and meditation apps.

To be sure, the shift in culture is evident in job postings on LinkedIn, with an increase in references to culture, well-being and flexibility being seen.

It’s a similar story on other job websites.

“We’ve seen a very rapid spike in the kinds of keywords in job postings that indicate that companies are prepared to offer very attractive incentives and much more flexibility and to pamper their employees much more,” said ZipRecruiter’s Pollack.

A turning point

Pollack sees the “Great Reshuffle” as a turning point in the way we work for several reasons. For one, there will likely be persistent labor shortages for a long time, thanks to the pandemic-induced acceleration in baby-boomer retirements, lower birth rates and reduced immigration, she said.

Then there is the proliferation of remote work since the start of the pandemic, which gives workers many more options for employment than before. Career site Ladders is predicting 25% of high-paying jobs will be available remotely by the end of the year.

We’ve seen a very rapid spike in the kinds of keywords in job postings that indicate that companies are prepared to offer very attractive incentives and much more flexibility.

Julia Pollack

Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter

Plus, there’s been a change in the economic narrative of low-wage workers, who typically underestimate their earning potential, Pollack explained.

“That psychology has been disrupted by this pandemic because not only are companies raising wages and benefits, they are screaming from the rooftops … ‘we will hire anyone who shows up,'” she said.

It’s not just for employees

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When workers are happy, it has a direct result on what they bring to the workplace. In fact, they are 13% more productive when happy, according to research by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

Employees who are satisfied with their company’s time and location flexibility are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working at the company, according to LinkedIn’s data.

Those who feel cared for at work are 3.2 times more likely to be happy there and 3.7 times more likely to recommend their employer as a place to work, LinkedIn found.

Advice for job seekers

If you are looking to jump ship for another job, make sure you land at one that will give you what you’re looking for. While researching companies and the benefits they offer is important, also look for those that are sharing about their culture on social media or online, suggests LinkedIn’s Shappley.

Yet it is more than just using buzzwords. They should be sharing stories that are highlighting their employees.

“That is a great indicator that they are putting talent first,” she said.

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