The workplace is changing, and so is the way employees feel about their jobs. While some are reluctant to let go of remote work benefits, others are eager to get back to the office. And essential workers have finally earned the recognition they deserve.

In the research report “The Future for Workers, By Workers: Making the Next Normal Better for All,” ManpowerGroup shares the results of a global survey to find out what employees value about their work and what changes they hope to see in the future. 

Mixed feelings about returning to the workplace 

The general consensus is that remote work, at least in some capacity, will continue for non-essential jobs. According to ManpowerGroup’s research, more than four in 10 employees think the standard 9-to-5 workday is coming to an end, and they’d prefer to spend just two or three days at the workplace.

Working from home has afforded employees more time and flexibility, better work-life balance, and, of course, health and safety during the pandemic. Yet there are things employees miss about being in the workplace — like opportunities to socialize (30%) and collaborate (29%) with colleagues in person.

Overall, feelings about coming back to the workplace vary by demographic:

  • Gen Z, Boomer, and Gen X generations were most likely to feel optimistic about returning to the workplace. Conversely, Millennials, especially parents, were most likely to have negative feelings. 
  • Employees in Italy were the most confident, while those in Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. were most nervous.
  • Employees of large companies had the most concerns about virus exposure but were more likely to feel positive about returning. 

The impact on women and parents

While men expressed more confidence and eagerness to return to the office, women were more likely to be concerned. They were also more likely to be laid off — 12% of women were furloughed, compared to 10% of men — and many have dropped out of the workforce altogether.

ManpowerGroup also cites that women are overrepresented in the heaviest-hit sectors: accommodation and food services (59%), administration and business services (54%), and clerical roles, arts, and entertainment (63%).

With children home from school, parents are struggling, too. Here’s what they said matters most to them:

  • At the workplace, parents value the physical separation between work and home life, the in-person interaction with colleagues, and the comfortable and distraction-free environment.
  • While working at home, parents like avoiding the commute, having more time to spend with their families, and having flexible work schedules.
  • In the future, working parents would like to have more remote work options, job security, and career development opportunities.

Different skills, different outlooks

Most workers share the same priorities — including keeping their jobs, developing their careers, and staying healthy. But ManpowerGroup’s research found that outcomes varied by skillset. 

Employees with in-demand skills (e.g., cybersecurity, business transformation, accountancy, and sales) reported greater job security, flexibility, and salary increases. On the other hand, those with declining skills (e.g., hospitality, entertainment, retail, and grocery) were more likely to experience layoffs and unemployment, reduced pay and hours, and concerns about virus exposure.

In-demand skills

Technical skills like cybersecurity, software development, and data analysis have rapidly grown in demand during these uncertain times. Demand for human skills — like the soft skills that rose up with remote work — has also accelerated.

Essential skills

Essential employees — those working in healthcare, manufacturing, grocery, and other vital industries — have felt more valued, supported, and celebrated this year. More than 75% of survey respondents believed essential workers should receive higher pay, and 25% thought increased pay should continue beyond the pandemic.

ManpowerGroup closed its report with some recommendations for businesses. Actions like embracing flexible schedules, encouraging remote learning, and prioritizing emotional wellness can help companies align the future of the workplace with what employees want.