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Employees are trickling back into the office, loosening up on their workplace priorities, and holding onto their current jobs, according to Morning Consult’s new State of Workers 2023 report.

Morning Consult surveyed 6,610 American adults to learn how the workforce and its preferences and priorities are changing as we enter the third year of the pandemic.

Workers waver on job priorities, but will still leave for better pay, work-life balance

Overall, Morning Consult’s survey showed little change in the number of adults who started a new job over the past year (17% compared to 15% in 2022), quit (12%, unchanged from 2022), were laid off (8% compared to 6%), and were put on leave (6% compared to 4%). Not surprisingly though, younger generations are experiencing more changes as they adjust to work life — Gen Z adults were much more likely to have started a new job (39%), quit or resigned (28%), and switched industries or professions (21%). 

Among salaried and hourly workers who left jobs within the past year, most said it was because they found a more suitable job or experienced a toxic work environment. Employed caregivers, however, cited low pay as their top reason for leaving. 

But more workers plan to stay in their jobs in 2023, amid economic uncertainties and mass layoffs in the news. Only 34% of workers are considering leaving their jobs this year, down from 43% last year. Those who say they’re interested in switching jobs cite lack of pay (46%) and work-life balance (39%) as their top reasons. For Gen Z, a toxic work environment was a primary reason for wanting a new job.

When considering their next job, workers are willing to bend on all their priorities a bit more than last year, particularly when it comes to working remotely. Still, their highest priorities continue to be competitive pay, a good vacation/paid time off policy, and a healthy work-life balance. Gen Z adults are an exception — considerations like workforce diversity and education and health benefits became more of a priority for them this year. 

Remote work challenges may bring more employees back to the office

For some employees, remote work seems to be falling out of favor. The share of Americans who do most of their work remotely fell from 27% in January 2022 to 23% in January 2023. The number of those who prefer remote work also dropped slightly (from 29% to 27%). 

While remote work certainly had its perks during the early months of the pandemic, a greater portion of remote workers now find it more difficult to do things like communicate with co-workers and managers, get feedback on their performance, and receive opportunities for promotions. More employees are also struggling to stay focused and produce high quality work while working away from the office. 

That said, although preferences for in-person work have inched up, there’s still a considerable difference in the percentage of those who work in-office (63%, up from 60%) and those who prefer that setting (46%, up from 43%). This could be because 46% of employed adults said they didn’t have the option to work remotely in their line of work. 

For those who do like in-person work, top reasons include improved productivity and the ability to separate work and home life. In addition, Gen Z is leaning toward in-person work more so than other generations — 44% said they preferred to work in person, compared to 39% of all employed adults. Gen Z was also more likely than other generations to say communicating with their manager was more difficult while working remotely (32% compared to 26% for all employed adults).

There was also a greater preference for hybrid work than those currently working in a hybrid situation (25% compared to 12%) this year, indicating that many Americans would appreciate the ability to work in both settings.

Employees are generally happy with their jobs, but growing weary of long hours

The vast majority of workers said they’re satisfied with their jobs overall (81%), followed by their level of flexibility (79%) and their co-workers (75%). Areas of improvement may be the amount of remote work and the promotion process, as only about half (54%) of employees are satisfied with these areas of their job. 

However, long hours are taking a toll on employees’ home lives — 58% worked more than 35 hours a week in 2023, up from 52% in 2022. This percentage is even higher for salaried employees (70%, up from 60% in 2022). And long hours are contributing to burnout — nearly three-quarters (73%) of all surveyed adults said they’re too tired after work to enjoy their personal lives, more so for Gen Z workers (81%) and employed caregivers (77%).

Despite the long hours, most adults (91%) say they feel engaged at work. However, fewer Gen Zers (84%) feel the same. 

Gen Z is also more likely to show signs of “quiet quitting,” like using a phone or work device for nonwork (59% compared to 52% of all adults), leaving or logging off from work early (48% compared to 41%), and taking long breaks (40% compared to 33%). Part of the reason for this disengagement could be that 27% of Gen Z workers say their current job doesn’t align well with their career goals (compared to 21% of all adults). 

For more insights into how today’s employees feel about work, see Morning Consult’s full report