Stress, anxiety prevalent globally as pandemic-induced remote work ends – HR Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Employees who moved to remote work at some point during the pandemic are showing signs of stress and anxiety as their employers implement reopening plans, according to the results of a survey published April 27 by employee experience software firm Limeade.
  • The company found every employee respondent who worked from home during the pandemic and who had previously worked on-site — 100% — had some anxiety about returning to the office. Of those, 77% said they were concerned about COVID-19 exposure, while 71% were concerned about having less flexibility. Limeade said its final sample included 4,553 full-time employees in France, Germany, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.
  • Other results showed employees had concerns about employers heeding their worries, in addition to their own health and safety. For example, 56% said their organization had not asked about their feedback regarding return-to-work policies and procedures. Meanwhile, 82% said their personal health and safety, and that of their families, is their “top source of stress” this year.

Dive Insight:

HR leaders are already seeing high-profile employers transition away from the remote work plans they adopted during the pandemic’s earlier months. This week, investment bank Goldman Sachs announced U.S.-based employees would be required to work in-office by mid-June, Reuters reported. Others in the financial sector are taking similar approaches.

That push could run straight up against worker sentiment in many sectors. About one-third of remote employees surveyed in March by Robert Half said they would seek new job opportunities in the event that their employers asked them to return to the office full-time, even as a small segment worried about the impact of remote work on their relationships with co-workers. Similarly, a recent Prudential survey found 42% of remote workers would job hunt if their employers refused to offer remote work options long-term.

It may also run counter to workers’ own expectations about flexibility post-pandemic. An April 2020 survey by OnePoll and Citrix found more than one-third of respondents believed employers would be more open to remote work after the pandemic.

In addition to the talent and safety considerations present in reopening considerations, HR teams also may need to take into account the compliance risks of extending remote work as an option for employees. Those risks can range from local leave and notice-posting requirements to business registration processes for tax purposes, according to sources who previously spoke to HR Dive. In some cases, employers have diverged on the question of whether employees who relocate while taking advantage of remote work policies will see pay cuts.