US employees unhappier than during height of pandemic

Recent survey findings suggest dissatisfaction among U.S. workers is climbing and has surpassed levels reported in 2020.

This year alone, job-satisfaction scores fell about 10%, according to data analyzed by BambooHR and cited by The Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 26 report. The same set of data, based on surveys of more than 57,000 workers, shows employee satisfaction scores have fallen to their lowest point since early 2020. 

Meanwhile, Alight Solutions, a company focused on benefits and payroll, surveyed 2,000 U.S. employees this year and found 34% dread starting their workday — up 11% since 2020. 

Employees' worsening discontent comes despite pay increases and more flexibility with where they work, leaving some business leaders wondering what it will take to turn the trend around.

"All that extra spend has not translated into happier employees," Stephen Scholl, CEO of Alight Solutions, told the Journal. He noted that many of the Fortune 100 companies Alight works with increased spending on employee benefits such as well-being bonuses and mental health by 20% throughout the last few years.

Inflation, policies shifting workers back to the office and frustration with the uncertain job market are some of the factors driving workers' discontent. The news outlet interviewed workers across the U.S. and reported that some are frustrated with isolating aspects of remote work. On the opposite end, other workers said they find little benefit in return-to-office policies, citing minimal collaboration and long commutes. Newer workers have also reported feeling unsupported and lower levels of engagement compared to longer-tenured workers. 

Some experts say the distance between bosses and staff may also be a factor. Moshe Cohen, a mediation and negotiation coach, said he has noticed more employees referring to their bosses or employees as toxic — a sign that trust is eroding, particularly when long distance is involved. 

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