Post-COVID Job Satisfaction: Great Resignation Or Great Regret?

Workers who changed jobs during COVID are now regretting it, suggests a new survey from The Conference Board. Plus, find out which work style is tops with employees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers quit their jobs in droves as part of the “Great Resignation.” Many are now regretting it, according to a new report. U.S. workers who changed jobs since the pandemic are reporting significantly lower job satisfaction than their colleagues who stayed, reveals the new survey from The Conference Board.

What’s causing them to regret their decision? The survey found that leadership and culture saw the greatest gaps in satisfaction between the job switchers and those that stayed put.

Aside from “people issues” moving the needle, money also matters: Higher wages enticed many to take new jobs in the COVID-era. However, those who switched jobs now report less satisfaction with wages, possibly due to inflation taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks.

job satisfaction
Workers who changed jobs since the pandemic began are far less satisfied. (Photo: Adobe Stock / olly)

 

While overall job satisfaction remained virtually unchanged — up 0.4 points to 62.7% — every individual driver of job satisfaction declined. The largest declines were primarily in financial benefits such as bonuses, hard base benefits, wages, and promotions.

“After more than a decade trending upwards, overall U.S. worker job satisfaction may have finally plateaued,” said Allan Schweyer, Principal Researcher, Human Capital, The Conference Board. “To avoid declining job satisfaction, leaders should maintain or improve key drivers such as flexible work arrangements and career development opportunities while ensuring that wages and core benefits remain competitive.”   

Job Satisfaction: A Closer Look

Workers who left their jobs since the pandemic’s onset are much more dissatisfied than those who didn’t, with their overall job satisfaction down 5.6 percentage points, according to the survey. Leadership quality, communications, interest in the work, co-workers, job security are factors contributing to the dissatisfaction.

“While wages and key benefits still matter, workers were more focused on positive work culture and experience. Provided pay and benefits are competitive, leaders will gain the most by offering strong growth opportunities, quality leadership, and work-life balance.”

— Diana Scott, US Human Capital Center Leader, The Conference Board

Newer workers are also less satisfied, with overall satisfaction lowest among those who worked in their current job between six months and three years. Nearly half of those who plan to leave their jobs within six months have been at their jobs fewer than three years. These workers expressed greater intent to leave within the next six months due largely to dissatisfaction with bonuses, promotions, training, recognition, and performance reviews.

Clearly, staying put has benefits: Satisfaction increases substantially once an employee hits the three-year mark. It rose from 58.2% to 63.6% once an employee met the three-year threshold, and continued to increase until employees reached the 10-year mark.

Inflation seems to be playing a role: The largest declines in job satisfaction were primarily in financial benefits such as bonuses, hard base benefits, wages, and promotions. Additionally, workers were more focused on positive work culture and experience in 2023 than they were the previous year.

The hybrid work model is most popular among respondents: Overall job satisfaction for hybrid workers was 65.5%, according to the survey. Fully on-site workers reported the lowest satisfaction at 60.2% while satisfaction for fully remote workers was 64.1%.

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For the sixth year in a row, women are significantly less satisfied across almost all 26 job satisfaction components surveyed. The largest gaps between men and women were related to wages, bonuses, potential for growth, health benefits (including mental health policies), and retirement plans.

“This year’s survey results indicates that job satisfaction is about so much more than wages,” said Diana Scott, US Human Capital Center Leader, The Conference Board. “While wages and key benefits still matter, workers were more focused on positive work culture and experience. Provided pay and benefits are competitive, leaders will gain the most by offering strong growth opportunities, quality leadership, and work-life balance.”

Want to learn more? Click here to download the full report.

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