Jobs and the Future of Work

What are the top 5 things people want from work? New report

Global economic uncertainty is weighing heavily on workers' feelings about job security

Global economic uncertainty is weighing heavily on workers' feelings about job security Image: PEXELS/SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS

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  • Global economic uncertainty is weighing heavily on workers' feelings about job security, according to a new survey.
  • Randstad’s latest Workmonitor report surveyed 35,000 employees in 15 countries.
  • It finds that the trend towards enjoying a good work-life balance is still important to many despite concerns about the current economic situation.

“Around the world, workers are faced with a series of unexpected challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, swiftly followed by an economic downturn and soaring inflation has created an uncertain and volatile work environment,” says Sander van’t Noordende, CEO of Randstad.

The 20th Workmonitor report from the global HR services provider reveals that today’s economic uncertainty has heightened worker’s expectations and priorities. One of the largest studies of its kind, its 2023 version collated views from 35,000 employees around the world.

And workers increasingly value a more equitable workplace with a greater emphasis on work-life balance, according to Randstad. However, going into 2023, “facing a possible global recession ahead and rapidly rising cost of living, workers now also place tremendous value on employment that is secure and financially stable”, the report says.

Here are the five key takeaways from the Workmonitor 2023 survey:

1. Job security

Fears of a potential global recession are concerning many employees. The survey finds that 37% of workers were worried about losing their job, and more than half were concerned about job security as a result of economic uncertainty.

However, a large majority said they felt secure in “some way”, while a quarter said their personal situation had got better in the six months before the survey. Nevertheless, 23% of respondents were looking to work more hours to cope with high living costs.

Workers in Latin America were the most worried about employment security with 60% concerned about losing their jobs. Their counterparts in Northwestern Europe were the least worried, at a much lower 24% of respondents.

Infographic showing the worries about job security
Most workers are concerned about job security. Image: Randstad

2. Work-life balance

The current atmosphere of economic uncertainty hasn’t affected people’s desire for a better work-life balance, the survey says. Well over half (61%) of respondents wouldn’t take a job if it disrupted this, particularly younger workers aged 18-34.

The report also found that 34% would quit their job because of a toxic working environment, while almost half (48%) would leave a job if it “prevented them from enjoying their life”

The recent phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ is also reflected in the survey. Over 30% of respondents said they were performing the bare minimum in their jobs.

Infographic showing the activity of quitting their job
Nearly half of workers would quit a role if it impacted on their enjoyment of life. Image: Randstad
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3. Unretirement

The survey data shows that many older people are returning to work, while others are delaying their retirement plans, because of economic factors. It says there’s been a significant decline in those who planned to retire before 65, down to 51% this year from 61% in 2022.

Randstad says analysis of the UK labour market reveals a record number of people aged 65 and older are looking for work. However, 32% of those surveyed said they needed work in their lives.

“Whether for meaning and purpose, social interaction or to experience the challenges that come with a job, employment for many is more than just a paycheck. It keeps them connected and gives them a sense of belonging,” the report says.

Infographics showing the financial factors that affect retirement
Financial factors were preventing many respondents from retiring. Image: Randstad

4. Expectations

The soaring cost of living has prompted many workers to seek financial help from employers, with 39% looking for pay rises outside of their usual pay review period, the survey results show.

Almost 30% said they needed help with energy, commuting and other expenses. But around half of respondents said they were already receiving some form of financial help from their company.

Aside from financial security, work flexibility remains especially important to many workers. The report says 45% of respondents would only work jobs with accommodating hours, while 40% require remote/hybrid arrangements and 27% have even left roles that weren’t flexible enough.

Most workers (83%) said they preferred working flexible hours, and 71% cited a flexible location as important. Women, often the primary caregivers, also valued flexibility more than men regarding working hours (85% vs. 81%) and location (72% vs. 69%).

Infographic showing the factors around work flexibility
Flexible hours and location is important to the majority of workers. Image: Randstad

5. Belonging

“The events of the past three years have led many to reassess the value and purpose of work in their lives, and people are clear about what they want. A desire to achieve a sense of belonging in the workplace – as part of a team or the overall organization they work for – is driving career decisions for many,” Randstad says.

Of the respondents surveyed, 54% said they would leave their job if they didn’t think they belonged at a company. And most feel it’s important for an employer's values to align with their own, with 42% saying they wouldn’t accept a job if this weren’t the case.

When it comes to employer’s values, 77% said sustainability, diversity and transparency are important to them. However, there is a generation gap around the issue of sustainability, with almost half of young (Gen Z) respondents saying they would refuse to work for an employer “that didn’t make a proactive effort to be more sustainable”. Just 35% of their oldest peers said they felt the same way.

Infographic showing how workers feel about the social and environmental values at work
Social and environmental values at work are more important to younger employees. Image: Randstad

Randstad’s van’t Noorende believes businesses should take heed of the survey’s findings if they want to be successful.

“Every company should have the ultimate ambition of creating a happy, inclusive and inspiring workplace where people feel they belong. This means listening to workers’ views and respecting their values,” he said.

“This must be done alongside providing workers with safe, secure, flexible and financially stable employment. Businesses that support their employees through the tougher economic conditions will reap the rewards in retention when times are easier.

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