Remote Workers Value Flexibility but May Feel Isolated

Generations have different opinions on remote work versus higher pay

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS October 11, 2022
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Remote Workers Value Flexibility but May Feel Isolated

Among Generation X workers, who are now approaching middle age, the ability to work remotely ranks higher than compensation and benefits in terms of what makes them happy about their jobs. Among this generation, remote work also topped having a great boss, a positive workplace culture and career-growth prospects, according to new research on employee sentiments.

But while employees clearly value working remotely, many also say doing so makes them feel isolated from their employer and colleagues.

Generational Views

A September survey of 1,023 employed U.S. adults conducted for global technology and talent consultancy MSH delved into the differences among the generations regarding remote work versus higher pay. While Americans ages 42 to 57 (Generation X) say the ability to work in hybrid and remote arrangements brings them more happiness than other major workplace factors do, more employed Millennials (those 26 to 41 years old) say compensation and benefits make them happier than work-location flexibility.

"The pandemic changed the course of what makes people happiest about their jobs, and preferences and priorities have shifted in what is now a new hiring paradigm for employers," said Oz Rashid, founder and chief executive officer of MSH, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "As demand for high-quality talent continues, employers of all shapes and sizes are evolving to accommodate changing preferences."

Landon Cortenbach, chief financial officer at MSH, pointed out a finding that more Generation Z workers (those ages 18 to 25) say career-growth prospects would be likely to influence their decision to leave a job when compared with work-location flexibility. "That's a significant data point," he noted. "While better salaries will always have a lot of power as well, it is the sum of these variables that you have to factor when analyzing why people leave jobs."

SHRM Resource Spotlight
Remote Work

Keep Workers On Board

In other research, SafetyWing, a fully remote travel and medical-incident insurer based in Palo Alto, Calif., surveyed more than 4,000 in-office and remote employees in eight countries earlier this year. The findings, reported in the firm's Building Remotely: Employee Retention white paper, show that:

  • If offered remote or flexible working options, 1 in 3 remote workers who left a previous job say they would have stayed.
  • If they were able to set their own hours, almost 1 in 4 remote workers who left their previous job say they would have stayed.

Overall, however, the biggest reason for choosing to leave an employer was still salary, SafetyWing found, with 62 percent of remote workers saying they would have stayed at their previous jobs if offered higher pay.

"The remote worker represents a new workforce, and it's vital to understand what makes them choose a company and what makes them stay," said Sondre Rasch, co-founder and CEO of SafetyWing.

Disconnected Workers

Remote working isn't without its challenges, such as workers feeling isolated from colleagues.

In March, Airspeed, a social platform firm, and business researchers at Workplace Intelligence asked 800 U.S. C-suite executives and 800 employees at remote or hybrid organizations about their perspectives on remote working.

According to Airspeed's newly released Remote Work Culture Insights study, 2 out of 3 executives believed workers may soon quit their jobs because of how disconnected they feel. This also was the top reason why employees say they'll leave their jobs at remote or hybrid organizations.

In addition, more than 90 percent of executives said culture and connection are lacking for their remote team members and more than 70 percent of workers don't feel like they are able to socialize enough when working remotely.

"The transition to remote work has been immensely challenging for businesses and their employees," said Doug Camplejohn, Sausalito, Calif.-based founder and CEO of Airspeed. "Employers need to create a strong culture of connection in order to engage and retain employees, or they'll risk losing their best employees at a time when most can't afford to do so."

Said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, "today's workers expect much more than just a competitive salary and good benefits—they want to feel a true sense of belonging and community."

Although building a sense of connection among remote workers is no easy feat, he added, a supportive culture and the right technologies "can play a critical role in bringing this vision to life."

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