Workers who still have their jobs are happier but working harder: CNBC survey

US News

Workers who can do their jobs from home are being forced to do so by the coronavirus, and many of these workers feel fortunate, even if they feel that they are working harder.

Miguel Pereira | Getty Images

Since Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders came into effect in the U.S. in mid-March, the workforce has undergone a complete transformation. Remote work has turned kitchen tables into workspaces, Zoom meetings have replaced conference rooms, mandatory virtual coffee breaks are keeping employees connected, and there’s now a new definition of and increased appreciation for essential workers. 

Surprisingly, however, while the pandemic has abruptly upended nearly everything about the traditional workplace, job satisfaction and happiness measures have ticked up, according to the latest Q2 CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey.

The survey polled a national sample of 9,059 workers in the United States and was conducted May 4–10, 2020 — nearly two months after the large-scale move to remote work and 30 million people filed for unemployment.

After holding steady at a score of 71 all last year, the Workplace Happiness Index now measures a 73 out of 100, with slight increases in positive sentiment on all component measures, which include compensation, opportunities for advancement, feeling valued by colleagues and meaningfulness of the work. 

When asked directly about the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on their relationship to their job, 38% of workers say they are happier to have their job now than they were before the outbreak — an indication that workers may be reevaluating their views and expectations on work in general, particularly in light of the 14.7% unemployment rate. Just 11% say that now, more than before, they wish they had a different job.

Nevertheless, while workers say they are happier with their jobs, many say the pandemic’s impact on their workplace has made it more difficult for them to do their job effectively, with 1 in 5 saying it has become much harder and 34% saying it has become somewhat harder.   

For some the difficulty lies in homeschooling children while working full-time; for others connectivity issues or not having easy access to certain programs or files has created work-related challenges; for essential workers the stress of catching the virus and wearing the personal protective equipment and instituting safety procedures has been challenging.

Nearly half of those polled (48%) have been working remotely during the pandemic and are, for the most part, happy about it. Fifty-seven percent of those working from home say they are currently very satisfied with their job. Many companies are happy with this change as well and have announced they will keep a portion of their workforce remote for much of 2020. Twitter has even gone so far as to say that employees can work from home indefinitely

Even with the ranks of the unemployed already above 35 million Americans, many workers remain concerned about potential job losses or having their work hours cut.

Companies are already envisioning a new normal when employees start heading back to the office. Key changes could include antimicrobial materials, more and better air filtration, temperature monitoring at entry points and desks spaced farther apart.

But the opinions on how much needs to be done is wide ranging. More than half of those surveyed (53%) agree there should be limits on the number of people gathered in one place. When it comes to hot-button issues such as employee testing and wearing masks at the office, a large percentage favor those as well, with 47% favoring companies testing workers before they return to the office and 41% preferring that all employees be required to wear masks. Just 15% say they don’t feel any measures need to be put into effect at all when offices reopen.

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