Over the past year, a key takeaway of the pandemic is that varying groups of workers are impacted differently. We know that those with mandatory on-site roles, for instance, may be at greater risk for COVID-19 exposure, while remote workers may be more likely to face feelings of isolation and potential work/life balance issues at home. 

We also know that employers are lauded by most workers for being supportive during this time – and our research confirms this – but many employees also indicate they need more from their place of employment. 

As we enter into the next phase of the global recovery, understanding what type of support various groups will need is critically important to the workforce strategy of businesses everywhere. I anticipate a period of adjustment will be necessary as remote workers return to the workplace. For those who have been on-site the whole time, more reopenings may lead to questions about evolving safety protocols. Even practical questions around how to interact in the workplace or gathering in groups need to be addressed. So how can employers plan for what’s next in the workplace?

surveying is critical

Many organizations have been actively surveying their workforce during the pandemic. This is sound policy as tracking worker well-being and state of mind can provide indicators on stress levels, effectiveness of company policies and what’s needed to uphold productivity and satisfaction. At Randstad, we have gained important insight on the concerns of our people through stepped-up surveying – more frequency and focused on key concerns of our workforce. In response to these findings, we’ve rolled out additional assistance, promoted healthy and safe practices in the workplace, and offered reassurances and additional support when the need arises. 

While internal surveying is a wonderful tool for company leaders like myself, I also recognize  the need for more comprehensive data. Since the start of the pandemic, we have focused our labor market research to help all stakeholders address the wide-reaching impact of the pandemic. For example, the first edition of our 2021 Workmonitor research finds most workers surveyed want to return to the workplace for at least a few days out of the week, and a majority miss in-person interactions. This isn’t too surprising as I have heard family, friends and colleagues voice similar sentiments.

a closer look at the data

When we dig deeper into the data, however, the Workmonitor results reveal notable differences among different groups when asked what more their employers can do to ease stress. For example, women are more likely to seek employer support – whether financially, through employee assistance resources or stress-reducing classes.

I suspect this disparity stems from the fact that women have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis – resulting in a “she-cession” that my colleague Rebecca Henderson recently documented in Forbes. Oxfam recently announced that women globally lost $800 billion in income as a result of the pandemic. So, as economic activity grows in the coming months, organizations may want to focus on alleviating the financial stress female workers feel by providing financial support and various other measures.

Beyond gender differences, our data shows the need for employer support varies by age group. One of the starkest differences is the desire for more health services. When asked whether they would like an employer-sponsored hotline for mental and physical well-being, the youngest groups were most likely to answer “yes.” The disparity was quite sharp as the percentage in the youngest group (18-24) who want a hotline is nearly twice that of those in the oldest (55-67). Of further concern is that the youngest groups of respondents also are more likely to say they feel lonely or isolated than older colleagues.  

What we found is that more Gen Z and Gen Y workers view the workplace as more than just an office where work gets done. It’s a social hub that offers community and a feeling of inclusion. The pandemic has significantly disrupted everyone’s routines, but I fear it may do longer-lasting harm to the personal and professional development of our youngest workers.

Knowing this, how will your organization identify and address changes in your workforce’s well-being? Is it simply a case of waiting for workplaces to reopen, or should you pursue a more proactive approach for ensuring your talent is engaged and productive? Coming back to workforce surveying, this will likely provide the answers you’re looking for.

Organizations face perhaps some of the most challenging times ahead since the start of the pandemic. Rebuilding and recovery require refreshed and engaged talent, but with workers having faced so much stress over the past year, how can employers help them overcome adversity? I believe you need to start with good data and insights into their concerns and desires. By building an inclusive strategy that addresses the well-being of all, you ensure a workforce prepared for the next big challenges ahead.

I invite you to download our latest Workmonitor report to gain more insights on the needs of the global workforce. I believe you will find this research informative and helpful in the coming months.


about the author

Jacques van den Broek

ceo and chair of the executive board

Randstad's Global CEO, leading our mission of supporting people and organizations in realizing their true potential.