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HR survey identifies key factors affecting the return to work

Written on Jun 3, 2022

A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) evaluates how individuals are assessing key factors in deciding whether or not to return to the workforce. 

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. workers reported feeling indifferent about returning, while 20% of all respondents who are not working said the opportunity to work remotely would motivate them to return to the workforce. 

There was a talent shortage a year prior to the pandemic. Seven million jobs were open in December 2018, but only 6.3 million unemployed people were looking for work. While the pandemic impacted the talent shortage in various ways, now that the country is recovering, businesses are back to facing a similar situation. Several factors have contributed to employee attitudes to returning back to work. 

Other key findings include: 

Of workers who have returned to work and of those not currently working, respondents showed mixed feelings about their return or potentially returning to work: 

  • 21% said they felt anxiousness 

  • 18% said they felt grateful 

  • 15% said they felt hopeful and optimistic 

  • 14% said they felt happy and elated 

  • 37% said they felt indifferent about returning to work/possibly returning to work 

Workers who returned to work since the beginning of the pandemic and those who are unemployed but not retired felt generally mixed: 

  • 27% said they had mixed feelings about returning to work/possibly returning to work 

  • 26% said they only felt positive emotions, 32% said they only felt negative emotions, and 15% felt indifferent 

There are multiple factors playing into why employees are not reentering the workforce and businesses need to reevaluate how they approach dealing with the talent shortage.  

Looking exclusively at those who are not working and not retired: 

  • 18% of respondents said nothing would compel them to return. 

  • 23% said that the available jobs are not in their field of work interest. 

  • 17% have concerns over recent workplace requirements (e.g., vaccine mandate / lack of mandate, mask wearing requirements / lack of requirements, etc.). 

  • 17% said they haven't been able to find a job that pays enough for them to start working again. 

  • 12% said that there are not enough opportunities to work remotely (either full-time, part-time, or as needed). 

  • 9% said they have chosen to learn new work skills or want to pursue a different career path. 

When asked about what, if anything, would compel them to return to the workforce, 27% of all respondents who are not currently working said that if their savings ran out or ran low, it would motivate them to return.