Americans Are Working Fewer Hours. How Are Employers Responding?
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a slew of changes in the U.S. workplace: hybrid work, talent shortages, employee mental health issues and more. As a result, newly released data shows that Americans are working fewer hours than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, the average employee was paid to work 37.5 hours per week. As […]
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a slew of changes in the U.S. workplace: hybrid work, talent shortages, employee mental health issues and more. As a result, newly released data shows that Americans are working fewer hours than ever before.
Prior to the pandemic, the average employee was paid to work 37.5 hours per week. As of last November, that number had fallen to 36.9 hours, according to a study from the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
The research shows that about 10 percent of the decline may be attributed to employees having long COVID-19, but the rest is a mystery. Anecdotally, it could be that employees are working less because they are trying to achieve a better work/life balance. The pandemic might have caused them to realize they were working too much and not focusing enough on their personal lives.
No matter the reason, employers have had to adjust to continue to attract and retain skilled workers. From granting greater workplace flexibility to providing new workplace support and larger staffs, many companies are taking steps to respond to these changes. Here are some examples:
Offering Flexible Schedules
At Ingenovis Health, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., CHRO Denise Triba is offering more-flexible schedules to the company's 1,700 employees to make sure they are satisfied—even if it means breaking from tradition.
"Staff want to have more control over their hours of work," Triba said. "We now see some staff working early to have flexibility later in the day, while others are starting later and working into the evening. And some staff work a weekend day to have the opportunity to take a day in the middle of the week to take care of personal business."
Triba said flexibility is crucial to managing employee well-being, which is a company priority.
"Disconnecting to allow yourself to refresh is essential to sustaining performance long term," she said. "Being able to balance your work with [your] personal [life] supports stress reduction and efforts to improve employee health."
Adjusting Job Listings
When she noticed that job candidates wanted to work fewer hours, Jenna Carson, human resources manager with MusicGrotto.com, a Web-based music and entertainment magazine in Portland, Ore., adjusted job listings for both full-time employees and independent contractors.
"Our approach has been to redesign some writer and graphic artist positions to having two position options: near full time, which is 30 to 40 hours per week on average, or part time," she explained.
When Carson's company needs extra help, HR typically posts to fill positions for limited-duration assignments, which matches the needs and interests of many job seekers.
"I would encourage others to consider whether a position set as full time or on a continual basis can be redesigned to negotiate the best terms with the desired candidate," she said.
Hiring Additional Team Members
At Herrman and Herrman PLLC, a personal injury law firm in Corpus Christi, Texas, with 120 employees, HR manager Mary Alice Pizana said she does all she can to help employees thrive within the workplace, which includes adding more staff when necessary.
"Our law firm has hired more employees to ensure that our team can meet all of its deadlines on time without overworking any team members," Pizana said. By making sure that the firm is adequately staffed, she is striving to avoid having employees call out because they want to work fewer hours.
"These changes have made a positive impact on our business, since our team morale has improved," she said. "A healthy work/life balance is critical to employee retention."
Providing Remote Work Options
The number of job candidates and current employees who are requesting to work fewer hours has definitely risen, said Jonathan Elster, CEO of EcomHalo, a transportation, warehousing and distribution company in Smyrna, Ga.
"We've noticed that the subject is raised more in job interviews, and indeed, it appears to have become a condition before many candidates will take on a role with the business," Elster said. Along with hiring more employees, EcomHalo offers the chance for them to work at home when they need time away from the office.
"The requests we receive can be numerous, and we can't accommodate every request," Elster said. "Instead, we try to offer alternatives, such as remote working when possible, and we ensure that the available time off is distributed fairly and evenly between all employees."
At Genentech, a biotechnology corporation in San Francisco with more than 13,000 employees worldwide, some employees want to work fewer hours, while others want more control over when they work, said Chelsea Ashbrook, a senior manager of corporate digital experience. She said her company has introduced various initiatives to support these employees.
"We offer flexible work hours, remote work opportunities and generous parental leave policies," Ashbrook said. "We strongly believe that a well-balanced work/life dynamic leads to greater productivity and commitment, which ultimately benefits everyone involved."
When contending with employees who want to work fewer hours, employers need to weigh the benefits of accommodating their needs against the potential costs, which may end up being much less than expected, Ashbrook said.
"Embracing work/life balance has had a positive impact on our business," she said. "We've seen improvements in employee engagement and satisfaction, along with a decrease in turnover rates. And by fostering a supportive environment, we're able to attract top talent who value our dedication to their well-being."
Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.