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Wednesday, 31 March 2021

‘More work, same pay’ became the norm during the pandemic

Many employees saw their responsibilities grow during the pandemic, but hardly anyone got a new title or raise, writes the Wall Street Journal. Work from home effectively transformed businesses and stretched many workforces thin, leading to longer working hours and less work-life balance, if any. The average workday increased by 8.2% in the pandemic’s early weeks, according to a Harvard Business School study of anonymised email and other data from 3.1 mn people worldwide. More than two third of respondents to a survey of US workers by job site Monster last summer said they had experienced burnout symptoms while working from home.

So why didn’t anyone complain? As job loss was rampant in parts of the world and the labor market became somewhat saturated, few wanted to try changing jobs amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. The International Labour Organization estimates that there was an unprecedented global loss of 114 mn jobs in 2020. In this environment, it makes sense that employees would hang on to what they had, even if they felt stuck or overworked. A Microsoft report also noted that time spent on Microsoft Teams meetings increased 2.5x in February 2021 while the number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers went up 40.6 bn compared to the same month in 2020.

Many are starting to see jumping ship as the best option: Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year, according to the Microsoft report. Another study by HR firm Ceridian found that young people in North America are more likely to want to move to another workplace, with 75% of those under the age of 30 in the US either looking or open to new positions.

What should firms be doing to retain employees? HR managers should consider refreshing job descriptions and titles at least once a year as part of their due diligence, the WSJ quotes one industry expert as saying. Meanwhile, managers who have seen their employees taking on more responsibilities should be prepared to grant workers more autonomy and flexible remote-work arrangements, especially if their budget remains too tight to grant significant raises as compensation for extra work.

Feeling overstretched at your workplace? Try making a list of the job roles you think are within your purview, and attempt to set boundaries when it comes to tasks that are not. It can be good to be upfront with managers about how much time your tasks will take, to make sure you are not being overburdened. Alternatively, a change in job title to more accurately reflect your role can go a long way towards increasing your job satisfaction.

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