A year in: Monster gauges how employees of the enterprise have fared

It's the first anniversary of the pandemic-instigated shift to remote work, and the job site checks in on productivity, stress, self-care and work relationships in the new normal.

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Image: iStock/Prostock-Studio

The earliest days of the pandemic presented many challenges to workers accustomed to working on premises who were suddenly sent to work from home. But a poll conducted on Feb. 26 by Monster.com revealed that workers may have stumbled initially, but got quickly into the groove, and now, a year later, 77% of remote workers say they are equally productive working from home compared with their in-office setting pre-pandemic. When Monster conducted a poll in April 2020, only 20% of respondents said they were as productive at home.

SEE: Working from home: The future of business is remote (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

But with the pandemic still in heavy rotation, and the vaccine a somewhat distant future hope for many, as many as 50% said they're still feeling stress and experiencing anxiety, which they believe is impacting their overall productivity. Still, the numbers are significantly better than in the April 2020 poll, when 79% of respondents cited stress and anxiety as negatively impacting their productivity. 

One thing organization leaders learned fairly quickly is how important it is for them to find the best channels to have daily meaningful contact with their working-from-home staff. A good rapport is easily translated into workers (71%) agreeing that their boss is supporting them well (compared with Monster's March 2020 data, that marks a 37% decrease). 

SEE: Chatbot trends: How organizations are leveraging AI chatbots (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Among those who work from home, a majority 71%, continue to adjust to a work life outside the actual workplace setting but report less of a connection to co-workers as a result of telecommuting. The 43-page report, the annual Future of Work Global Survey connected with employers and employees. The global study tapped 3,100 recruiters and job-seekers.

The three key recruiting challenges for employers in 2021 are finding candidates with the right skills (87% of employers struggle to fill positions with appropriate talent); work/life balance expectation (pandemic-fueled policy changes such as remote flexibility, new health policies and a reduced workplace footprint are likely to remain in play even after the pandemic); as well as virtual recruiting (they're adapting to the process, with seven in 10 doing virtual interviews and onboarding).  Tech and business/finance are "on board with virtual recruiting," while those reliant on "old-school recruiting" are retail, hospitality, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing and business services.

The top of the list in policy changes caused by the pandemic: flexibility (with 42% of global employers offering flexible work schedules).  Workers want flexible work schedules, salary protection and health policies and protocols. The survey found room for improvement regarding salary protection, communication transparency and career development.

SEE: Tech jobs are booming. Remote working is now a top demand for job hunters (TechRepublic)

Recruiters globally are confident in finding the candidates who are skilled to match their needs (93%) but it's a 2% tick down from 2019's 95%. Confidence (57% said they are "very confident") is soaring in tech, finance/banking and in large companies.

Recruiters also said there were challenging aspects in the process, with 41% citing assessing candidates in the interview, 40% identifying quality candidates quickly, 36% effectively screening candidates pre-interview and 31% getting response from and engaging with candidates.

Respondents' biggest challenges and struggles in the last year include more than a third (36%) who are challenged with maintaining physical health, while a quarter (25%) must contend with mental health concerns. Work-related health issues include loneliness, imposter syndrome, suicidal thoughts, physical illness and increased alcohol use. 

Women were more likely to experience anxiety, headaches, loneliness and depression, while men were prone to depression and alcohol use. It was a draw when it came to physical illnesses. Another 24% said they are having a tough time "making genuine personal connections."

SEE: Why adding neurodiversity to the cybersecurity world is a win-win for companies and employees (TechRepublic)

Employers, recruiters and job seekers are of two minds. On one hand, employers are optimistic, with 82% of employers planning to hire this year, which includes 37% who plan to re-hire backfill jobs and 35% who plan to hire for net new jobs. 

But the majority of respondents are unhappy with their current job situation: 47% said they were stressed, insecure or anxious, but 36% claimed to be confident or optimistic.

The top industries hiring to replace jobs lost are healthcare, finance/banking and real estate, but it's the tech industry that will be adding new jobs according to 49% of respondents.

The report found that 49% of tech recruiters plan to hire to replace jobs. Two countries emerged as the "most likely to hold off on hiring," the UK (34%) and Canada (20%).

The United States and the United Kingdom were cited by about one-in-five respondents as the countries most challenged by employer branding, while another one-in-five recruiting, admitted writing an honest job description and defining job roles is challenging.

Only 37% respondents said human resources departments adapted well to the pandemic response, and 31% of HR and talent acquisition pros feel they deserve more credit than were given. 

SEE: Are you staring at yourself on Zoom? New survey asks the WFH question of our times (TechRepublic)

First-time job seekers can stand out through these top factors: interview presence, internship/work experience, and cultural fit. Employers are looking at the following skills: dependability (No. 1), teamwork/collaboration, problem solving/critical thinking and flexibility.

The U.S. has the strongest alignment in resume objectives both job seekers and recruiters cited skills and personality as the top two things a resume should demonstrate.

Candidates (45%) expect to find out about a company's diversity and inclusion efforts, too, and 45% of employers are at work to update recruitment strategies to attract more diverse talent. More than one-in-two employers in North America are updating recruitment strategies.

In the U.S., the top three focuses are gender, race and ethnicity. The top three inclusivity priorities by organizations are employee training, gender pay equality and building a diverse workforce. Meanwhile, employees want inclusive work environments and workspaces, people with diverse backgrounds in leadership positions, and encouraging employee resource groups.

Other key findings: Expect a safe, gradual return to face-to-face, and social responsibility takes on an even greater meaning (with how employees have been treated and how they can contribute to society). 

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...