Checkr surveyed an equal number of American managers and employees to see if both sides agree or disagree on the most pivotal workplace issues as we move into 2024, including remote work, mental health, burnout, compensation, engagement, retention, and much more.
The 2023 workplace landscape exhibited a notable divide between managers and employees, reflecting the challenges of adapting to rapid change. As organizations grappled with the pandemic aftermath, a divergence in perspectives emerged regarding remote work policies, communication strategies, and work-life balance.
Managers often found themselves navigating the complexities of overseeing dispersed teams while striving to maintain productivity and cohesion. Meanwhile, employees faced uncertainties about career growth, mental health support, and tackled the blurred lines between professional and personal life in remote settings.
This divide underscored the critical need for improved communication, empathetic leadership, and collaborative decision-making. Bridging this gap became imperative as managers struggled to foster a cohesive work environment while ensuring that both managers and employees were heard, adequately supported, and aligned in navigating the evolving challenges of the modern workplace.
With this in mind, Checkr surveyed 3,000 American workers—an equal number of employees and business leaders in management positions—to learn more about the workplace divide of 2023. We set out to reveal whether employees and managers were aligned on any issue (or if they clashed on most) and what 2024 trends might be expected.
Let’s get into the key data points.
Summary of key findings
68% of managers want remote work to continue, and surprisingly just 48% of employees feel the same way.
56% of managers see red flags if employees are passionately against returning to the office, while only 38% of employees feel the same way.
60% of both management and employees say that workers are overworked and far too stressed in the workplace.
59% of managers believe they do a good to very good job addressing mental health while 39% of employees think managers do a poor to very poor job.
59% of managers said they will increase investment in mental health programs, while just 40% of employees think management will do so in 2024.
Management (78%) and employees (82%) are aligned in a big way regarding work-life balance and boundaries that need to improve in 2024.
52% of management and 48% of employees say workers would prefer four-day workweeks over high salaries in 2024.
71% of management says they have great relationships and open communication with workers, but only 58% of employees feel the same way.
83% of management and 90% of employees are confident that employees would say they're overworked and underpaid.
54% of management say they truly care about the development of workers, but employees say that only 36% truly care.
Remote work and RTO
To begin, we set out to learn more about managers' and employees' preferences as it relates to remote work and return-to-office (RTO) policies. We asked both groups if productivity and engagement were improved with remote employees or with a hybrid approach and if they wanted this trend to continue into 2024 and beyond. 68% of managers said they would like for remote/hybrid work to continue into 2024, while only 48% of employees agreed.
Do managers and employees want remote work to continue in 2024?
Next, we asked both groups if they thought that managers would prefer all employees to be in the office because supervising people in person would be easier. Here we learned that 70% of managers agree with the above statement, while a lesser 63% of employees echo that statement.
After revealing feelings about remote/hybrid work, we wanted to know how both managers and employees felt about potential repercussions that might occur if a RTO policy was put in place for 2024. When asked if they thought a significant percentage of the workforce would leave if forced to return to the office, 58% of managers said they agreed while only 47% of employees surveyed felt the same way.
Managers clearly have fears that workers might move on if forced to return, and they also enjoy the remote/hybrid arrangement themselves. It seems like flexibility is important to everyone, but what happens when employees voice their opinions by showing a strong dislike for the office?
To find out, we asked managers and employees if it’s a major red flag if an employee only wants to work remotely and is passionately against spending time in the office. When asked, 56% of managers agreed, while only 38% of employees felt the same way.
Is a passionate dislike for in-office work a red flag?
Managers and employees are aligned on the desire for remote work and, in some cases, managers might even prefer a flexible arrangement even more. But overall, managers do find it easier to do their jobs when they and their employees are in the office but fear that bringing everyone back could lead to major retention issues.
Next, let’s take a look at some things that might impact the aforementioned retention, including burnout, mental health struggles, and overall well-being.
Burnout, mental health and well-being
Burnout in the workplace is a serious issue that can lead to energy depletion, disinterest in the work, avoidance of tasks, and even a leave of absence or an eventual exit from a role. According to a recent survey from Workforce.com, 59% of US workers say they are suffering current job burnout.
To dig deeper, we asked both managers and employees if they believe that workers at their companies suffered burnout in 2023 and if changes need to be put in place to correct that issue in 2024. Almost 50% of both managers and employees said they agree that burnout is happening and must be addressed in 2024.
So, who’s to blame for workplace burnout? To find out, we asked both groups if they thought management was at fault for allowing too many employees to burnout due to workplace stress caused by too much work. When asked, 60% of both groups said they agreed that management overworked employees into burnout in 2023.
We know now that burnout is a huge problem and can lead to mental health struggles, so what are managers doing to address it as we move into 2024? To start, we asked both groups to rate management’s performance in 2023 in terms of addressing mental health struggles in the workplace to help ensure their employees have access to the resources they need. Here we found a shocking difference in opinion as 59% of managers said they believe they’re doing a “good to very good” job addressing mental health issues, while 39% of employees said managers are doing a “poor to very poor” job.
Are managers properly addressing workplace mental health issues?
If employees firmly believe that managers are doing a poor job at addressing mental health in the workplace, is it because managers are not well equipped to do so or simply because they don’t care? To find out, we asked if management is too focused on getting work done to care about the mental health and well-being of their employees. We learned that 41% of managers admit to not caring about the mental health and well-being of employees in favor of a work-only focus, and 48% of employees echo that statement.
Since the issue clearly exists, we wanted to find out if managers and employees think their companies will invest in programs to prioritize mental health care in 2024. Here we learned that 59% of management believes they will increase their investment in mental health programs in 2024, and just 40% of employees think that will actually happen.
We learned earlier that burnout is a major issue facing companies across the country and that companies are working to address the issue with an increased focus on mental health and well-being. With that comes a conversation about work-life balance and boundaries.
To better understand if reducing after-hours emails and meetings and creating more boundaries is a realistic strategy to improve the lives of employees, we asked both managers and employees if they thought management should have a greater focus on work-life balance and boundaries in 2024. Here we found total alignment, as 78% of managers and 82% of employees said they agree that better balance and boundaries are hugely important going into 2024.
Should management have a greater focus on work-life balance and boundaries?
We’ve gathered data about several important workplace trends and issues, including remote work, returning to the office, workplace stressors and burnout, and mental health. Next, let’s take a look at how compensation trends are shaping up for 2024 and beyond.
Managers and employees shared above that workplace burnout is a concern, and improving work-life balance and boundaries could help solve that issue. So, what about a four-day workweek in return for less money?
We asked both groups if employees would prefer a four-day workweek over a pay raise in 2024, and we received responses split almost right down the middle, as 52% of managers and 48% of employees said they would indeed prefer a four-day workweek over more pay.
While a four-day workweek would help relieve some stressors in the workplace, ultimately people work to get paid and compensation is always going to be a hugely important work aspect. To understand how important compensation is we asked both groups if pay raises are the single most important thing management can deliver as we move into 2024. Again, we found total alignment between the two groups, as 63% of managers and 66% of employees said pay raises are the most important way to keep workers happy and engaged.
While both groups say compensation tops the list, we wondered if managers and employees think workers are paid enough. To find out, we asked both groups how confident they were that, if asked, the majority of employees would say they’re overworked and underpaid, and that their salaries have not kept up with inflation. The numbers were striking. We uncovered that 83% of managers and 90% of employees believe that workers think they’re overworked and underpaid.
Are workers currently overworked and underpaid?
The data above shows that workers believe they’re underpaid and they also value compensation more than anything else. So how do they go about getting the money they think they deserve? Perhaps by simply asking management for a raise?
To learn more, we asked both groups if they thought workers were scared to ask their boss for a pay raise because of potential negative repercussions from those conversations. When asked, 43% of managers said they agreed workers are scared to ask, and 46% of employees felt the same way.
Now that we know the importance of compensation and some of the issues surrounding it as we move into 2024, let’s take a more detailed look at engagement and retention.
Engagement and retention
Many of the workplace trends covered above are related to creating an engaged workforce, but understanding what workers value most can help businesses form a culture that leads to a happy and productive workforce in 2024.
We asked managers and employees what they thought workers would value most in the workplace in 2024, and the data aligned with the trends previously discussed, as both groups said pay raises are the top value in 2024, followed by work-life balance, and remote work.
Implementing the desired employee values described above could help with engagement and retention, but what about the other side? What might cause a worker to leave for a new job in 2024? When asked, managers and employees were aligned again in stating that unsatisfactory compensation is the top reason a worker might leave in 2024, followed by working too many hours, and not feeling valued or respected.
To ensure a properly engaged workforce, managers can pay more, provide more time off, and show more appreciation. But to really make an employee feel respected and valuable, management needs to truly care about their people. It sounds simple, but is it happening enough?
To find out, we asked managers and employees if they thought management truly cared about the professional development of their employees rather than just focusing on getting work done. Here only 54% of managers said they truly care about the development of their employees, and employees are feeling even worse as just 36% of them think their managers truly care about worker development.
Do managers truly care about the development of their employees?
Overall, it seems as though employer/employee relationships are struggling in the workplace as we move into 2024. What is the extent of the disconnect between the two groups? To find out, we asked both groups if managers and employees at their companies have great relationships, respect each other, and have open lines of communication. We found that 71% of managers believe they have great relationships with employees, but only 58% of those employees feel the same way.
Looking forward to 2024
In 2024, several workplace trends are expected to continue to shape the professional landscape, including remote work, return-to-office policies, mental health, compensation, and much more. All of these trends will emphasize the importance of collaboration between managers and employees.
The fight over remote work is likely to continue in 2024, requiring a flexible approach to team management and the implementation of advanced communication technologies. Additionally, our findings suggest an increased focus on employee well-being and mental health is anticipated, emphasizing the need for supportive organizational cultures and inclusive policies.
As these trends unfold, it becomes crucial for managers and employees to collaborate closely. To encourage a supportive work environment, managers can foster transparent communication channels, encourage skill-building opportunities, and prioritize the holistic well-being of their teams.
Conversely, employees can actively engage in continuous learning, adaptability, and open communication with their managers to navigate the evolving work landscape successfully. The symbiotic relationship between managers and employees is essential in navigating these trends in 2024, fostering a resilient and dynamic workplace environment that promotes growth and innovation.
All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Checkr conducted online via survey platform Pollfish from November 15-18, 2023. In total, 3,000 employed adult Americans were surveyed — an equal number of business owners, managers, and executives & non-management level employees. The respondents were found via Pollfish’s age and organizational role filtering features. This survey was conducted over a four-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities.
The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.
About the author
Sara Korolevich serves as checkr.com’s editor and content manager. In this role, she produces educational resources for employers on a broad range of screening topics, including background check compliance and best practices. She also writes about Checkr’s company and product news to keep customers updated and informed.