Covid-19 continues to take a toll on state and local government workers. In a recent study, 36% of public servants surveyed said that working during the pandemic has made them consider quitting their government jobs, according to research conducted by MissionSquare Research Institute and Greenwald Research. That’s up from 20% in May 2020.
In addition, 33% of those surveyed said they are considering retiring, and 28% said they might leave the workforce entirely, the report shows.
More than three in four (76%) said Covid-19 has influenced what they do, where they work and how they handle work tasks, the report says. While the overall percentage of those reporting any impact has remained steady at 76% since May 2021, the intensity of the impact decreased from 32% in May 2021 to 27% in November/December 2021.
Meanwhile, the report shows that public sector employees continue to return to in-person work at a significant rate. While only 26% of respondents in May 2020 reported no remote work, the number has continued to rise throughout the pandemic, with seven-in-10 workers reporting no remote work as of November/December 2021.
About one-in-four respondents (23%) have found it extremely or very difficult to balance work and home-life demands during the past six months of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, there is some good news: Nearly 60% of the survey takers said that they continue to work in the public sector during the pandemic because they “value serving their community during this difficult time.”
About 49% of respondents in the MissionSquare survey in November/December 2021 were extremely or very satisfied with their government employer, which is down from the 51% in May 2021, according to the report. In contrast, 18% said they were not satisfied with their employer in November/December, up from 12% in May.
Three aspects of their jobs respondents were most satisfied with are job security (64%), leave benefits (60%) and health insurance (59%), the survey shows. However, less than one-in-three respondents were satisfied with their salary, their nontraditional benefits (e.g., tuition assistance or student loan repayment, employee assistance programs, child care assistance) and/or their potential for career advancement.
To help reduce employee stress, respondents were most likely to recommend providing salary increases (24%), hiring more staff or reducing workload (15%) or providing emotional support (13%).
5 Strategies to Combat Employee Turnover
As the U.S. enters the next phase of the pandemic, job satisfaction and retention will continue to be critical for governments as the public sector competes for talent in a tight labor market. Here are five strategies MissionSquare recommends to help quell turnover:
- Increase compensation. Consider boosting compensation, whether utilizing recent federal funds and increased tax and fee revenues, repurposing existing funds or pursuing other options.
- Show appreciation and recognition. Recognize employees for their extra work during the pandemic and take actions to demonstrate appreciation.
- Provide financial wellness resources. Explore offering programs that help set up an emergency savings fund, increase contribution amounts or enroll employees into a supplemental retirement savings plan, along with free online financial wellness resources.
- Prioritize employee safety and mental health. Implement safety measures to reduce employee stress and anxiety and provide emotional support (e.g., respect, acknowledgment, encouragement) to improve morale and productivity.
- Emphasize employee impact on the community. Highlight the vital role that workers are playing in uplifting their communities, and in keeping essential services and programs running across the country.
The survey consisted of 1,100 respondents with the majority being female, white or Caucasian, working for local government, have children or stepchildren and have a total annual personal income of less than $75,000.
For more information from the MissionSquare Research Institute report click here.