Top Ten Work Trends Quarterly Updates

A diverse group of SIOP members are serving as Trend Champions for the people-related work trends that SIOP members collaboratively predicted to be the most impactful in 2023. Each Trend Champion has expertise in and professional passion for their trend subject. SIOP appreciates their service to the profession in providing quarterly updates on their chosen topics.

Find the full list of topics and links to the other Top 10 Work Trends here

Trend #6: Reshaping Work to Address Employee’s Mental Health

2023 1st Quarter Update

Employee mental health and well-being continue to be a hot topic for organizations looking to compete in a tight labor market. Concerns around employee (dis)engagement (Harter, 2023, Wigert & Pendell, 2023), burnout (Leiter & Maslach, 2023, Wigert & Pendell, 2023), and broad mental health challenges (Glicksman, 2023; Witters & Agrawal, 2022) have taken center stage. These concerns have led to a variety of trends for both employees and employers, including a stronger push for a four-day workweek, a host of employee withdrawal behaviors, and many less-than-ideal attempts to portray organizational concern around well-being.

A massive pilot test of a four-day workweek for the same pay has wrapped up with results being quite positive (see the report here). Moreover, workers clearly reject pushes for longer work weeks (Chen et al., 2023). We’ve seen tools to help people see what a four-day workweek could look like for them (Wolfe et al., 2023), a bill (re)introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to codify the four-day workweek (Takano, 2023, see the text of the bill here), discourse around the equitability of four-day work weeks (Dvorak, 2023), and general continued interest from employees and employers alike (Timsit, 2023). This aligns with work that shows motivation and performance decrease across the workweek (Dust et al., 2022).

Concerns around employee withdrawal behaviors (e.g., quiet quitting, “rage applying”, “resenteeism” Yroz, 2023) are not particularly new but have made their way into popular discourse. We have decades of work that show hindrance stressors (those that limit development or accomplishment) are linked with withdrawal behaviors and a range of other negative outcomes (Podsakoff et al., 2007), and that increased work strain results in withdrawal behaviors like absenteeism due to increased negative symptoms (Darr & Johns, 2008). A recent paper highlights the importance of considering unit-level employee effects on withdrawal behaviors, like turnover, especially for similar workers (Sajjadiani et al., 2023).

Interestingly, this focus on employee mental health and well-being has led to some less-than-ideal organizational initiatives. There is currently increased awareness and pushback against “well-being washing,” in which organizations present themselves as caring about employee wellbeing but don’t actually (Sinclair, 2023). One paper (Budd & Mumford, 2006) explored the phenomenon of companies possibly attempting to appear to be supportive of employees without actually providing benefits (in this case, family-friendly work practices). Similarly, there is a heightened awareness of the negative outcomes associated with toxic positivity (Barbera, 2023). This calls to mind the negative outcomes associated with strong organizational emotional display norms and the emotional labor associated with them. Two recent papers provide excellent reviews (Elfenbein, 2023) and future directions (Gabriel et al., 2023) of this domain of research.

Champion: Keaton Fletcher