What’s Driving Future of Work in Pacific Northwest

The future of work in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) will be determined by the “great resignation,” evolving employee expectations and the debate over return to office, according to the 2022 Business in the Northwest report from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

After nearly two years of uncertainty, the college’s fifth annual report found this year’s challenges centered on increasing competition for talent, the benefits and disadvantages of flexible work and the impact of COVID on Gen-Z employees — many of whom feel behind because they haven’t had a traditional office experience.

The report surveyed more than 1,000 PNW business leaders, employees and Gen Z employees about the state of business in the region and how new and existing challenges have affected them.

Key findings include:

  • New challenges – While areas such as sales volume, revenue and profitability appear to be rebounding from the impacts of COVID, business leaders are struggling with production and labor shortages.
    • This year, 41 percent of business leaders saw a decline in production over sales volume (37 percent), revenue (32 percent) and profitability (36 percent).
    • The PNW struggles to attract and retain employees: 69 percent of PNW business leaders say they want to create more job opportunities at their company but are not confident enough qualified applicants exist to fill them.
    • Employees are concerned about the labor shortage and the challenges around hiring and retaining employees: 30 percent say the inability to fill open positions is one of the top barriers to their companies’ success.
    • Despite challenges, 76 percent of business leaders and 63 percent of employees are optimistic about job opportunities in the PNW.
  • Employee experience: Most PNW employees feel it is crucial to work for a company that cares about employee well-being and has values that align with their own.
    • PNW employees (93 percent) feel it is crucial to work for a company that cares about employee well-being
    • 8 in 10 Gen Z employees want to work for companies whose values align with their own.
      • 82 percent of Gen-Z employees say diversity, equity and inclusion is a “must have” in the workplace
    • Top changes that have had a positive impact on employee morale according to:
      • Business leaders: flexible work hours (75 percent)
      • Employees: raised wages (82 percent)
      • Gen Z employees: additional training opportunities (74 percent)
    • Business leaders (91 percent) and Gen Z employees (92 percent) also feel it is crucial their company cares about their well-being.
      • 75 percent of business leaders and 62 percent of employees want to work for a company with clear mental health offerings.
  • Return to office: Safety concerns are no longer the primary reason many professionals favor remote work. Employees and employers prefer flexibility but admit it has made collaboration and communication more difficult.
    • 76 percent of business leaders and 73 percent of employees feel it is safe to return to the workplace.
    • Despite this, the future of work is a continuing conversation: 71 percent of business leaders and 59 percent of employees think working in a traditional 9 to 5 office setting is not realistic.
    • There are disadvantages to remote work: 38 percent of PNW employees report it has the most negative impact on collaboration and teamwork

To access the full report, visit: https://business.wsu.edu/bnw-2022/