As Americans enter the third year of the pandemic, most workers are simply not at their jobs, with nearly three-quarters saying they are not engaged or not actively engaged at work, according to new data from Gallup released on Wednesday.

The findings, which classify 50% of respondents as disengaged and another 18% as actively disengaged, come as employees increasingly feel their workplaces are abandoning flexibility and empathy that characterized many workplaces of the pandemic era.

«When the pandemic first hit, engagement peaked, people feeling that their organization cares about their well-being peaked, so there was a very good response from organizations early on, and since then , has decreased significantly,» said Jim Harter, chief scientist. for the workplace management practice at Gallup and the author of the new report.

Just 32% of American workers said they were engaged at work last year, down from an all-time high of 36% in 2020 and 34% in 2021, the data shows. (Gallup has been formally tracking employee engagement since 2000, Harter said.)

And as engagement waned, the percentage of workers who are actively disconnected increased: from 14% in 2020 to 16% in 2021 and 18% last year.

Workers who are actively disengaged «are disgruntled and disloyal because most of their workplace needs are not being met,» according to Gallup.

The rate of people who classify themselves as disengaged, more recently known as «silent quinceans,» has held steady, at 50%, since 2020, down from 52% in 2019. These workers «are meeting some of their workplace needs, but not many, and they’re more likely to show up to do the bare minimum and not much more,» Harter said.

the research company measures engagement by asking questions about productivity, well-being, work environment and values ​​and opportunities for growth, among others. The new report is based on the average results of random quarterly surveys completed last year by approximately 15,000 full- and part-time employed adults.

The categories in which workers saw the largest decreases in engagement last year compared to 2019 were related to the company’s mission or purpose, opportunities to learn and grow, clarity of expectations, and feeling loved in the job.

Healthcare workers were the hardest hit among the four job types included in the survey, which also included front-line/production workers, white-collar workers, and clerical/administrative workers, facing a 7% decline in commitment and a 6% increase. in «silent quitting» last year compared to 2019.

Women saw a 4% drop in engagement last year compared to 2019 and a 3% increase in active disconnection over the same period, compared to differences of just 1% in both categories for men.

Younger workers also experienced particular drops in engagement compared to older workers, with negative changes of 4% in both engagement and active disconnection last year compared to 2019, while workers over the age of 35 only they saw 1-2% differences in those categories between those two years. .

Both women and younger workers value freedom and autonomy in the workplace, Harter said. In the case of women, it is because they often have more caregiving responsibilities than men. With younger workers, it’s because they see «a greater separation between the worker and the workplace.»

The research also shows that both groups benefit from mentoring: women because of the pay gap and other biases in the workplace, and younger people because they’re just starting their careers. But both female and young workers reported steeper declines in feeling wanted at work and having someone encourage their development compared to their male and older counterparts, respectively.

To combat this disconnect among workers, Harter said, «leadership needs to define what kind of culture they want to move forward with and how where people work fits into that culture.»

That culture must include regular weekly check-ins between managers and employees to discuss goals, successes, priorities and teamwork, he said: «Organizations need to think of managers more as coaches right now than delegators.»

The data suggests that the culture should also include some element of a flexible workplace. Workers who were forced to work in person but were able to work remotely experienced the largest decreases in engagement, with active disconnection up 7% last year compared to 2019 and a 5% decrease in commitment.

Workers who were fully remote, on the other hand, saw a small increase in engagement and a decrease in disconnection, but a 4% increase in «silent abandonment,» with 50% being characterized as disengaged compared to 46% in 2019. Hybrid workers saw 2% increases in both active disconnection and “silent quitting,” and a 4% drop in engagement.

Hybrid workplaces can be especially important for young workers, who need mentoring, Harter, and you can add «a nice mix of autonomy and in-person time if timed just right.»

«There are things that happen informally [in the office] that just can’t happen in these boxes on video,» he added.