For the past few years we’ve seen many headlines about how disengaged employees are from their jobs. But those only tell part of a larger, more nuanced, story. “Engagement studies often make for provocative headlines--the sky is falling and no one wants to work anymore!--but we're best served by understanding employee engagement within our own organizations through listening and research,” says Emily Goligoski, Charter’s head of research.

To that end, a new report from Oyster, a global employment platform, finds employees aren't just disengaged, but struggling to focus on work amid everything they’re dealing with outside the workplace. More than half of respondents said their focus on work had been somewhat or very much affected over the past 12 months. Some 49.7% of survey respondents told Oyster that their top priority was their mental wellbeing, compared to just 4.8% who said career advancement was most important to them.

All of which points to a need for more effective assessments of employee engagement. The old ways of measuring engagement—such as asking people whether they plan to leave the company or whether they are looking for a new job outside of the organization—are out of date, says Kim Rohrer, principal people partner at Oyster. Over the past few years, workers have faced  enormous amounts of stress from the pandemic, increasing fears of a recession, and polarizing current political climate which is almost forcing employers to rethink how they measure engagement overall, said Rohrer. “If you have a good solid experience working here, that is good enough for me. I love it if people are excited and passionate, but that's a bonus.”

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