Its 2024, and CEOs and employees are back at it again

As illustrated by Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah’s memo, the top dogs want hard work. But employees just aren’t motivated.

Corporate life has changed significantly since the pandemic, with a greater push for remote work, flexibility, and work-life balance.

Niraj Shah holding a cup of coffee on a purple background.

Unless you’re Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, who recently sent employees a memo asking them to not “shy away” from long hours, “blending work and life,” and “being responsive.” Laziness, he noted, is rarely rewarded with success.

How’d that go over?

While Shah’s memo was ridiculed across social media, it resonated among many business leaders frustrated with “quiet quitting” and worried about economic uncertainty, per The Wall Street Journal.

Yet, for employees, motivation remains low. One study found US worker motivation and engagement had dropped in August to its lowest point since June 2022.

Why? Well, a few possibilities:

  • Despite rising wages, everything is still expensive; homeownership remains out of reach for most average earners. Meanwhile, in 2022, CEOs earned 344x more than the average worker.
  • Success for whom? In January 2023, Shah told employees that Wayfair, which experienced significant pandemic growth, had grown too large and was laying off ~1.7k workers. This most recent memo noted it’d become profitable again.
  • Women were found to be less motivated than men, likely due to extra caretaking obligations at home, per Fortune.
  • A disconnect felt across both remote and in-person employees.

So, what could help?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is not encouraging people to scrap their work-life balance — just like it wasn’t spying on remote employees, being a mean micromanager, or telling staff to “leave pity city.”

Recognition, however, was found to result in a 9% productivity jump and a 22% dip in absenteeism. And former Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich thinks that having therapists in the C-suite could help leaders understand that, no, employees don’t care about making money for shareholders.

That said, we fully expect this push-and-pull to continue in 2024, and to plague us with even more alliterative buzz terms.

Topics: Labor

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