The empathy gap between workers and companies is bigger than ever—but CEOs just don’t get it


By Shalene Gupta

The job market is rough, the pandemic has burned everyone out, and the overall mood about work is sour. Now, according to the 2023 State of Workplace Empathy Report from HR benefits technology company Businessolver, employees’ perceptions of workplace empathy has dropped.

The study surveyed 1,000 employees, HR professionals, and CEOs across six industries about the behaviors and benefits that make them feel like their workplace cares about them, and how they thought their employers were doing in that regard. Here are some key highlights:

    Employee perceptions of empathy in the workplace are at an all-time low. In 2018, 78% of employees thought they worked in an empathic workplace; this has dropped to 66% in 2023.

    There’s a large gap between how CEOs perceive reality versus how employees do. While 67% of CEOs see themselves as more empathetic than they were before the pandemic, only 59% of employees would agree—a 10% drop from last year.

    CEOs are also less likely to take responsibility for creating an empathic workplace. Only 53% of CEOs said they felt like they had a strong influence on workplace empathy—a 16% drop from last year.

    There’s a mismatch in the policies that companies offer versus what employees actually want. As their top five most-wanted benefits, more than 90% of employees listed flexible work hours, paid maternity leave, flexible work location, family benefits (such as paid daycare), and paid paternity leave. Less than half of the employers offered these benefits.

    Interestingly, 63% of CEOs say return-to-office policies have positively impacted their mental health, while only 39% of HR professionals say the same—a 12 point drop from 2022.

“The gaps in perceptions that this year’s empathy findings reveal should be a wake-up call for leaders to check their perceived realities against the workplace realities of their employees,” the report noted.

The empathy gap between workers and companies is bigger than ever—but CEOs just don’t get it

Fast Company