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COVID-19 Reveals and Reshapes Employee Concerns

Oct. 13, 2020
A new global study shows what generations of workers want, expect and value in their employers.

The early months of the COVID-19 were faced with much uncertainty and confusion. And according to a new survey, 35% of employees and business leaders wish their offices had closed faster and safety measures for essential workers had been implemented sooner. Still, 20% of surveyed workers felt their organization met their needs.

That’s encouraging feedback employers can learn from as the number of global COVID-19 cases rise and we enter the second wave of infections experts have been warning about, 10 months after the novel coronavirus was first reported.

The survey findings, “Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” examines how workers felt about their employer’s initial COVID-19 response and the most pressing needs and concerns of the workforce in the coming months.

“As organizations around the world operate through an unprecedented global pandemic, they need to double down on their employee experience strategy,” says Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, executive director of The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). “However, instead of looking for trendy perks, they must get back to the foundational needs every employee requires: physical safety, psychological security, job stability and flexibility.

“Among employees who trust their organization more now than before the pandemic, 70% say the company went above and beyond in their COVID-19 response. By truly putting the employee first, a mutual trust will begin to take hold that will propel employee engagement — and the success of the business — to new levels.”

The Workforce Institute commissioned the survey, which Savanta, Inc. conducted in June 2020. A total of 3,903 employees and business leaders between the ages of 18 and 55 responded to general questions about leadership, employee attitudes around trust and crisis response/management from 11 countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.

Key findings from the survey:

  • 33% of global employees and business leaders say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how their organizations reacted.
  • 13% are worried about movements being tracked at work to fight COVID-19, suggesting the majority recognizes the safety benefits of contact tracing.
  • 46% say quick notification about confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace is their top concern, which was even higher among younger respondents, 51% for Gen Zers and younger millennials (age 18-27) and older millennials (28-37).
  • 32% of global employees also desired faster, more transparent and more frequent communication, a primary regret for 35% of corporate executives.
  • 45% report overall cleanliness as a top concern going forward.
  • 42% are concerned about using shared common areas such as lounges and restrooms, and 37% are concerned with using shared workspaces such as conference rooms.
  • 35% are similarly concerned about passing through high-traffic areas such as elevators, staircases and lobbies.
  • 26% say being in an open floorplan environment is worrisome.
  • 43% say it should be a priority for their organization to balance workloads to prevent fatigue and burnout, both in a physical workspace and for those working remotely.
  • 59% say their organization has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout, but 29% wish their organizations would act with more empathy.
  • 36% are concerned about future layoffs and furloughs because of economic instability and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Respondents are most concerned in China (44%), followed by Mexico (41%), Canada (40%) and the U.S. (37%).
  • Workers of all ages are concerned about job security, with Gen Z and younger Millennials (35%), older Millennials (37%), Gen Xers (36%) and Boomers (34%) all equally worried.

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