As employees are dealing with stress and anxiety brought on from the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have mostly eased concerns with their response.
This was a main finding in a survey of more than 100,000 global employees since mid-March by Willis Towers Watson. The survey found that employees are pleased with the way their leaders have stepped up to support them in the current environment. A large majority agreed their leaders have been effective at focusing on work objectives (78%), obtaining the support needed at work (74%), keeping employees informed (73%), and protecting the health and well-being of their workforce (71%).
However, the research notes there are concrete actions leaders can take to improve the overall employee experience, such as better understanding job constraints due to issues outside of work. In fact, only about half (49%) of the employees who can manage issues outside of work report moderate to high anxiety compared with 80% of employees unable to do so. Also, employees in stronger team environments expressed much lower rates of distraction (16%) relative to colleagues who struggle to collaborate (56%).
“There is a clear opportunity for employers to put their people first and do all they can to show support and build goodwill,” said Patrick Kulesa, global research director, Willis Towers Watson. “Employers have many levers to pull, such as helping workers upgrade their work-from-home technology and enhancing programs that can help employees battle emotional and financial anxiety.”
The survey found that employers could improve their communication and delivery of benefits. Fewer than half of respondents said their company is making it easier to access and use employee benefits (46%) or know how to apply these benefits to COVID-19 care (47%). In addition, six in 10 workforce personnel (61%) stated financial concerns stemming from the COVID-19 disruption with 25% expressing a moderate or high degree of worry.
The survey also revealed that 92% of employees reported some level of anxiety from the pandemic, with 55% indicating a moderate or high degree. Further, seven in 10 workers (70%) conveyed at least some distraction from work due to COVID-19 concerns and 32% said they can balance working from home and other responsibilities.
“The challenges presented by this crisis highlight the demand for cross-functional collaboration to truly address employee needs,” Kulesa said. “Employee anxiety can be managed through HR benefit-related coping support, yet combating distraction requires line managers to deepen team connections in appropriate ways, while alleviating financial concerns calls on business heads to demonstrate leadership by navigating the organization through chaotic times.”