After months of turmoil and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, worker confidence is beginning to take a turn for the better.
This is according to an ADP Research Institute survey of more than 24,000 workers in the United States over an eight-week period. “A Workplace Redefined: Employee Resilience Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic" revealed that while 65% of workers indicated COVID-19 negatively impacted their finances, or soon will, 58% expect their finances to return to previous levels in the near future, including 60% who reported losing their job or being furloughed.
Many employees have had to adjust to a fully-remote work environment and those required to work remotely responded that the ability to complete tasks and connect with others was severely impacted due to technology issues, lack of necessary equipment to work effectively, and distractions. A third of respondents identified fears of the virus were a barrier to productivity, while about 50% cited technology as a significant obstacle to productivity due to issues with remote access, internet connection and web meetings. As the weeks went on, many workers began to report their work-life balance, ability to complete tasks and connect with others, and personal stress levels were about the same as the week before, rather than consistently declining from week to week. However, despite workers’ ability to adapt to new circumstances, the research uncovered that these markers of productivity do not appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
As with all aspects of day-to-day life during the pandemic, employees indicated a substantial amount of uncertainty — as well as a bit of optimism — regarding their overall outlook. Following an initial decline in employee job confidence, the research shows an increase in employees’ confidence, with nearly 70% of workers now expecting to retain their jobs for at least the next month.
“The workforce has hit a new normal in what it looks like and how it functions, and it is clear that employers and employees adapted quickly to a new way of working,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “This pandemic has significantly changed the world of work, upended employees’ everyday lives, and undoubtedly will have a long-lasting effect on organizations. The rate of the labor market decline is historic, yet employee sentiment has begun to show stabilization. Our research shows that while stress, work-life balance, the ability to connect with others and the ability to complete tasks haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, employee outlook appears to be leveling off despite the impact of COVID-19.”
Employer Response Matters
The survey reveals worker perception of their employer’s actions today will greatly position the organization competitively for tomorrow and will also impact employee behavior once the pandemic ends. Employees satisfied with their employer’s response to COVID-19 believe their company is putting people first. The promotion of positive thinking, facilitating work from home and encouraging virtual connections are top drivers of employee satisfaction with an employer's response to the pandemic. As a result, this satisfaction is closely tied to interest in remaining with the employer — with those who are most satisfied likely to indicate they are more interested in staying with their current employer than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak.
The survey found that by week eight, 60% of workers reveal they are satisfied with actions taken by their employer in response to COVID-19, citing increased sanitation procedures, sharing positive messages and limiting customer interactions as the most common company responses according to workers. In fact, more than 60% of those highly satisfied with their employer’s actions believed their company was putting people first. A few companies have made changes to increase PTO, add benefits and support local hospitals or charities.