As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our businesses and employees’ work routines, it’s important to understand how remote work is impacting employee success. In order to maintain workplace culture while transitioning from work to home, and eventually back to work, organizations must continue to understand the needs of their employees.
After conducting an analysis of more than 20,000 COVID-19 employee survey results across a variety of industries and company sizes, we found four primary findings. Remote work, as a result of COVID-19, has impacted perceptions of:
While these areas don’t encompass every aspect of remote work during this time, these are some broad themes that should encourage companies to listen, react, respond, and act to improve the employee experience.
As the weeks go by, communication from leadership has been frequent, informative, and transparent. Results have held steady, but as things continue to progress, HR leaders will need to monitor any slight decline in communication perceptions.
At most organizations, employees believe that leaders are doing everything they can to keep employees up to date and connected. Employees say concerns have been addressed in a timely fashion, and that leadership has done a good job of expressing concern over employee safety and well-being.
While the majority of employees say working remotely has had no impact on their performance, over one-third of the workforce says it does. Engagement and performance have no doubt been impacted due to this new normal, but that's also because working from home during a pandemic is not an ideal state of remote work. Employees who typically work remotely may have a dedicated space in their home or the flexibility to change up the scenery and they also don't work with a crowded house.
COVID-19 has forced many employees to work remotely and dealing with:
However, employees are very grateful to be working for organizations that allow work-from-home opportunities. They also appreciate managers modeling good behavior when it comes to work-life balance.
87% of tenured employees said they have the materials and equipment they need to perform effectively at home, while only 83% of new employees agreed. This might include having the ability to print, sufficient internet access, access to dual monitors, or instructions on how to set up equipment at home. Some also questioned whether they would receive any reimbursements for their internet or personal equipment used.
Over time, this number has improved but it’s still worth understanding the potential reasons why new employees feel less-equipped. New employees might need:
More one-on-one time with their manager. Meeting with a manager or peer may be necessary to adequately train on day-to-day tasks. This might be harder for some if managers are being pulled in several directions.
A better understanding of the resources available to them. New employees might be unsure if they can ask for a second monitor while working remotely. Or they might be unaware of how to get in touch with the IT department about issues they are facing.
Coaching or reassurance. They may feel less comfortable reaching out to a peer they haven't interacted with much yet, especially if they’ve come on board when everyone is dispersed. Or, they don't know which peer or teammate is the go-to expert on their team for the challenge they have.
Managers are charged with creating a safe environment for their employees every day. And when a crisis occurs, it can be even more challenging to keep employees engaged and safe, physically and mentally. Due to COVID-19, employees are undoubtedly concerned about their personal health and the health of their family, friends, and coworkers.
Layoffs, furloughs, and other reductions in force have occurred for some, and many may still be facing this reality. But manager support has helped many employees feel secure despite the unknown economic impact. This crisis has also brought feelings of high camaraderie within teams and organizations because they know everyone is in it together.
Understanding the physical, financial, and emotional impact on your employees is the first step. Now it’s time to respond and take action. Here are a few tips for leaders and managers to follow up on COVID-19 employee survey results.
Share updates and decisions related to your business and local or national mandates related to COVID-19, including specific information from local, state, and national governing bodies. But avoid including your own opinions on that information—you don’t want to put people in a spot where they are asking whether they should believe the top medical expert in the U.S. or their CEO. Trust the medical experts.
Share authentic stories.
You don’t have to present yourself as a confident, strong leader with a hard, unaffected front. We’re all trying to navigate this crisis in our own way. It’s okay to share your moments of struggle with your employees as well.
Check in employees at all levels and provide resources.
Employees may need information on employee assistance, mental health, physical health, and well-being. Create or remind employees of EAPs, employee hotlines, or any type of help for mental and physical health. Consider connecting with your HR, IT, and security teams as well. Make sure they have the resources they need to operate in this new normal and that you’re addressing their concerns.
Start looking toward the future.
Re-entry into the workplace could be just as, if not more, difficult than the transition to a fully dispersed workforce. But we’re going to go back eventually, so you’ll want to be prepared. Equip your managers with the information they need to support their teams and begin to prioritize performance to help employees become realigned and focused on the future.
Quick daily check-ins with your team can help ease stress and ensure teams are on the right path. Take time for water cooler talk before or after a meeting to take the pressure off of performance and focus on their well-being for a moment. Consider increasing the frequency of your one-on-one meetings for the short-term. Things are changing rapidly, so understanding your employees’ concerns and perceptions is important for long-term success.
Check in on regularly remote employees and essential workers.
Employees who were remote prior to the pandemic, may not have felt the physical disruption of setting up a home office, but it's important to understand how this new normal might have impacted their work-life. The same goes for employees deemed essential to in-office or on-site work. Ensure you dedicate attention to both types of employees. This includes employees with families and significant others at home but also single employees who may be even more impacted by social isolation.
Navigating the coronavirus pandemic is a continuous process as time passes and new situations arise. To understand the perceptions of employees while working remotely, download The State of Remote Work During COVID-19 infographic.