The good, the bad and the ugly: employee trends since the Coronavirus pandemic took hold

3 minute read

Nine months after the first confirmed COVID-19 cases, surveys show that employee distress signals are beginning to rise, But it’s not all bad news as trust is increasing

Sian Harrington

The good, the bad and the ugly: employee trends since the pandemic took hold

Pandemic pessimism is beginning to take hold as the reality of unemployment at the end of furlough, months ahead of working from home and lack of social interaction start to hit employees.

A survey taken from a dataset of seven million employees which employee engagement provider Glint has been building since the start of the pandemic shows that workers are losing their sense of connection. The good news is that 85% of employees feel well supported by their manager and 79% feel the company cares about their wellbeing. The bad news is that these figures are down month-on-month and as the pandemic shows no signs of going away this trend is likely to continue.

Meanwhile, employee happiness at work has plateaued or even declined since the start of the pandemic. Some 56% of employees say they feel less happy at work after seeing co-workers furloughed or laid off. Meanwhile, 50% report their organisation’s layoffs or furloughs have had a negative impact on their workload and 47% on their sense of belonging.

“No-one wants to hear about furloughs, layoffs, downsizing and rationalisation. Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID-19 is now clearly forcing those terms into the workplace conversation as CEOs grapple with painful decisions about temporary or permanent staff reductions,” says Steven Buck, people success leader and Glint’s head of people science, EMEA.

“Overall, happiness at work rose at the beginning of the pandemic, when organisations responded quickly to employees’ new needs, but we’re now seeing employees’ happiness at work plateau or decline as the COVID problem continues on.”

Employee distress trends

Employee distress trends Glint Survey

Glint August 2020 Data Insights Report


In addition to feeling less happy at work, employees’ sense of job security has also not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Glint’s people science analysts also report a drop in employees’ interest in exploring career opportunities, suggesting an across-the-board lowering of optimism.

The Glint findings are echoed in a survey Hindsight 2020: COVID Concerns into 2021 by The Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence, which researched the views of nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders across 11 nations.

Two fifths of UK workers (40%) are concerned about future redundancies and furloughs due to economic instability created by COVID-19. This is equally a concern in China (44%), Mexico (41%), Canada (40%), and the US (37%), though less of a concern in France (26%) and the Netherlands (27%). Ability to help employees balance workloads to prevent fatigue/burnout and the ability to offer necessary learning and development opportunities are also highlighted in the research.

Balancing workloads so they don’t get burned out is the biggest employee operational concern in the UK , says the research. Overall, over half (53%) of UK workers say their organisation has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout and this rises to three in five (59%) globally.

As governments across the world encourage people to work at home again, Lord Mark Price, former managing director of UK supermarket chain Waitrose and founder of Engaging Business, has urged employers to support employees as they leave the office once more.

“Employers must learn lessons from the first lockdown and focus on communicating with their employees and supporting them. This is the time to engage with people working from home and asking what can make their working lives better,” he says.

Glint’s Buck agrees that communication is vital. “How do you support teams and re-energise and focus them on a new working future? Surveying your people is even more critical if you are recovering after furloughs or layoffs; and active communication with teams and one-on-one chats is the best way to build on this activity. And as your organisation begins to refocus after a period of readjustment, you also need to set goals effectively, and encourage learning and growth opportunities to help people respond to our current very challenging environment.”

It’s not all bad news though. The silver lining in the Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence report is that a third of employees globally (33%) say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how organisations reacted.

Dan Schawbel, managing partner, Workplace Intelligence, advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at UKG, says: “While organisations made mistakes during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees also recognise the unprecedented nature of this once-in-a-generation event. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, employees want their employers to adapt and evolve as quickly as possible. Those that have made changes to address and protect employees – specifically physically, emotionally and with economic stability – have earned newfound employee trust, which will be a valuable commodity that helps ensure future success.”

Published 24 September 2020
Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.