Remote Working, Employee Surveys

Adapt: The Voice of 10,000 Workers. Learnings from companies responding to COVID-19

Evy Fellas

We asked 10,000 people how their business responded to the crisis in the past 2 months.  This is what we learned.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, businesses had no choice but to strictly manage their finances and adapt with new strategies. Everyone had to get this right, but according to our data it’s not what made the biggest difference.

When employees said their company responded well, the difference was in how people and teams were managed

We asked 10,000 people how their organisation responded to the COVID-19 crisis. They rated them in 4 areas.

  1. Protocols: Has everyone received and understood changes in policy and procedure?
  2. Enabled: Is there enough support during this change in working practices?
  3. Visibility: Is it easy for teams to stay connected as they navigate this change?
  4. Care: Are we considering the personal needs of our people, and are managers actively supporting them?

We also asked them to tell us, in their own words, what more could have been done. We then used our language processing technology to analyse what they told us.


What organisations overall did well

Overall responsiveness

86%-96% felt their company kept them informed, visible, cared for and enabled to work. Great news, and surprisingly high. Our immediate theory was that those companies who went to the effort to listen to their people, are also likely to be handling the crisis best.

Policies and procedures

97% of companies we surveyed were quick to put policies and procedures in place and communicate these to employees.  94% of companies took practical steps immediately to enable their employees to work remotely.

Enablement to work from home

Even where people said that the company didn’t have the best ‘set-up’ for technology for them to work from home, nevertheless, the crisis had pushed them to set up effective ways to keep in touch with their teams and peers.  95% of employees agreed that their team was collaborating well despite the crisis.

It seems most businesses reacted quickly to keep everyone connected and able to do their jobs. Top-down communication was crucial.


What companies struggled with

Making sure employees felt cared for

Our data revealed that ‘care’ has consistently been the lowest rated element among the organisations we surveyed. Arguably this is because it is also the hardest to do.

It’s relatively easy to put policies in place and send a company announcement. It’s harder to manage people individually and account for everything they’re feeling right now.

According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 1 in 4 people will suffer with some kind of mental illness at work but that only 1 in 16 feel comfortable talking to their manager about it (and this was before we were hit with a global pandemic).

Empathy of managers

Our data suggests that the hardest thing for companies has been getting one-on-one human connection between people managers and their people right.

Wellbeing policies are necessary, and important, but are undermined if a manager can’t show empathy to individual needs and connect on a human level.

This crisis has caused anxiety on all fronts. There’s the stress of the virus itself, combined with lots of change, school closures, financial worries, caring for family members… even getting the shopping has been difficult. Emotions are charged.


What sets the best companies apart?

  • The big difference is line manager effectiveness.
  • The best companies, as judged by their people, have excellent communication about adapting to the crisis, combined with thoughtful, empathetic managers.
  • Line managers should be connecting with their people frequently, not just to check that they’re supported to do their work but also to help employees process some of the emotions they’re feeling.
  • There’s a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. The best companies have been able to minimise some of this uncertainty with clear and transparent communications followed up with transparent one-on-one communication with line managers.


What is next?

  • Our language processing technology enabled us to easily process the 10,000 free text comments that we gathered from participants of our responsiveness survey.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the biggest things that employees were requesting going forward was clarity of strategy for returning to work.
  • Employees want to know how companies are going to handle this from a Health and Safety perspective

Lastly, employees were wanting more ongoing support for their Well-being as people transition to the next phase of the crisis.  As mentioned, line manager ability to connect one-on-one will be key here.

It’s time to start the conversation

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