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Survey Takeaways: Holding steady. A tale of 28 industries. Often is better.

COVID-19 Weekly Culture Pulse Survey: May 11-15, 2020

Statistics around woman - representing data around employee engagement and company culture during covid-19.
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Our weekly culture pulse survey tracks how the 2020 pandemic is impacting workplace culture and the employee experience. Use this knowledge to act with confidence and inspire your people to get through this together.


Holding steady: week-over-week organisational metrics remain mostly static.

There were a few interesting changes in week-over-week data we’ll share in a moment. But most of the significant organisational metrics—particularly layoffs, furloughs, and reduced benefits—remained the same this week as last week with no meaningful fluctuations.

As another sign of stabilisation, the flattening curve of infections is being reflected by employee responses in our weekly survey. For the first six weeks, the percentage of reported cases within organisations rose steadily. But it has remained flat with little change for the past four weeks in a row.

As employees adjust to pandemic-related shifts in the workplace experience, some metrics show improvement. Notably, there was a 26.9% increase in employee net promoter score (eNPS). 33.3% of respondents with public-facing locations reported their businesses had reopened to the public (a 17.7% weekover- week increase). And restrictions on business travel declined again this week by 3.8%, reflecting a consistent decline since the peak of the crisis seven weeks ago.

Concerns about the effects of the pandemic on personal finances continue to remain high. Fearfulness about losing one’s job increased by 13.4% this week, as did the fear of losing income (10.7%).

As organisations look ahead to reentry and recovery in a post-COVID-19 economy, it remains critical to keep an eye on employee sentiment.


A tale of 28 industries: pressure to return to the office varies wildly by profession.

As local governments encourage a slow, step-by-step return to business as usual, we’re seeing strong reactions from employees who were sent home to work at the beginning of the pandemic. 83.3% of employees currently working remote think it’s too soon to return to the office. 67.1% of those employees believe they should not return to the office for one month or longer.

28.9% of remote workers said they feel pressured to come back to work. With essential workers feeling more pressure (38.1%) than non-essential workers (19.6%). But where things get really interesting is when we look at the difference in pressure to return to the office across industries:

Industries feeling pressure to return to the office
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Note that some of the industries whose workforce reports a high degree of pressure to return to the workplace are fairly predictable. It’s easy to see why healthcare, transportation, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing need employees physically in the workplace to succeed. But it’s surprising to see chemicals take the number one spot and to see high tech and consulting in the top ten. Likewise, in the low-pressure zone, it’s no surprise that education, real estate, and hotels and resorts are not yet pressuring employees to return to the office. But it’s interesting to see social services and financial services in the low-pressure zone. Another fascinating way to look at the pressure to return to the office is by function:

Functional job areas feeling pressure to return to the office
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Again, it’s not surprising to see tasks often performed out-of-office (like sales) on the low end here, nor to see patient care at the top. But the presence of HR in the number two spot is rather unexpected, and may speak to the critical role human resources is playing in helping organizations manage the current crisis.

These insights are important, especially considering how pressuring employees to return to the office impacts employee morale. Employees who feel pressured to return to the office report a 41.9% decrease in engagement and a 21.1% increase in intention to leave. They also report a 19.4% increase in the likelihood of feeling depressed, and a 15.6% increase in the likelihood of feeling burned out.

Past weeks’ articles have discussed several ways to mitigate employees’ fear of returning to the workplace. These include transparent communication, increased employee recognition, video town hall meetings, clear safety measures, and frequent one-to-ones with managers (see below).


Often is better: weekly one-to-ones make a difference in a crisis.

Important news for managers: in a crisis, holding weekly one-to-ones will keep your team healthy.

While regular one-to-ones have long proven essential for healthy leader/team relationships, their frequency has been somewhat forgiving. Our 2020 Global Culture Report revealed that holding a one-to-one once every 30 days was fine for maintaining the status quo. But real improvement could be accomplished by holding either bi-weekly or weekly one-to-ones (with little difference between the two).

However, in the midst of a crisis (like the current pandemic), this week’s pulse survey revealed a significant difference in the impact of weekly versus bi-weekly one-to ones.

When compared to holding one-to-ones every other week, employees reported that holding a weekly one-to-one with their leader improves engagement 58%, increases feelings of appreciation 23%, and increases productivity 31%.

So, when it comes to improving relationships with one-to-ones, more is more.

For more information on the value of frequent one-to-ones in a crisis, read Conversing in a crisis: The relative power of one-to-ones here.

Stay tuned to our COVID-19 weekly culture pulse surveys for insights that will help your organization to weather the storm.

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