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Survey Takeaways: Volatility. Jumping the Gun. Managing Layoffs.

COVID-19 Weekly Culture Pulse Survey: May 4-8, 2020

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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.


Volatility: Re-entry to any kind of “normal” is a bumpy ride.

Encouraged by a flattening COVID-19 infection curve in many geographies, organizations everywhere are trying to ease back to normal work life. In some market sectors, that means re-opening for business, bringing temporarily remote employees back to the office, and relying on social distancing and personal protective equipment for safety. With all these changes, employee emotions are running high and healthy organizational metrics are taking a hit. This week we saw:

31.6% decrease in employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

18.7% decrease in engagement

21.5% decrease in self-reported productivity

4.3% decrease in feeling appreciated

7.4% decrease in overall sense of wellbeing

Those last two numbers represent composite scores based off broader indices, so 4.3% and 7.4% decreases are very significant.

Interestingly, in the middle of all this change, employees are feeling like their organizations are slipping a little in managing COVID-19 related risks. We saw a 17.3% decrease in communication about COVID-19 from organizations and a 14.7% decrease in safety measures related to the pandemic.

Not all of the news was bad. With employees returning to the workplace, feelings of isolation at work decreased by 21.4% and there was a 13.2% increase in collaboration.

However, with 66.9% of remote employees worried about returning to work too soon, organizations need to be very careful about attempting to normalize the workplace prematurely. 65% of remote employees feel organizations should not consider bringing employees back until at least a month from now or longer. Of those, 29.8% feel they should not come back to work until 2-3 months from now. It’s also important to note that 58.1% of remote employees feel like they will still work at home occasionally even after the pandemic. Here’s a breakdown of the number of days workers would prefer to work from home after returning to the office:

9.4% one day per week

19.6% two days per week

21.2% three days per week

10.6% four days per week

18.4% full-time

So, what can organizations do to help employees feel good about coming back to the office? Safety is everything. We asked what remote employees need to feel comfortable returning to the workplace and two things were commonly reported:

Employees want clear and specific safety instructions.

“At the beginning of COVID-19, my company was fairly good about telling us what to expect safety wise. Now it has fallen off their radar.”

“I want to know what we need to do in order to be safe. What are the entry requirements? How do we social distance? How do we hold meetings? How do we disinfect surfaces, and what do we use? All of these questions have not been answered by my company, and I will not feel comfortable returning to work until they are.”

Employees want organizations to allow a smaller number of employees back.

“We can’t handle everyone coming back. Too many people, too little space.”

“Not everyone should come back, only those that interface with customer facing employees.”


Jumping the gun: Are we in too big of a rush to normalize? Employees say yes.

As mentioned above, perhaps the biggest culture news of the week has to do with organizations attempting to normalize operations. In the hopes that the spread of COVID-19 was becoming more manageable, there was a 28.3% increase in businesses reopening locations to the public and a 31% increase in resuming “normal” operations.

Yet employees are in no rush to return to work as usual. In fact, 66.9 % of remote employees are worried about returning to work too soon. That number goes up for employees who are already in the workplace. 74.7% of frontline workers are worried about bringing people back to the workplace too soon.

For a deeper dive into how employees feel about returning to normal operations in the midst of the pandemic, read Remote Workers Begin to Return, Fearfully here.


Managing layoffs: How to minimize the culture nosedive when employees are let go.

Even when layoffs and furloughs happen due to global circumstances beyond anyone’s control, they still take a huge toll on workplace culture. When organizations reported layoffs or furloughs in the past 30 days, we saw a 90.5% decline in employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and a 36.4% increase in intention to leave the organization.

But all is not lost. There are many things organizations can do to soften the blow from layoffs and furloughs and encourage the hearts of employees still with the organization. Transparency, in particular, makes a big difference. In organizations rated as highly transparent there was only a 12.7% decline in eNPS (compared to 90.5% above).

For more tips on how to foster a thriving workplace culture after layoffs and furloughs, read, Layoffs and Furloughs: 4 Ways to Lessen the Blow 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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