In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, MindSet offered a free survey to help organizations monitor employee morale during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey report has helped executives better navigate through what has been, for many, challenging times. With more than 30 companies having now taken advantage of our offer, some of the data trends are worth reviewing.
The organizations that have used our complimentary survey are predominantly located in the Midwest, with representation in NE, IA, SD, ND, CO, and CA. Size of organization varies, from as few as 21 employees to over 1,000 (average is 202 employees; median is 123 employees). The organizations include approximately 75% for-profit and 25% non-profit, and they span a wide range of industries (banking, insurance, technology, medicine/laboratory, social services, construction, among others), with industries most severely impacted by COVID-19 not participating (e.g., travel, restaurants, and hospitality). We’ve collected approximately 5,000 individual responses from employees.
The survey results are interesting and encouraging. They’ve surprised us in a good way.
When we designed this MindSet COVID-19 Culture Survey, our hypothesis was that COVID-19 would be weighing on employee morale. To get an accurate sense of the degree of impact, we wanted to have baseline data for a comparison, so we included four questions in this COVID-19 Survey that have been part of our much more robust 49- item MindSet Culture Survey that we have been using for years.
How Well Companies Are Responding
Before we get into these 4 questions, let’s start with the results for the question that most directly assesses how well companies are responding to the COVID-19 challenge (as evaluated anonymously by their employees). Here is a summary of the responses, using two graphs. The graph on the left shows “Average Employee” and “Average Company” scores based on our 9-point scale (1= Strongly Agree, 5 = Neutral, 9 = Strongly Agree). The graph on the right shows the distribution of all employee responses.
A reasonable person might be skeptical of these incredibly high average scores. One possibly helpful detail to consider is that our “average” data is likely skewed due to the fact that we haven’t collected a random sample of the workforce. We can only showcase average data from companies that have opted to use our survey, which skews the data higher given that such companies tend to be led by individuals who truly care about employee morale and culture.
The data is real, however, and it reveals a silver lining amid so much negative COVID-19 press. Put simply, there are many companies that are rising to the challenge of COVID-19.
This next comparison of the average COVID-19 survey results vs. baseline results (i.e., results collected for a few years leading up to this COVID-19 crisis) further substantiate how well leaders are responding.
The data (using our same 9-point scale) shows the following:
- Employees believe their company has a bright future. In fact, during COVID-19, we’re seeing an uptick of 9% over baseline data. Kind of a headscratcher. We’ll do our best to explain a reason for that below.
- An increase by 12% to the degree to which employees feel their company appreciates their work.
- Employees are not quite as pleased today with their work environment (a 3% decrease from our baseline). 91% of employees in our data set are working from a new, remote location during COVID-19. The variance is significant, with high response rates at the extremes of strongly disliking and liking their new work locations.
- And perhaps most notable, an 18% increase in the degree to which employees perceive that their company cares about their personal success and happiness.
Now, for all of you skeptics, here is our best attempt to explain this data. And again, for what it’s worth, our MindSet team would be joining you as skeptics if we weren’t presenting the data. You might recall, we were wrong in our predictions of what we would see in the data. So after triple checking that that calculations were correct, we began to reflect on what the data might be telling us. Here are some of our thoughts:
- Nothing brings a group of people together like a challenge or crisis. There is a collective feeling that we are truly all in this together as a society, and while there have been exceptions, the vast majority of the population has been unified. The American pedigree is also a good one; the tough get going when the going gets tough.
- Companies are truly doing their best to be there for employees. In this case, the mantra that adversity reveals character possibly helps explain the 18% increase on the 4th question. An optimist might contend that this crisis has allowed more employees to get a clearer picture of just how much the company and its leaders care about employees on a personal level. And the fact that we’ve been giving colleagues a window into our homes and families via video chat has only increased the focus on what truly matters most.
- Most of us know someone who has lost a job during this crisis. So those of us who are still earning a paycheck feel it only appropriate to be grateful and positive. Furthermore, if employees feel their company has weathered the storm through to this point, and has successfully pivoted to be able to function with employees working remotely, they may have greater confidence that the company will come back better than ever.
- Leaders are communicating more frequently with employees. Written comments from survey respondents show a high level of appreciation for all the information that is regularly being communicated from management, and our MindSet team believes leaders are now often sharing more information than they were before the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, in an odd sense, employees may be feeling closer to management even as they are physically more removed.
- Leaders are making an effort to frequently say thanks and make sure employees feel appreciated. This makes a big difference, and it’s something that leaders would do well to remember when things get back to normal.
- Adversity brings opportunity. Some companies have made tough decisions or innovated in days/weeks compared to the months/years it may have otherwise taken. While scary or tough in the moment, many employees may well see opportunities on the horizon due to such swift and decisive actions.
Employees Handling Stress
All is not roses, however. As you can see in the graphs below, employees are feeling higher levels of stress. Roughly 2/3 of employees report feeling increased stress – and many significantly so. Only 20% reported their normal level of stress to be reduced.
Analysis of Written Comments
We collected thousands of narrative responses in our survey as well, which allows us to offer some qualitative analysis in addition to number crunching. Although we have not yet had the time to complete a full review, our initial analysis by word search of written responses suggests a large percentage of elevated stress level is due to factors outside of work. Common themes include challenges related to supervising children and helping with schoolwork. It would appear that the increased stress of working from home will rapidly dissipate when schools reopen. It is no surprise that another common theme is worry about getting sick – either themselves, or just as often the concern is for parents or grandparents.
Finally, there are many comments that suggest a good number of employees are enjoying the chance to work from home, and many individuals are hopeful this experience will lead to some lasting structural changes in how work is done going forward. For employers considering new work-from-home policies going forward, our employee productivity data (granted, it is self-report) and written comments offer support for it. Productivity has not been impacted by dislocation nearly as we thought (we’re actually seeing a slight increase in employee self-report productivity), but we will save that data for another blog down the road.
Co-Founder of MindSet, LLC.