Many people are demoralised, disconnected and worried. We need to talk about that.

Since March, Glint has been creating a dataset which now consists of 7 million survey responses from employees around the world and across a broad range of industries. Our aim is to take the pulse of the global workforce to see how it’s faring with our ongoing global health crisis and to understand its effects on work.

The recent August report shows that pandemic-related layoffs and furloughs have hit employees hard. 56 percent of respondents report feeling less happy at work after seeing co-workers furloughed or laid off. Half of respondents say their organisation’s layoffs or furlough plans have had a negative impact on their workload (50 percent) and their sense of belonging or community at work (47 percent).

People are witnessing downsizing at first hand. 59 percent of respondents know of a co-worker who has been furloughed or laid off since the onset of COVID-19. There are widely different experiences across industry sectors, however. In travel and leisure, the worst affected sector, 4 out of 5 employees have a co-worker who has been affected. The financial services industry, meanwhile, has been impacted the least with 1 out of 3 employees having seen a co-worker impacted.

In addition to a deterioration in happiness, employees’ sense of job security has not returned to pre-pandemic levels

How’s this affecting morale? Happiness at work rose at the beginning of the crisis, when organisations responded quickly to employees’ new needs. But we’re now witnessing employees’ happiness at work plateau or decline as the coronavirus problem carries on.

In particular, the largest monthly change occurred in employees’ sense of connection, with employees feeling less connected to their colleagues. The next biggest change was a decline in employees feeling less well-supported by their manager, followed by a decreased feeling that their employer cares about their well-being.

In addition to a deterioration in happiness at work, employees’ sense of job security has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Glint analysts have seen a big drop in employees’ interest in exploring career opportunities. Two out of three employees report they rarely consider looking for a new job, while more than 50 percent of employees had at least a passive eye on the job market before the pandemic. On a positive note, employees are reporting a significant surge in interest for learning and development, with employees wanting to create more time for such activities.

 

Getting the energy back

Our findings suggest an across-the-board lowering of optimism. So how do you support teams and re-energise and focus them on a new working future? Gathering employee feedback is an important part of today’s people-centric work cultures, and it’s even more critical if your organisation is actively recovering after pandemic-related restructuring. Regular surveying of the team helps leaders take the most effective steps to reinforce trust and engagement. It also helps employees feel that they have an important voice in shaping the overall work and organisational direction, our studies have found.

Active communication via one-on-one chats is the best way to build on this surveying platform. After all, after a tough sweep of headcount changes, it’s natural for people to feel heightened anxiety, uncertainty, and a loss of control. Conversations quickly rebuild trust, plus ensure prioritisation of work and goals, as well as reveal remaining issues, uncover resource needs, and give leads for remedial action.

Finally, frequent goal-setting conversations will help your employees readjust to change, while encouraging on-going workplace learning is critical to help people adapt to a changing environment. New responsibilities, shifting business priorities, and new protocols are challenging, yes—but they also provide opportunities to rethink or rebuild skills and to reflect on what meaningful work looks like.

In conclusion, as an HR leader during times of furloughs, layoffs, downsizing, and rationalisation, you can help you and your teams flourish in our new post-lockdown workplaces by making meaningful and supportive on-going dialogue a top organisational priority.