Covid-19’s Workplace Impact Study

Physical Safety, Psychological Security, Job Stability: Employees Worldwide Share Top COVID-19 Concerns for the Workplace of Today and Tomorrow

The Workforce Institute at UKG uncovers lessons learned from the early months of the pandemic to create inspiring workplaces through 2021

LOWELL, Mass., Sept. 15, 2020 — In a sweeping survey of employees and business leaders across 11 nations, The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) found only a fraction of employees (20%) felt their organization met their needs during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is a silver lining: a third of employees globally (33%) say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how organizations reacted.

“Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence, explores how nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders1 in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. felt about their employer’s initial COVID-19 response and explores the top needs and concerns of the workforce through 2021.

News Facts

  • Clean and healthy workplaces are meaningless without job security, flexibility, and work-life harmony.
    • Half of employees globally say they’ve been working either the same or more hours regularly since the start of the pandemic, which helps to explain why 43% call their organization’s ability to balance workloads to prevent fatigue and burnout a priority.
    • Overall, three in five (59%) employees and business leaders say their organization has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout, though, overall, 29% of employees wish organizations would act with more empathy. Burnout and fatigue are equally concerning for employees working remotely (43%) and those in a physical workplace (43%).
    • Three in 10 employees and business leaders wished their organization better-leveraged technology to provide flexibility, especially when the pandemic was at its most chaotic. This is especially true for those with families (34%), though this technology-focused wish exposes a generational divide between youngest workers (31%) to Baby Boomers2 (19%).
    • More than a third of employees and business leaders (36%) are concerned about future layoffs and furloughs due to economic instability created by COVID-19. This is most concerning in China (44%), followed by Mexico (41%), Canada (40%), and the U.S. (37%).
    • Concerns about job security span all generations: Gen Z and younger Millennials (35%), older Millennials (37%), Gen Xers (36%), and Boomers (34%) are all equally worried.
  • Nearly half of employees globally (46%) say quick notification about confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace is their top concern.
    • Even though older workers are considered a higher risk population for COVID-19, interestingly, the younger the respondent, the more concerned they are with rapid notifications in the workplace: this is the biggest concern for more than half of Gen Zers and younger Millennials (51%), and then decreasing by generation from older Millennials (45%), to Gen Xers (44%), and then Boomers (42%).
    • While employees and business leaders in India (58%), Mexico (53%), and China (48%) say sharing news of a positive test is a top concern, fewer people in Germany (39%) and Australia/New Zealand (38%) feel the same way.
    • Respondents globally are slightly more concerned with encountering an asymptomatic visitor at work (45%) than being in close contact with an asymptomatic coworker (40%).
    • Only 13% of all employees are worried about movements being tracked at work to fight COVID-19 – including fewer than one in 10 Gen Zers and younger Millennials (8%) – signaling they may recognize the immediate safety benefits in this approach to aid contact tracing.
  • As workplaces reopen, swift decisions are even more important, and small common areas – not open floorplans – commuting, and cleanliness concern employees and leaders.
    • A common complaint about the initial pandemic response? It was too slow, according to a third (36%) of employees and business leaders, who wished offices closed faster and safety measures for essential workers were implemented sooner.
    • Nearly a third (32%) also yearned for more communication – both sooner and more transparently – which is a primary regret for more than a third (35%) of C-level leaders.
    • While 45% of employees and business leaders say overall cleanliness is also a top concern going forward, they’re equally concerned with using shared common areas like lounges and restrooms (42%) as well as shared workspaces like conference rooms (37%).
    • More than a third of employees (35%) also voiced concern about passing through high-traffic areas such as elevators, staircases, and lobbies. Only a quarter (26%) say being in an open floorplan environment is worrisome.
    • Physical workplace concerns vary by country: In India and France, the top concern is safely commuting to the workplace (72% and 50%, respectively), while overall cleanliness and sanitation is most worrisome to those in Mexico (60%), Canada (50%), Germany (47%), Australia and New Zealand (46%), the U.S. (44%), and the U.K. (42%). In China, two-thirds (63%) are worried about passing through high-traffic areas while a third of employees in the Netherlands (35%) are nervous about shared common areas.

Supporting Quotes

  • Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, executive director, The Workforce Institute at UKG

“As organizations around the world operate through an unprecedented global pandemic, they need to double down on their employee experience strategy. However, instead of looking for trendy perks, they must get back to the foundational needs every employee requires: physical safety, psychological security, job stability, and flexibility. Among employees who trust their organization more now than before the pandemic, 70% say the company went above and beyond in their COVID-19 response. By truly putting the employee first, a mutual trust will begin to take hold that will propel employee engagement – and the success of the business – to new levels.”

  • Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and managing partner, Workplace Intelligence; advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at UKG

“While organizations made mistakes during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees also recognize the unprecedented nature of this once-in-a-generation event. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, employees want their employers to adapt and evolve as quickly as possible. Those that have made changes to address protect employees – specifically physically, emotionally, and with economic stability – have earned newfound employee trust, which will be a valuable commodity that helps ensure future success.”

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforces effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute’s research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit www.workforceinstitute.org.

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and government agencies of all sizes. Tens of thousands of organizations — including half of the Fortune 1000® — and more than 40 million people in over 100 countries use Kronos every day. Kronos merged with Ultimate Software on April 1, 2020, to create one of the world’s most innovative HCM and workforce management companies. Visit www.kronos.com. Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works. 

About Ultimate Software

Ultimate Software is a leading global provider of cloud human capital management (HCM) and employee experience solutions, with more than 51 million people records in the cloud. Ultimate’s award-winning UltiPro delivers HR, payroll, talent, and time and labor management, as well as HR service delivery solutions. Founded in 1990, Ultimate is headquartered in Weston, Florida, and employs more than 6,000 professionals. To learn more, visit www.ultimatesoftware.com. Ultimate Software: People First.

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Survey Methodology

Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Savanta, Inc. for Workplace Intelligence on behalf of The Workforce Institute at Kronos in June 2020. For this survey, 3,903 domestic and international respondents were asked general questions to explore leadership and employee attitudes around trust in the workplace, digital transformation, and crisis response/management. The study targeted people between the ages of 18+ and 55 years old. Respondents are recruited through a number of different mechanisms, via different sources to join the panels and participate in market research surveys. All panelists have passed a double opt-in process and complete on average 300 profiling data points prior to taking part in surveys. Respondents are invited to take part via email and are provided with a small monetary incentive for doing so. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 1.6 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

Footnote 1: This survey features 3,903 employees and business leaders from 11 countries. See survey methodology for specific details about respondent pool, sourcing, and margin of error.

Footnote 2: Generations are defined as follows: Generation Z, 18-20; Younger Millennials, 21-27; Older Millennials, 28-37; Gen X, 38-54; Baby Boomers, 55+.

© 2020 Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software. All rights reserved. Kronos and the Kronos logo are registered trademarks and Workforce Innovation That Works is a trademark of Kronos Incorporated or a related company. See a complete list of Kronos trademarks. UltiPro is a registered trademark of The Ultimate Software Group, Inc. All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners.

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