To better understand how COVID-19 will impact our lives, behaviours and values long-term, independent reputation management consultancy Lansons partnered with strategic insights agency Opinium to produce ‘Life after COVID-19’, a series of reports exploring different aspects of UK life and society. The first chapter ‘Working Life after COVID-19: How the crisis changed our working lives’ aims to provide valuable insight for business leaders across the country.
The key findings, detailed in full in the report, reveal five trends for what employers can expect in a life after Covid-19, as the country moves into a period of recovery. Lansons and Opinium Research’s full ‘Working Life after COVID-19’ report can be read here.
A more connected workforce
Technology has become a lifeline, particularly to the 68% of people who believe having a close connection with colleagues is essential. The nation quickly got used to using new ways to connect, interact and be ‘live’ on screen. Everywhere, conversations and meetings went virtual, and they were happening frequently; 57% of those surveyed said they felt connected in their working life. And the report’s findings indicate that’s not going to stop. One in three workers (+33%) felt their communication with colleagues had improved during the pandemic, as well as overall team spirit (+34%) and creativity levels (+30%). Recognising the value of technology, employers will be looking to invest further as our world becomes more interconnected and mobile by the day.
Homeworkers reset their own rhythms
Employees have taken control of their own working rhythm and in a way that suits their personal circumstances. They have no longer had to work to a single schedule of 9am-5.30pm, spend time commuting or do ‘deep thinking’ work in an open-plan office. The research showed that a good work / life balance is the number one priority among workers and 77% believe maintaining it is essential in their working life.
Homeworkers don’t want to go back to ‘old ways’; 73% believe flexible working will continue after the crisis with 29% believing it will become the norm. For employers, this is an opportunity to adopt personalised and flexible working patterns, allowing people freedom to perform at their best.
Empathetic employers win loyalty
Employers have had to understand and address employee fears; from personal and loved one’s safety to financial and job security. This has forced leaders to show empathy – something employees value highly. +59% believe compassion is a more important trait for their employer to display as a result of the pandemic and ‘fairness and honesty’ are the two most desirable traits from employers. Those who have succeeded in showing compassion, have won loyalty because they’ve been seen to do the ‘right thing’ by their people; with 50% feeling more positive towards those employers.
However, uncertainty remains – not just because of Covid-19, but also Brexit, recent civil rights clashes and the imminent global recession. And uncertainty breeds fear. Employers need to keep up with employee needs: 68% believe having their wellbeing looked after at work is essential and 57% feel they need a support network at work. In future, we can expect mental health to be a greater priority as uncertainty continues and the building of healthy cultures for candid conversations where people can safely voice their concerns and fears.
Handling job losses with care
With the furlough scheme starting to wind down in August, the nation is braced for heavy job losses as businesses look to shed costs before they become liable for wage costs. Threats of mass redundancy from August to October is further compounded by media warnings of a “significant recession” and “the worst economic downturn since the great depression”, causing heightened fear of unemployment which, in turn, is impacting financial and mental wellbeing. Our research shows that keeping their job is the number one priority among workers and a particular concern among blue-collar workers. 24% of those surveyed are negative about their career prospects and 20% are less secure in their job since the beginning of the outbreak. Employers will need to make tough decisions, but they must also make these decisions with empathy, preparing what is said and how it is said. And, these decisions will need to reflect the organisation’s purpose and values; reputation depends on this.
Flexibility for changing times
As we enter an unpredictable socio-economic recovery, it’s already clear that building flexibility into organisational DNA is more important than ever. 44% of workers had seen flexible working increase and 45% felt that flexible working has had a positive impact on their working life. To survive the recovery, organisations have to become truly flexible; able to adjust and even change their business models and ways of working with extreme rapidity. Flexible working is no longer a Covid-19 experiment but will be necessary to formalise and figure out new kinds of contracts. Workers support this; people believe flexible working will continue post-pandemic as it benefits both the individual and business. For employers, this means avoiding returning to ‘old ways’ and instead, build a culture of adaptability and learning for growth in our fast-changing world.
Suzanne Ellis, director of Communications for Change & Transformation, Lansons said: “While there’s a plan to get Britain working again, it won’t quite be ‘business as usual’ for some time yet. And, there’s many things about the day job that will change forever. It’s clear that in order to create a happy workforce, employers need to create a flexible, compassionate environment that puts employee wellbeing at the forefront. In return the rewards could be significant, a motivated workforce of loyal employees that can help a business weather the coming economic challenges.”
Wez Eathorne, research director, Opinium Research said: “Whilst the consequences of the pandemic on our nation’s health and finances have been horrific, there have been a small number of positive outcomes. It has made us all re-evaluate our priorities and purpose, with the shifting perceptions of our working lives one of the most profound.Our study suggests our expectations for our working lives and employers has changed – potentially forever”.