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Despite having worries over COVID-19, a majority of employees across the globe are pleased with the way their leaders have stepped up to support them.

According to new research by Willis Towers Watson, 92% of employees reported some level of anxiety from the pandemic, with 55% indicating a moderate or high degree.

The research which has tracked the pandemic-related work experiences of more than 100,000 global employees since mid-March also revealed that 70% had at least some distraction from work due to COVID-19 concerns with only one-third (32%) saying they can balance working from home and other responsibilities.

To top things off, 61% had financial concerns stemming from the COVID-19 disruption with 25% expressing a moderate or high degree of worry. Fewer than half of respondents say their company is making it easier to access and use employee benefits (46%) or know how to apply these benefits to COVID-19 care (47%).

Apart from that, the COVID-19 has brought about huge impacts on the employee experience: 

  • Only 39% agreed fully that colleagues are able to cope well with the stress they are feeling
  • 57% Agree fully that they are able to find ways to manage challenges outside of work
  • 76% Have shifted to a work-from-home arrangement

Lesley Brown, Asia Pacific Practice Leader, Employee Insights, Willis Towers Watson, said: "The challenges presented by this crisis highlight the demand for cross-functional collaboration to truly address employee needs. Employee anxiety can be managed through HR benefit-related coping support, yet combating distraction requires line managers to deepen team connections in appropriate ways, while alleviating financial concerns calls on business heads to demonstrate leadership by navigating the organisation through chaotic times.”

Thankfully, leaders have shown they are able to step up to the challenges leaders, scoring well for their performance during the pandemic. A large majority of employees agreed their leaders have been effective at focusing on work objectives (78%), obtaining the support needed at work (74%), keeping employees informed (73%), and protecting the health and wellbeing of their workforce (71%).

However, the research notes there are further concrete actions leaders can take to improve the overall employee experience, such as better understand job constraints due to issues outside of work.

Address anxiety by supporting employees to better cope and manage wellbeing

The research found that key drivers of anxiety are inability to cope & manage wellbeing with top item-level predictors including:

  • Ability to manage issues outside work
  • Clarity in applying relevant benefits
  • Confidence in leaders to protect employee health & wellbeing

In fact, only about half (49%) of the employees who can manage issues outside of work report moderate to high anxiety compared with 80% of employees unable to do so.

wtw covid19 employee pulse survey anxiety

Reduce distraction through stronger team working relationships & better coping

Key drivers of distraction are poor team connections & inability to cope with top item-level predictors including:

  • Colleagues’ level of focus on core objectives for work
  • Feeling well-connected to work team
  • Ability to manage issues outside work

It is revealed that employees in stronger team environments express much lower rates of distraction (16%) relative to colleagues who struggle to collaborate (56%).

wtw covid19 employee pulse survey distraction

Manage financial concerns by enabling better business execution

Key drivers of financial worries are poor organisational supports – resources, adaptability, business focus with top item-level predictors including:

  • Tools & resources to execute work
  • Confidence in leaders to manage through business challenges
  • Adapting work procedures to ensure health & safety

The research noted that employees more confident in leaders are about 2 times less likely to report moderate or strong concerns.

wtw covid19 employee pulse survey financial concerns

“In Asia Pacific, many employers are trying to maintain business operations, while also looking ahead to restoring stability after social distancing measures are relaxed by local governments. While they do this, it is important to remember that this is a time when empathy and careful listening to their employees are also very critical,” added Brown.

“There is a clear opportunity for employers to put their people first and do all they can to show support and build goodwill. Employers have many levers to pull, such as helping workers upgrade their work-from-home technology and enhancing programmes that can help employees battle emotional and financial anxiety.”

Photo / iStock