Employees respond to challenges of COVID-19

What impact has the COVID-19 lockdown had on workplace culture and employee engagement? Research shows the best workplaces are getting even better. 

Employees adjusted Covid-19

A study commissioned by Energage to see how employee sentiment has shifted across the workplace culture in recent months. Looking at both Top Workplaces and aspiring Top Workplaces, they compared employee engagement survey data from 1,700 organizations prior to March 15, 2020, with 700 organizations that completed the same survey since that date. 

From team members to managers and senior leaders, the data showed an across-the board increase in overall employee engagement since COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders took effect in March 2020. In other words, company culture has strengthened for organizations that have been recognized as Top Workplaces – and also for those who aspire to achieve the same status. 

As companies look to return to workplace settings, these findings reinforce the decisions made by leaders who are reimagining their workforces going forward. The data revealed four key findings:

Employees are feeling more informed about important decisions. Despite many organizations moving to remote work, employees feel better informed about important decisions. Post-COVID, Energage found a 22 percent increase in “clued-in employees.” When employees feel included in important decisions, they feel like a true business partner — and more connected as a result.

Senior managers appear more “clued-in” about what is really happening within the organization. Employees were 17 percent more positive about saying senior managers understand what is really going on. When senior leaders appear to be out of the loop, it’s harder for employees to connect with the company strategy and mission. Clued-in senior leaders get valuable insight from those closest to the customer, and they’re better equipped to serve the market, too. 

Employees are feeling more positive about interdepartmental cooperation. Positive employee responses regarding inter-departmental cooperation rose 16 percent. When everybody works toward a common goal, each department becomes more effective and driven. And when departments work well together, employees feel a real sense of belonging.

Team members are feeling more appreciated despite uncertainty, added stress, and working remotely. Positive employee sentiment regarding appreciation rose 15 percent. When frequent and genuine appreciation is modeled every day from the top down, organizations create a culture that people want to be a part of and contribute to in every way. 

The bottom line: As high-performing workplaces lay out a vision for the future, they recognize the value of incorporating employee feedback. They’re leaning in and communicating more. That approach will continue to pay great dividends. 

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director for Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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