ResearchSurvey of 130,000 employees indicates ‘a new burnout’ & lack of positivity pre-vaccine

A survey by international leadership and HR advisory firm, Kincentric representing over 130,000 employees across 100 companies globally, predicts that employee morale and engagement will nosedive to levels not seen since the aftermath of the 2008/9 financial crash.
Content Team3 months ago9 min

Kincentric believes that most organisations met the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19 with an ‘exceptional senior leadership reaction’ – resulting in positive feedback. Data across global organisations reveals that 78% of employees have had a positive experience of wellbeing, connection and caring, senior leader response, and virtual work support. The number one factor behind the upbeat picture is senior leadership care and concern.

However, as employees begin to realise that the emergency will go on for much longer than anticipated, possibly even years, this will be eroded rapidly by the ongoing reality of stresses and tensions it brings and many will suffer as a result.

Natural Language Processing analysis of comments reveal the likely difficulty in maintaining high levels of positivity, with many respondents citing increasing levels of stress. Twenty-five percent of the most negative comments relate to anxiety and health concerns, with a further 39% reporting either mixed or neutral feelings about their stress levels.

Women are reported to be experiencing higher levels of stress

Kincentric’s Global Culture & Engagement Practice Leader, Ken Oehler comments: “We shouldn’t expect remarkably strong employee experiences to last without the extraordinary leadership responses we have seen remaining consistent. “There are many sources of this stress — from simply adjusting to new ways of working to the loss of individuals’ sense of belonging and security. Many are not only putting in longer hours as they swap out commute times for more virtual meetings, but discovering that working with colleagues and clients remotely, only on screens, is a greater strain and much more tiring than face-to-face interactions. Combine fatigue from adjusting to virtual work with family pressures, or feelings of isolation or prolonged uncertainty about health and safety as people go back to work without a vaccine, the economic impact, layoffs and employment prospects and we have the making an unprecedented perfect storm – ‘the new burnout’.”

Impact on women

Women are reported to be experiencing higher levels of stress, with 28% indicating some challenges managing covid-related stress, compared to 22% of men – a 6 percentage point difference. The 35 – 44 age group reports the highest levels of stress with men and women citing different experiences, drivers of anxiety and priorities for support.

We are still in early stages of Covid-19 and starting to see things get much more difficult

“We are not living in a straightforward pre- and post-Covid-19 world, but a pre- and post-vaccine one”, reflects Ken Oehler. “The virus itself is fluid and changing and not a single event. The Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of change curve has shown this in the past. Employee engagement reached a high point at the peak of the great recession and then fell significantly a year later after the downturn had technically passed, but the economic uncertainty, cost-cutting, workforce reductions and unemployment fallout continued. We are still in early stages of Covid-19 and starting to see things get much more difficult.”

Many companies will not simply return to the previous ways of working

The Kubler-Ross change curve

Oehler reports that we are now in the Covid-19 phase focused on working safely and with more work from home options. The highly anticipated vaccine could allow companies, leaders and employees to get back to some sense of normal. However, many companies will not simply return to the previous ways of working: “Health and safety, understanding diverse workforce needs, work from home, compassionate leadership and a singular focus on the employee experience of safety and wellbeing have been thrust into the forefront. I’m not sure employees will tolerate going back to the way things were previously.”

“People have been talking about organisational agility in a Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world for a while now – are we now living it in ways few imagined? The importance of leaders leading through change with human connection, empathy, understanding, candour and resilience, and how positively this impacts the employee experience, cannot be underestimated.”

Enhancing the employee experience will require organisations to adopt a more ‘employee-centric’ approach by identifying which segments of the workforce have the greatest impact on business outcomes – then understanding the moments that matter to them. The research demonstrates the impact and necessity for compassion, empathy, empowerment and transparency, as well as visibility and agile decision-making.


Notes on survey methodology

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Kincentric analysed the data of 130,000 employee responses across 101 organisations globally who ran Kincentric’s pulse surveys to capture information about their employee’s perception. The pulses covered in particular the employee experience of well-being, connection & caring, senior leader response, and virtual work support.

The research was conducted by Kincentric between 13 April 2020 and 15 May 2020.

Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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