When it’s time for work, employees aren’t likely to be in the office.
They probably aren’t congregating in front of the coffee machine or crowding into the same conference room to discuss a project, like they were just a few months ago.
Work in the U.S. has increasingly gone remote since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
The changed working environment can affect employees’ mental and emotional health and make it more challenging for companies to execute.
We surveyed 301 workers to learn about their mental and emotional health since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
Many workers are feeling less productive during the pandemic, and employers are responding by providing additional emotional and mental support to ensure that workers feel confident about their future at the company.
- 39% of employees have felt less productive while working during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that businesses should provide additional support to their workers.
- 57% of employees are receiving additional mental and emotional support from their company during the pandemic; flexible scheduling (28%) and advice on remote work (23%) are the most common options.
- Around one-quarter of workers are more frequently contacting friends and family (24%), exercising (24%), and taking breaks throughout the workday (24%), indicating that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, employees will take steps to improve and maintain their mental health.
- 51% of workers say their working situation in the past 30 days has not impacted their outlook about their future at the company where they work. Companies will continue to prioritize maintaining employee morale during the pandemic.
1. Many Employees Feel Less Productive During COVID-19
Companies need their workers to be productive to improve the COVID-19 business environment. Because many employees feel less productive than they did before the pandemic, businesses are providing additional coaching and support to teammates.
About 4 in 10 employees (39%) say they feel less productive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In comparison, 37% of employees say their productivity has not changed during the pandemic, and just 24% feel more productive than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak.
When employees work remotely, experts say companies should remind them of the value of their contributions.
Yaniv Masjedi, chief marketing officer at Nextiva, a business phone service for remote workers, says his team has been as productive as they were before the pandemic.
Still, he believes employees feel less productive because they aren’t receiving in-person support, feedback, and company. To remind workers of their productivity, he:
- Schedules regular meetings in which workers recap their activities and accomplishments
- Maintains small talk and normal office conversation over remote work messaging tools
- Compliments his employees on their work more frequently
Other managers are prioritizing 1:1 meetings with employees.
“I invest time in one-on-one conversations with each of my team members at least three times a week,” said David Morneau, co-founder of inBeat, a micro-influencer marketing agency. “I listen, empathize, and offer solutions. Motivated employees are always more productive.”
"Motivated employees are always more productive."
Teammates must feel connected to one another and supported by their employer to feel productive.
2. Most Companies Offer Mental and Emotional Support Resources to Employees
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on workers and their companies. To keep employees healthy and mentally strong, businesses are offering employees support such as flexible schedules and increased time off.
Currently, more than half of businesses (57%) are offering some form of mental or emotional support to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common offerings to support employee health and emotions include:
- Ability to work a flexible schedule (28%)
- Receiving regular advice about remote work (23%)
- Access to professional counseling or therapy (21%)
- Increased paid time off or sick leave (14%)
- Adjusted employee goals or metrics (13%)
- Virtual social or community events (11%)
Many companies are beginning to offer a range of emotional support to their employees.
Pavel Kaplunou, who works in marketing communications at Smart IT, a software development company, has seen his company’s mental and emotional resources expand during COVID-19.
So far, Smart IT is:
- Making scheduling changes: Employees have “wiggle room” for logging the required hours, depending on their department and job requirements.
- Expanding sick days: Employees can take up to 3 consecutive sick days without providing documentation.
- Implementing virtual events: Workers can join a variety of virtual events depending on their tastes and preferences. The company has hosted virtual tea and coffee breaks (“SmartITea”) and Friday happy hours (“Smart IT Bar”). Plus, the company began regular online gaming tournaments and Instagram challenges.
- Holding dedicated human resources calls: Employees can join in and discuss their challenges and successes at work and suggestions for the company. The business keeps a pulse on employee attitudes.
Employee demand for access to virtual mental health care is also likely to rise as the pandemic continues.
Already, platforms that provide mental health care have grown. For example, Ginger, which provides virtual therapy and psychiatry to workers, has seen a 50% increase in its number of users compared to the end of 2019.
Stewart believes mindfulness apps are particularly valuable because they are an approachable, daily resource for employees.
COVID-19 will influence many companies to make mental and emotional support a regular part of the employee experience.
3. Employees Are Focusing on Wellness More During COVID-19
As COVID-19 affects employees’ emotional health, they are engaging in more activities that aid their mental well-being.
Already, roughly one-quarter of employees are more frequently:
- Contacting friends and family (24%)
- Exercising (24%)
- Taking breaks throughout the workday (24%)
Some employees are also:
- Setting boundaries on their work schedule (17%)
- Eating more nutritiously (14%)
- Spending more time away from digital screens (11%)
Intentional behavior that improves their physical and mental health is especially important to many employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The 19 in COVID-19 refers to 2019, but it also refers to the 19 pounds I’ve put on since mandatory working from home began,” said Brendan Lowry, digital marketing manager of Material Handling Logistics Inc., a tech company that services the supply chain industry. “I’m now taking advantage of the extra time at home to drop that weight by maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.”
"I’m now taking advantage of the extra time at home to drop that weight by maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle."
Material Handling Logistics’ collaborative wellness goals have boosted Lowry’s motivation to exercise: Employees have a shared channel on Strava, a running and cycling mileage-tracking app. Employees are encouraged to log 1 mile or more of walking or running per day.
A focus on wellness activities will be important to maintaining strong mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Most Employees’ Outlook on Future at Current Company Has Not Changed
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic shifts in people’s professional and personal lives, and workers’ perspective on their employment situation could change as they continue to work remotely or endure other coronavirus-related disruptions.
For now, more than one-half of employees (51%) say their working situation in the past 30 days has not impacted their outlook on their future at the company where they work.
In comparison, about one-quarter of workers, respectively, say their outlook is less positive (25%) or more positive (24%).
Experts say that workers’ attitudes depend on their industry and employment structure:
- Employees at e-commerce outlets are most likely to be optimistic. Joy Wang, chief executive officer of AmazingBeauty Hair, an e-commerce hair extension and accessory outlet, says her revenue has actually increased since the onset of COVID-19.
- Self-employed small business owners and entrepreneurs are often pessimistic. “When a crisis occurs, it seems like the solopreneurs and the self-employed get hit the hardest,” said Ryan Cook, digital marketing specialist at Epic Marketing. Often, smaller companies rely on in-person commerce that social distancing has reduced or have a smaller, less diverse client base.
- Workers at many medium-sized and large companies are sometimes just happy to have a job. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made me more thankful for my job and the security that comes from having a job,” Cook said. Despite substantial job losses, a majority of Americans have kept their jobs during COVID-19. For some people, simply being employed is a source of relief and optimism.
Employees who still have jobs during the coronavirus pandemic are likely to have high morale and a less pessimistic view of their professional future.
Employee Health a Priority for Businesses During COVID-19
COVID-19 has influenced businesses to prioritize mental and emotional health. Overall, businesses should remember that:
- Many employees feel less productive than usual during COVID-19, and tactics such as regular 1:1 meetings can help workers remember their accomplishments.
- Most businesses offer employee health and mental support, with flexible schedules and access to therapy especially common.
- Employees are taking many steps to maintain their own mental and physical health.
Overall, companies should anticipate that employees will feel less productive during COVID-19 and want opportunities to maintain and improve their mental and emotional state.