GALLUP REPORT: Impact of COVID-19 on workplaces and employee performance


If 2020 could be summarised in one word, it would be: SHIFT. 

We saw a shift in our regular daily routines, slowly being replaced by what we now deem as a ‘new normal’. We see a shift in the way we work, live and play, and we will continue to see shifts, solely because change is the only consistent thing that we can rely upon. 

And yet, the biggest shift—still in the works for most organisations—is the priority from success and profitability to employee performance and workforce resilience. According to Gallup’s latest State of The Global Workplace 2021 Report, 2020 saw a 2% decrease in employee engagement across the world, following a steady rise in the past decade. Further research also found that seven in ten employees report to be suffering, rather than thriving in their overall lives. These numbers are projected to increase as the pandemic rages on. 

Other notable insights include:

  1. Increase In Daily Negative Emotions: 2020 saw an increase in worry, stress, anger and sadness for employees across the globe, with daily stress reaching a record high at 43% in 2020 (from 38% in 2019). This is an urgent issue for leaders to address, as it could lead to increased burnout and impact overall employee wellbeing in the organisation. 
  2. Employee Disengagement: Even though employee engagement rates have been rising over the years, the majority of employees remain disengaged, risking the risk of an organisation’s resilience, productivity and performance. 
  3. Highest Life Evaluations: Gallup’s research found that respondents hailing from Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands) have the highest evaluations in the world. Incidentally, these countries also adopt a working model that emphasizes employee satisfaction and happiness.

So what does this mean for leaders?

Wellbeing Should Be Top Priority

Conversations on mental health and employee wellbeing have been going on even before the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic serves to accelerate the importance for organisations to bear this as a key priority when considering employee engagement. With the stakes running high, employers need to reassess their employee wellness programmes and revamp their approach to be more holistic and long-term. 

A key part of employee wellbeing also involves building a culture of psychological safety— a belief that allows employees to feel safe to speak up without fear of humiliation or retaliation. Using tools such as SoundWave can help get conversations rolling for leaders to move towards understanding how they can help their employees better and create a culture of engagement. 

Focusing On Outcomes, Not Processes 

Focusing on the outcomes is a way for leaders to show their trust in the talents and capabilities of employees, allowing for success. Leaders are the captains of the ship, setting the course for their followers. Employees get the allowance to dictate how they wish to work, fostering freedom, trust and ownership. Leaders also get to catalyse the individual talents of their team and move for performance.  

Creating optimal employee engagement with outcome-based leadership relies on building a strengths-based culture, where leaders can get to know the individual talents of their team, discover what motivates each person, and find a way to help them work best. 

Staying, And Maintaining Flexibility

Flexible workplaces are here to stay. But in a VUCA world, flexibility goes beyond the versatility of a work environment. It also refers to the adaptability of a leader—being innovative to modify their style or approach to fit into circumstances, being open to trying out new methods, and finding new ways to solve problems. Effective leaders know how to acknowledge, accept and adapt to changes to stay on top of their game and keep their employees engaged. 

Dive Deeper With Us

The message is clear: Employee Engagement Matters. 

Discover our strategy to build a resilient workforce and long-term business success for your organisation, through the power of employee engagement. Reach out to us to find out more.

Maalikka is the latest addition to StrengthsAsia’s team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix and cats.

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