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Majority of U.S. Workers Think Their Employers are Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic Well … With Exceptions

67% of employees surveyed say that they feel like their employer genuinely cares about their well-being during the crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down large swaths of the American economy, the majority of workers who are fortunate enough to still have a job approve of how their employers have handled the crisis, according to a new survey by Workest via Zenefits.

Though the vast majority of employees said their employer had been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic — and the related lockdowns to protect public safety — most agreed that their employers took steps to ensure their safety and keep jobs, the survey of 1,005 workers found.

And, even though 76% of workers reported their employer had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a large majority of survey respondents gave their employers high marks during the crisis.

Coronavirus survey set 1

Most employees surveyed felt safe and informed

Most workers reported their employers took steps to keep them safe and communicated in a timely manner:

  • 74% of respondents agreed that their employer took precautions to ensure employees safety during the coronavirus pandemic
  • 68% agreed that their employer provided timely and clear communication during the crisis.

In general, the majority of workers felt their employer cared about them. 67% of employees surveyed say that they feel like their employer genuinely cares about their well-being during the crisis.

Coronavirus Survey Data Infographic 4

Employers try to hold onto workers

Even as initial unemployment claims hit historic highs in recent weeks, most workers said their employers tried to keep employees on payroll.

76% of respondents agreed that their employer did everything they could to keep workers employed.

When asked if they were disappointed with the way their employer has handled the pandemic around the workplace, 25% agreed they were disappointed, while 32% strongly disagreed, and 27% disagreed.

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Of the respondents:

  • 6% said they had been laid off because of COVID-19
  • 20% said that the business they work for laid off employees
  • 21% said furloughs were put in place
  • 34% reported reduced hours
  • 9% reported salary cuts for employees, and
  • 9% said executives took pay cuts

Employees report anxiety about cash and job security

Coronavirus Survey Data Infographic 3

Even as most employees gave high marks to the businesses they worked for, many expressed deep anxieties about the future of both their employers and themselves.

Half of respondents said the business they work for wouldn’t last longer than 3 months without financial assistance or business picking back up. 29% said the business had 2-3 months, 12% said one month, and 9% said less than one month. 17% of respondents said the business could last another 4-6 months, and 34% said more than six months.

Half of respondents said the business they work for wouldn’t last longer than 3 months without financial assistance or business picking back up.

Meanwhile, 51% of the respondents agreed that they were deeply concerned about their employment status due to the coronavirus pandemic. 24% of workers were neutral on the subject while only 26% disagreed.

And workers were split on optimism about the economy once the crisis has passed. 41% agreed that the economy would bounce back quickly once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, while 34% disagreed, and 25% were neutral.

Coronavirus Survey Data Infographic 5

Most employees report lockdowns, but still working

Coronavirus Survey Data Infographic 2

A large majority (81%) of workers said that the state or community where their employer is located faced a lockdown or shelter-in-place order.

But even so 53% of those who faced a lockdown said their employer was not shut down,  compared to 44% who said it was.

56% of those in a lockdown or shelter-in-place community said their employer was deemed an “essential business.”

Workers broadly aware of US government COVID relief and assistance programs, but disappointed in the rollout of them

Coronavirus Survey Data Quote 1-02

The main government program to help small businesses comes in the CARES Act, under the form of the Paycheck Protection Program. The $349 billion program is intended to give forgivable loans to small businesses who keep their employees on payroll. In addition, the government also offers emergency disaster loans through the SBA, and expanded unemployment benefits and paid sick leave for workers. Local municipalities have also set up loan and grant programs.

Even as respondents gave their employers generally positive marks, they were less happy with the response to the pandemic and economic fallout from the government.

Most of the respondents said they were aware of recently passed relief measures and legislation, though fewer said they or their employer were likely to take advantage of them.

  • 54% were aware of expanded unemployment benefits through the CARES Act; 26% planned to take advantage of them.
  • 45% were aware of the Paycheck Protection Program; 26% said they’re employer planned to take advantage of the program.
  • 45% were aware of small business loans and grants programs offered locally through the state, city or county; 13% thought their employer planned to take advantage of them.
  • 44% were aware of SBA Disaster Loans available to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; 14% said they’re employer planned to take advantage of the program.
  • 43% were aware of paid sick leave or family leave available through Families First Coronavirus Response Act; 30% planned to take advantage of the paid leave benefits.

Even with these programs in place, the largest share of workers expressed disappointment with the Federal government:

  • 47% agreed or strongly agreed that they were disappointed with how the Federal government has responded to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on businesses
  • Only 30% disagreed or strongly disagreed
47% agreed or strongly agreed that they were disappointed with how the Federal government has responded to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on businesses.

Locale is a factor in employee satisfaction with COVID response

States have handled the shutdown orders and proposed “Shelter in Place” recommendations differently. California was the first state to require non-essential businesses to shut down completely, while New York Essential Businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health.

Workers were less disappointed with local governments than national. 33% of respondents agreed that they were disappointed with how the state and/or local government have responded to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on businesses, while 42% disagreed.

Employees say the workplace will never be the same

Coronavirus Survey Data Infographic 6

By a large margin, workers said that the way and how we work will be permanently transformed because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the American economy.

70% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the workforce and workplace will be forever changed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19% of respondents were neutral and only 11% disagreed.

A mere 3% of respondents strongly disagreed that the workplace and workforce wouldn’t be permanently changed.

How this Zenefits survey was conducted

For this study, Zenefits via Workest polled 1,005 U.S. workers via Survey Gizmo between April 8-13, 2020. 941 of the respondents were currently employed and 64 had been recently laid off due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 954 of the respondents were employees filing a W-2 and 51 were independent contractors filing a 1099 form with the Internal Revenue Service. 855 of the survey respondents were full-time employees and 150 were part-time employees. Our respondents were employees of companies with a minimum of 5 employees.

Participants who did not fall into this category grouping were excluded from the analysis.

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