Top 5 Covid-19 surveys and reports

The editor's top five picks of HR-related Covid-19 research released in 2020.

In this article, the editor takes his top five picks from data and results gleaned from various surveys and reports providing insights on the thoughts and feelings of professionals as they navigated 2020.

1 Employees' thoughts on employers' response to the pandemic

Market researcher Consulta released results of a survey in which it asked more than 1,000 South Africans, who are part of its online research community (known as the ConsultaPanel) how Covid-19 has impacted their work and relationships with their employers, among other things.

About half all respondents expected a decline in their income, while the other half were more optimistic, reporting that they expect their income to remain stable at least until the end of lockdown.

With regard to their relationship with employers, 60 percent of respondents felt that their employer had done a good job at implementing the necessary safety measures in place to protect them from contracting the virus in the workplace.

Twenty-seven percent needed their employers to provide the necessary tools to work remotely, such as internet connectivity, while 20 percent wanted their employer to demonstrate their duty of care by providing the necessary protective clothing and equipment to those who still need to work, such as protective gear and regular deep cleaning of the work environment.

All respondents were asked what their employers could do to show care and build trust during this time and around 40 percent mentioned the need to stay connected during the lockdown period, and for the organisation to keep employees updated on any new developments while making sure everyone was clear about expectations.

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2 Deloitte predicts HR will feature strongly in radical workplace changes 

The 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey notes that HR’s handling of challenges created by Covid-19 has made business leaders more confident in the function’s ability to help organisations navigate future changes. This most recent survey showed that HR leaders have more confidence in this ability too.

The 2021 challenge for HR leaders is to figure out how to take advantage of this new status to define the next phase. The goal is to expand the function’s focus beyond operational tasks to re-design work as a whole, according to the report.

The survey found that companies are learning to live with uncertainty, despite hopes for a return to pre-Covid-19 normal. Deloitte recommends making employee well-being a central priority instead of a side-lined issue, advising that the approach to workforce planning should shift from surviving to thriving.

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3 PwC explores how the Covid-19 pandemic will impact remuneration structures

PwC's Leila Ebrahimi explores the findings of their latest remuneration practices and trends report and says there is a balance to be found between the interests of employees who are frustrated with low levels of (variable) pay at a time when they feel they are working harder than ever, and the interests of shareholders who have seen significant value destruction in the last few months.

She says there will be an increase in the incorporation of ESG (environmental, social, governance) measures within pay structures. “We are already seeing increased demand for pay to be responsible and fair, and this includes a wider contextual consideration of what is happening with employees within the organisation and responsibility to society.”

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4 Workers want a different workplace after Covid-19

According to iAfrica’s study on what workers want from the workplace following Covid-19,  people have proven that they can be productive while working from home and expect offices to adapt.

iAfrica’s research revealed that the majority, or 71 percent of those surveyed, would like to go back to an office that is mostly open, despite concerns about the pandemic. Flexible seating and self-identifying neighbourhoods were a preference, with the survey showing that that most people’s preference leaned towards having an assigned desk. Only 17% were willing to share, which could be a result of the current health crisis. When offered the choice to work in a more hybrid way, just over half of workers or 51 percent would be willing to trade their assigned desk for greater flexibility to choose when and where they work.

The survey demonstrates an acceleration of a trend that has been identified over the last decade, that people working in a hybrid arrangement report the highest satisfaction with their work situation.

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5 More than half of South Africans’ stress levels up due to Covid-19

A national survey conducted by pharmaceutical firm Pharma Dynamics has found that South Africans are more stressed since the onset of Covid-19. More than 1,200 South African adults were polled across the country, with 56 percent of respondents experiencing higher levels of psychological and emotional distress than before the pandemic.

The survey found that more than half (53 percent) of respondents either lost their job, had to take a pay-cut or were forced to close a business. Equally troubling is the fact that nearly half (49 percent) of respondents wanted to reach out to a therapist for help during the pandemic, but couldn’t due to limited financial resources or lack of access.

Abdurahman Kenny, mental health portfolio manager at Pharma Dynamics, said that to deal with the stress, many have resorted to junk food (81 percent), alcohol (20 percent), and smoking cannabis (six percent), none of which bode well for physical or emotional well-being.

Abdurahman says that, as the effects of the pandemic take hold on daily life in the coming months, mental health professionals need to be prepared for an increase in substance abuse. Many people who previously coped well are now less able to manage due to multiple stressors generated by the pandemic, while those with pre-existing mental health conditions may have experienced a worsening of symptoms.

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