The COVID-19 pandemic has had consequences that reach far beyond what we could have ever expected. In a few short months, the world has been plunged into what is thought to be one of the worst economic recessions of our time. As efforts turn to restoring economic solvency, the Finance sector — and by extension, its employees — has found itself in the eye of the incoming storm.
Employees in this sector have never been more overburdened and under pressure — and they are juggling this Herculean task alongside caring for children and loved ones, working in more difficult conditions than ever before.
These extra burdens are having a knock-on impact on how these employees perceive their productivity during this time. We analysed their survey responses since March to find out how they’re dealing with these new pressures.
Almost 50% of employees in the Finance sector feel that their productivity is misunderstood
We released a COVID-19 question set on the Peakon platform to support our community and the wellbeing of their employees. This question set was developed by our Organisational Development Science team to measure employee perception on factors including how their organisation has kept them safe, provided clear communication and supported them to work remotely during the pandemic.
One of these questions measures the extent to which employees feel that their organisation understands how the pandemic is negatively impacting their productivity:
[Company] understands how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect my productivity.
On a global scale, 46% of employees in the Finance sector do not feel that their organisation understands the impact that the pandemic is having on their productivity.
This means that almost half of employees in this sector are feeling untrusted and unsupported by their organisations in a time when they need this the most.
Employees in Finance are 2x more likely to discuss pressure in their comments
Employee comment responses to the productivity question give us key insight into the increased burden the pandemic is placing on this sector.
When we looked at the top ten comment terms for this question left by Finance employees between March and May, pressure was the second most-discussed topic. Meanwhile, this concern was the fifth most-discussed term for employees in other sectors. This means employees in the Finance sector are talking about pressure twice as much as employees in other sectors.
The sources of this pressure are obvious. The use of terms such as challenge and target hint at the demands placed on employees in this sector, while hour and children give us insight into the reality of meeting these steep demands in the current working context.
Employees in the Finance sector are talking about pressure twice as much as employees in other sectors.
Collectively, these terms tell us that employees in this sector are feeling overburdened and undersupported.
Working hours and mounting pressure are top productivity concerns in Finance
Employees that responded positively to the productivity question cited that their organisations had been transparent about the expectations and challenges the pandemic would bring with providing regular communication. They also felt their organisation had consideration for their mental and physical wellbeing and enjoyed their newfound flexibility.
Meanwhile, employees that responded negatively to this question mentioned increased workloads, pressure to deliver and a lack of communication and understanding from their organisation on how their productivity might be impacted by the pandemic. They also cited increased working hours and a lack of flexibility.
In both cases, communication is the key. Employees that left high scores on this question were satisfied with their organisation’s communication and expectations for the road ahead. However, employees who left low scores were left seeking reassurance, support and information.
Why organisations must focus on trust and not productivity
In the wake of COVID-19 it’s understandable that organisations in the Finance sector should be focused on driving productivity as attention turns to restabilising the global economy.
Yet almost half of employees in this sector do not feel that their organisation understands the very real impact the pandemic is having on their productivity — and they feel overpressured to hit targets, and fearful of not managing an ever-increasing workload.
46% of employees in the Finance sector do not feel that their organisation understands the impact that the pandemic is having on their productivity.
During this time, organisations will need to reframe how they define productivity. Instead of monitoring productivity, organisations that are truly people-forward will be focused on reinforcing a culture of psychological safety. When employees feel psychologically safe at work and feel trusted to complete their work in the way that works for them free from judgement, they’re likely to be more engaged, productive and innovative.
Creating this environment means fostering a culture built on mutual trust and autonomy rather than one that focuses on hitting targets and deadlines. It means being compassionate and understanding to employee needs, and responsive to cases of employee burnout or overload. When these elements are in place, organisations will be better placed to motivate, support and empower their employees to make work work for them.
To find out more about how employees and organisations are responding to COVID-19, click here.