COVID-19: A catalyst for a Redesign of Work

A new research by ADP reveals that workplace trends that were five years in the making, have arrived ahead of time.
By: | June 4, 2020

Many workplace discussions during 2020 have touched on familiar topics for example:

  • How to manage pay concerns for remote employees?
  • Planning for upskilling and technology
  • How are workplace stress, health and wellness impacting our teams?

The global pandemic is a catalyst, accelerating trends which had been moving forward, delivering a more rapid pace of change than was envisioned.

Companies are now examining and taking stock of positives from these changes, thinking about future designs of their business. A helpful anchor point is understanding what their workforce views were going into the year.

Just before the pandemic arrived, ADP, a global leader in providing human capital solutions, surveyed over 32,000 employees and gig workers between October 2019 and January 2020 – around various topics including pay, career and wellbeing – to understand what the modern workforce wants from work.

The results of the study are published in the report of “Workforce View 2020: Volume One pre-COVID-19”, providing an interesting snapshot of the workforce view before the outbreak, which are valuable in assessing changes post-outbreak.

Asia Pacific: Full of optimism

Pre-pandemic global optimism was high as more than nine in ten (92%) respondents report feeling very or quite optimistic about the next five years at work. Asia Pacific was the most optimistic region (95%), and China was the most optimistic market in the global survey (96%).

World-leading optimism provides a solid building block in the design of work, but changes can occur rapidly, as most of the world discovered during the past months. Job roles were already changing, especially across Asia Pacific, moved along by automation and digitisation among other trends. One in three employees surveyed said their current role didn’t exist five years ago and similar percentage predict it won’t exist in another five years’ time.

Rapid change did little to dent workers optimism, as the overwhelming majority in Asia Pacific (95%) feel confident they have the skills to succeed in their career.

Stress and money matters

Demands of the modern workplace can impact even optimistic outlooks, Asia Pacific respondents (62%) report feeling stressed at least once a week, although this was the lowest of respondents in any region. The challenge for HR leaders is employees’ reticence to talk about stress and mental health, as only 22% of respondents said they would feel comfortable telling their manager or supervisor about a mental health problem or concern.

Money matters to everyone and may be one of the drivers of stress – as three key factors give insight into.

  • Globally only two in five workers receive their salary on time – Asia Pacific is the most challenged region
  • Pay slips are hard to read with a quarter globally saying they wouldn’t know if they were paid accurately (29% in Asia Pacific)
  • Asia Pacific employees work an average of 8.5 hours of unpaid time per week (In India and China, the average is 10 hours)

HR focus in the post-pandemic workplace

  • While employee positivity was on a high at the start of the year, the situation may have changed now at this time of uncertainty. HR teams have a central role to play to sustain morale and support the employment ecosystem as roles and skill requirements change.
  • Amidst signs of mental health stress, employers have a role to play in open and supportive cultures. HR teams helping to ensure employees know where they can raise sensitive issues like stress, confidentially, and without fear of reprisals, will provide an important outlet.
  • Pay remains a driver of employee satisfaction, innovative pay approaches that reflect when and how employees want to be paid may be one way to keep staff happy, especially among the younger generations in the workplace.
  • The importance of flexible working and wellbeing is frequently overlooked. The rise in the gig economy and recent pivot to widespread home-working show that flexibility may be the future. Employers who embrace it could reap the rewards in terms of productivity and employee engagement.