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Employee Sentiment Changing over Lockdown

Caroline O'Keeffe | 7th July 2020

We’ve been offering our Employee Voice 24/7 service on a complimentary basis to hundreds of organisations throughout the Covid-19 lockdown. So, what does the data show about how employees have been feeling during lockdown and how employee sentiment is changing?

Employees Less Happy than ‘Normal’

We are asking employees “How are you feeling today?”. They simply score 1-10 (from ‘pretty terrible’ to ‘life’s great’) and then tell us why. Whether they’re working or on furlough, employees answer anonymously, whenever and in as much detail as they wish.

Unsurprisingly, the average happiness index score is down to 6.1 from our pre-Covid-19 average of 7.6. However, it has increased from 5.8 in the month after the lockdown period began. Looking at the scores in more detail, the picture is more nuanced with roughly half employees (46.9%) giving a favourable score (of 7 or above) and half (53.1%) giving an unfavourable score of 1-6.

Increased Desire to Share Feelings 

The pandemic has fuelled the desire amongst employees to share the emotional detail on how they are feeling. In June, around two-thirds of employees (69.9%) left comments, more than double the normal average prior to the pandemic.  

As well as an increase in the number of comments made, we’ve also seen the length of comments left more than triple, from an average of 10 to 37 words. This trend has remained stable throughout the 4- month lockdown period. 

Employee Sentiment Dynamic is Changing

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Breaking down the sentiment of the comments gives real insight into the waves of emotion we’re experiencing with a marked change in the sentiment dynamic over the lockdown period. In the first 6 weeks, nearly half of comments (47.1%) contained positive sentiment, a third (35.1%) were neutral and less than 2 in 10 (17.8%) contained negative sentiment. However, by June this balance had markedly changed with 37.7% expressing positive sentiment (-9.4%), 35.0% expressing negative sentiment (+17.2%) and 27.4% neutral comments (-9.6%). 

What are the Emergent Themes in June? 

Below is our Wordcloud which highlights the sentiment of respondents. The larger the word the more people are mentioning it in their comments. The colour of the word represents whether it is spoken about positively or negatively; with green being positive and red being negative.

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Positives 

Work has remained the dominant positive in people’s lives throughout the first 4 months of lockdown. People are grateful:

  • To remain employed
  • For the support of their team
  • Being able to contribute to their organisation’s ongoing future 

There’s a recognition from many that lockdown is contributing towards a better work-life balance as: 

  • They get to spend more time with their family
  • More time at home
  • Can pursue personal interests and exercise more 

We’ve seen a very strong trend emerge around the positive impact of good weather on people’s mood and vice versa. 

Negatives 

Unsurprisingly work has also consistently remained the strongest negative theme particularly for those: 

  • Finding that their workload has increased 
  • Struggling to adapt to working remotely
  • On furlough
  • Missing colleagues and the work environment
  • Key workers still going into their workplace during the lockdown

Dealing with uncertainty has remained a key theme amongst employees during June, with concern over: 

  • How long lockdown will last
  • How it will impact the economy, their job and finances
  • How their employer will create a safe workplace
  • When it will be safe to commute on public transport
  • How they can maintain the level of flexibility they’ve experienced over hours and location in the future 
  • When children will go back to school


Alongside building the resilience required to deal with the high levels of uncertainty we’re all experiencing, there’s a clear need for employers to support the ongoing mental health of their people struggling to cope with high levels of sustained stress and anxiety. 

Listening to Your People – Free Support Available

The Happiness Index want to help you keep connected to your people during this period of change. We’re currently offering 4 complimentary surveys that can help you plan your future of work and better listen to your people:

Employee Voice 24/7
– Enable your people to feedback on how they’re feeling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Return to Work – Understand how your people are feeling about their return to the workplace & what they’d like work to look like in the future
Wellbeing – Assess the current wellbeing of your people
Remote Working Understand how your people are coping with remote working

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