How has COVID-19 altered the employer/employee relationship?

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on employer and employee relationships, and this is hampering productivity, according to a new report from MetLife UK. Most UK employers (72%) feel the relationship has changed, with 62% of employees agreeing.

As a result of Covid-19, 32% of employees feel that the relationship with their employer has been weakened and has subsequently also reduced employees’ sense of belonging to the business. Significantly, there is a strong correlation between a weakened relationship and productivity. Almost half (49%) of employees felt their relationship had worsened and agreed their productivity had diminished.

The report however pointed to a divergence of opinion with employers significantly under-estimating the impact on employee productivity (32%). The new Re:Me report from MetLife explores the changing priorities and expectations from employers and colleagues and the importance of individualism in a fast-moving world.

Findings from the research show that with two in five (41%) office workers primarily working from home, there has been a fall in collaboration and social interaction among colleagues, representing a decline in that all-important sense of community. A sense of belonging is critical for employers, given its correlation with job performance, employee turnover risk and even sick days. And the research shows how a more positive employee experience can harness a culture of care and rebuild a sense of belonging.

Despite this, the research also pointed to widespread empathy among employers with 44% understanding how important the employee experience is considering Covid-19. Among SMEs, 75% agreed that employee benefits need to be adapted post the pandemic.

Two thirds (67%) of employers confirmed their current employee benefits packages are being changed to support employee’s needs. And almost the same number (64%) have been ‘promoting benefits more during and since the pandemic’. Combined, this research shows that employers are making changes to their businesses to respond to needs of their employees.

Adrian Matthews, EB Director at MetLife UK comments: “The pandemic has undoubtedly shifted the dynamic between employers and their employees. It has not only revolutionised how and where we work, but it has also left many people missing the less tangible aspects of office. Homeworking has removed many of the cultural, emotional and communications bonds employers have spent decades establishing. And our research shows how this has resulted in significant erosion of how cared for employees’ feel by their employer and their sense of ‘belonging’. A reality experienced across companies of all sizes.

“During our research, we found that seven in ten employees felt companies had a social responsibility to them, reflecting a shift in expectations from employees. The pandemic has heightened a sense of belonging among employees with many seeking an employer that caters for their individual needs.  But our research points to an open ear from employers.  And there is an opportunity for employers to act now and re-establish that connection. In doing so they can build loyalty and reduce absentee levels. In the long term this will build a more mutually beneficial relationship between employees and employers.”