Time apart for Kiwi workers and bosses during lockdown has had some surprising benefits, according to a nationwide survey of more than 20,000 New Zealanders working from home. It found bosses are more trusting, teams are working better together, people feel more empowered to perform well, and despite swapping the meeting room for video calls, workplace communication has improved.
The survey is the first in a series that will track how workplaces are supporting Kiwis over the next 12 months, making it the largest study of its kind in New Zealand. It is being conducted by AskYourTeam, a Hawke’s Bay-based workplace productivity and leadership effectiveness consultancy.
CEO Chris O’Reilly says the results show bosses have stepped up to the task of leading people through the Covid-19 crisis.
“There’s definitely less of an ‘us vs them’ divide now compared to before lockdown. There is evidence bosses have taken on the challenge to be kind to the people they manage and are going out of their way to support them through this highly disruptive period.”
Prior to Covid-19, workplaces achieved a 64% rating on average for managers trusting workers to be productive. This increased to an average of 87% during lockdown, showing trust between bosses and workers has increased, and bosses haven’t been micro-managing people working from home.
Additionally, the survey shows bosses have taken the time to make sure their employees are clear on how to keep working at home, with workplaces achieving an average 83% rating for workers knowing what is expected of them to do their job, compared to 66% before lockdown.
When asked if people kept in regular contact with their colleagues, the survey shows an increase from an average rating of 66% to 83%. This indicates Kiwis have remained well connected with technology, perhaps even more than they did when they were sharing an office.
The results also show workplaces are dealing more effectively with intimidating /bullying behaviour (up from an average rating of 62% to 73%) and giving people the equipment and resources to get work done effectively (70% to 82%).
The survey also measures ‘blindspots’ in the workplace, calling out differences between the way bosses and the people who work for them think about aspects of their jobs. These can include anything from organisational leadership and strategy to how respected people feel when they go to work.
In all five areas, the gap between bosses and workers closed considerably after lockdown. Prior to Covid-19, there was a 15% gap between bosses and workers who said people were trusted to work productively. This closed to just 7% during lockdown, showing Kiwi bosses are doing a better job of managing their team members remotely compared to benchmarks from before the Covid-19 crisis.
O’Reilly says many Kiwis will be keen to keep some of the benefits of working from home, and organisations that currently don’t have good flexible working arrangements may come under pressure from staff to offer this flexibility permanently.
“Coming out of lockdown may well be more challenging for workplaces than going into it. The uncertainties that lie ahead will require careful navigation and sure-footed planning, good communication and ongoing empathy and flexibility from leadership teams,” O’Reilly says.
Five positive workplace trends during lockdown
Better Communication: despite working remotely, many Kiwis are reporting better communication from their manager and teammates.
Trust: respondents are feeling they are more trusted to work at home and get on with it.
Gratitude: bosses have taken the “Be Kind” message on board and employees recognise and are grateful for this.
Flexibility: bosses have recognised that everyone’s personal situations are different, and being flexible in how they manage their work and family commitments
Bullying: employees report their workplaces are better prepared to deal with instances of bullying or intimidation.
SURVEY DATA: AVERAGE WORKPLACE RATINGS - PRE AND DURING LOCKDOWN
Aspect of work
Average rating pre lockdown
Average rating during lockdown
Being trusted to work productively
Having the tools to work effectively
Keeping in regular contact with teammates
Dealing with intimidating behaviour/workplace bullying effectively