COVID-19 Study: 53% of Employees Say Their Company Was Not Prepared


Posted on: June 18, 2024

The initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 shocked the world and left many people and companies scrambling to adapt. It’s safe to say that it entirely reshaped how consumers view large-scale disruptions, and set expectations for how organizations will prepare for and navigate similar events in the future. While some companies were prepared to adjust quickly during the onset, others companies struggled with their response during the crisis.  

A new survey by Fusion Risk Management reveals how employees felt about their companies’ preparedness and response during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how ready they feel their companies are to handle another large-scale disruption in the future. 

How Prepared Businesses Were For The Pandemic 

Employees reflect on their company’s preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic - study from FusionRM.com

Overall, most survey respondents didn’t feel that their organizations were ready for a disruption as significant as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. According to the responses, only 1 in 10 employees felt their company was well prepared to handle and respond to the pandemic, while a staggering 83% said their company lacked a dedicated pandemic plan altogether. Even among companies with a plan, they weren’t always kept up-to-date, with employees reporting plans were “rarely or never reviewed” in 10% of cases. 

A lack of preparedness may have resulted in delayed responses to the pandemic, as 74% of employees reported that their company waited 3 weeks or more after the initial outbreak for any policy changes. Nearly half (45%) of employees said their company had a COVID-19 outbreak, and of those where an outbreak was reported, 45% said it was due to poor pandemic preparation. In fact, a quarter of employees said their company’s response to the onset of the pandemic was slow and inefficient, which, as the world quickly understood, can be dangerous and costly. To navigate a disruption such as the pandemic successfully, companies need to react quickly and effectively, protecting their workforce, continuing operations, and delivering on customer expectations.

Responding To The Onset of The COVID-19 Pandemic

How employees felt working during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic- study from FusionRM.com

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on employees experiences on the job, no matter their role or location. While many companies took positive steps to protect their workforce, such as implementing safety protocols (66%), shifting to remote work (62%), and providing personal protective equipment (61%), employees had negative experiences as well.  

 A significant portion of the workforce (54%) still had to work in person, and employees also reported layoffs and furloughs (30%), a lack of flexibility in hours or schedules (26%), and/or a temporary shutdown (22%) as main ways companies negatively handled their pandemic response. Nearly 1 in 3 respondents reported not feeling valued by their company while working during the pandemic. 

Overall, employee sentiment towards their company’s handling of the pandemic was mixed. While 56% reported a positive or very positive experience, nearly 1 in 5 felt negatively impacted.  Nearly half (43%) felt their company could have done more to support them, and 26% added that their company still needs to improve communication about health and safety measures. If every company had a strategy in place to approach large scale disruptions such as as the pandemic, there’s a chance that employees would’ve had a much smoother, more positive experience, despite the undeniable hardships.

Are Companies Prepared for Another Pandemic?

Employees evaluate their company’s current pandemic protocols and if they feel prepared for a similar world health emergency - study from FusionRM.com

Reflecting on the past few years following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses’ readiness to navigate future large-scale disruptions remains uncertain. 18% of employees still feel their company is not prepared for a future health emergency, and nearly 1 in 4 do not think their current company could handle another pandemic. When it comes to confidence in their employer, only 30% are “very confident” in their company’s ability to handle a similar situation moving forward.  

However, there are some positive takeaways. More than half (52%) of respondents said their company has implemented new policies because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The top ways companies have changed their approach include continued remote or hybrid work options (43%), enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols (23%), and revised sick or time-off policies (15%).  

Overall, the pandemic heightened the awareness of risk management (43%), bringing an important spotlight to the strategies and processes organizations have, or don’t have, in place to navigate disruptions. As reflected in the survey results, and felt across the world, many organizations simply were not prepared because they didn’t have a resiliency mindset or the necessary business continuity practices in place which would have allowed them to quickly and smoothly adapt to the new challenges facing their business. Thankfully that is shifting, with many companies implementing new risk management strategies (29%) and placing a greater emphasis on proactive risk identification and mitigation (28%).  

But this reapproach isn’t something companies can just think about once or from time to time, it’s a continuous process that needs to evolve in tandem with technology and the ever-changing threats and disruptive events facing business. The pandemic had highly visible impacts on every section of the economy, with one example being the supply chain. Most survey respondents (70%) reported widespread supply chain disruptions, which interfered with companies’ ability to deliver their goods and services in a manner that met customer expectations. Investing in resiliency end-to-end is a crucial step in the right direction for companies to be better prepared for the next large-scale disruption that comes their way, ensuring they’re able to navigate any type of event at any level of their business.  

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a wake-up call for businesses across every industry. While many adapted well, if companies want to successfully navigate another large-scale crisis, there’s a pressing need for improved communication and planning along with a renewed investment in risk management and operational resilience.

Methodology

In May 2024, we surveyed 1,001 American full-time and part-time employees across a variety of industries to understand how their companies responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how prepared they are for future potential pandemics. Respondents were 48% female, 50% male, and 2% non-binary with an age range of 19 to 77 and an average age of 41. 

For media inquiries, contact media@digitalthirdcoast.net

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