Survey shows workplace resilience increases with experience of Covid-19

2nd November by Lee Robertson

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Survey shows workplace resilience increases with covid19

The Global Workplace Study 2020 has found that only 17 per cent of workers worldwide are classed as highly resilient and that those individuals with personal experience of Covid-19, are shown to have higher levels of workplace resilience.

Published by the APD Research Institute, the study focuses on how Covid-19 has affected engagement and workplace resilience and the interplay between them in 25 countries. Interviewing over 25,000 employees across the globe, the study of engagement takes on new dimensions and importance during a time of greatly enhanced global stress caused by the impact of Covid-19.

One of the report’s headline conclusions is that the more tangible the threat as we get up close and personal to the actuality of Covid-19, the more that we sugar coat the reality, the less beneficial it will be for everyone.

The report’s authors point out that people need facts, not blithe reassurance, and that experience of the reality of the problem seems to help build resilience, overcome fear, and access their capacity. Their wellbeing is preserved, not diminished, when they can see the true picture and respond to it, rather than when it is hidden from them or unknown.

The data also reveals that a country’s level of Covid-19 impact (average cases and deaths per million and average unemployment) had no effect on workplace resilience. 41 per cent reported having had personal experience of the pandemic and workers with a first-hand personal connection to coronavirus were 3.8 times more likely to be highly resilient.

97 per cent of employees experienced one or more changes on the back of the disruption brought by covid-19 with promotions placed on hold, staff furloughed, working hours changed and workers being laid off. Individuals who experienced at least five changes at work, were consequently 13.2 times more likely to be highly resilient.

Another expectation that the research proved true is the hypothesis based on strengths and that individuals who love the work they do, demonstrated higher levels of workplace resilience. Those who love their jobs - regardless of whether they considered themselves to be good at doing it – were also 3.9 times more likely to be highly resilient in the workplace.

Karen Smart who heads up the AoEC’s consultancy services commented: “The survey highlights an important need for business leaders to avoid downplaying the very real risks that organisations and employees face during challenging situations. In this new normal, we must show our human vulnerabilities. We cannot all rush back to the way we used to do things. Leaders need to show up as honest, authentic, and compassionate as we all learn to live in this new environment. Building trust, leading by example, and making the space for fears to be aired and discussed so we can build individual and organisational resilience are now crucial to successfully leading our people through this crisis.”

The authors also learned that global engagement has slightly changed over the last two years, with a small drop of one per cent. Today, just 14 per cent of workers can be classified as fully engaged, meaning that 86 per cent of workers are ‘just coming to work’ rather than contributing their all to their employers.

The report also demonstrated that engagement and resilience are related, and that engagement explains a 64 per cent variance in resilience. Ten per cent of workers are both fully engaged and highly resilient, while only five per cent were fully engaged but vulnerable. The majority of 80 per cent were found to be ‘just coming to work’, but were also vulnerable, highlighting that it is possible to be fully engaged, but not highly resilient and vice versa.

However, workplace resilience and engagement do not always align. Some countries including Singapore and China showed they have higher resilience rates than engagement meaning that workers in these countries are better prepared for challenging times but are not set to contribute their best. Meanwhile, nations like Israel, the UK and United States are at the opposite end of the spectrum with the pattern implying that workers here might be well set up for productivity today but are more vulnerable should setbacks occur tomorrow.

Other points of interest revealed in the data include the finding that trust in team leaders is still the foundation of engagement and an employee is 14 times more likely to be fully engaged if they trust the team leader. Being on a team also impacts engagement and those in teams were 2.6 times more likely to be fully engaged and 3.3 times more likely when in upper management. Those working from home full time were still more engaged and resilient that those who did not work remotely, while gender and age play not active part in predicting engagement or resilience levels.


The AoEC’s consultancy services are offered to organisations and feature a portfolio of tailored coaching based solutions and products that can serve to address a multitude of issues facing both large and small businesses today. We work at all levels within an organisation to help build a coaching culture where the emphasis is placed on improving performance, maximising your people’s potential and driving business success. To arrange a free virtual coaching conversation email Karen Smart - consulting@aoec.com or why not join us at one of our free upcoming virtual open events or webinars.