The past year has been like no other. Working practices were turned on their heads, employers and workers have had to rethink accepted norms, while adapting quickly to an uncertain, fast-changing world.
To assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees today, between 17 November and 11 December 2020 the ADP Research Institute surveyed 32,471 workers in 17 countries worldwide, including over 8,567 working in the gig economy*1.
Fears of job security have compelled 76% of workers to take on extra tasks or assume a heavier workload, with more than a half (55%) of essential workers and a third of non-essential workers (34%) shouldering extra duties during the pandemic.
Unpaid overtime has soared to 9.2 hours per week on average, in line with a shift to flexible working practices (up from 7.3 just a year ago.)
The pandemic has highlighted issues with incorrect and late payments, with more than three in five workers (63%) affected this year.
Workers are reassessing where and how they live with 75% of the global workforce having made changes or planning to change their living arrangements. This rises to 85% of Generation Z (18-24 year-olds).
The research shows that despite the general sense of optimism surrounding the pandemic’s impact, unease around job security dominates how workers feel today:
The appetite for gig work has increased, particularly in Asia Pacific (17%) and Latin America (23%), holding steady in Europe (17%) and declining in North America (15%).
In Europe, managing stress at work due to the impact of COVID-19 is affecting more women than men (17% versus 12%). This may relate to women being given less additional flexibility with company working arrangements than male colleagues.
Optimism about the next five years in the workplace was lowest in Europe at 71% and highest in APAC at 90% and Latin America at 85%.
Fears of job insecurity have compelled three quarters to take on extra tasks or work longer hours, especially in APAC (39%) and Latin America (34%), but less in Europe (21%) and North America (27%).
APAC leads the world in the highest amount of unpaid overtime, with a weekly average of 9.9 hours.
Workers in Chile were most likely (61%) in Latin America to receive a pay rise or bonus for taking on additional responsibilities due to COVID-related job losses. This compares to 56% in Brazil and 54% in Argentina.
The report highlights that for many people, juggling their various personal needs while meeting their work requirements has been tricky - and the struggles are consistent across the globe. Staying healthy has been the biggest challenge, followed by meeting the demands of both work and family, managing stress, maintaining productivity and managing workloads. In all regions except for APAC, stress management ranks as a greater challenge for women than it does for men – something that employers will want to be particularly alert to.
To navigate the multiple challenges and opportunities exposed by the pandemic, leadership will be as important as listening and learning at all levels. A dynamic organisational culture that finds ways to reduce stress and anxiety will play a vital part in creating the right conditions for workers and the whole enterprise to survive and thrive.