Over half of workers globally and two-fifths in the UK have faced a significant impact on their health during the pandemic. 

According to recent Gartner research, the health of the global workforce has been strained as a result of COVID-19.

Gartner studied this impact by comparing across three main factors – namely, employees, relationships and work environments.

The advisory company found that over four in five workers globally (85 per cent) experienced higher levels of burnout whilst two-fifths (40 per cent) saw a decline in work-life balance.

The pandemic also had a knock-on effect on professional relationships with employees. Given the disruption, over two-fifths (41 per cent) globally said they now have less trust in their teams. A similar number (37 per cent) reported a decline in trust in leadership.

Finally, due to the frequent shifts and disruptions over the past year, Gartner found that employees’ ability to cope with new changes has plummeted, demonstrating less resilience. This has also impacted D&I, with three in 10 (31 per cent) experiencing a lower level of inclusion.

Piers Hudson, Senior Direct Analyst at Gartner, called these changes “long-term” and “hard to reverse”, stating:

Moving forward, leaders must figure out how to sustain and grow performance, whether in a period of disruption or not, without damaging the health of employees.

Therefore, Gartner stated  leaders need to deepen their understanding of how disruption impacts different employees to develop effective and affordable interventions.

One way of achieving this, the study suggests, is cultivating a personal sense of purpose among staff. Similarly, teams which are cohesive and well-connected also have a better chance of sustaining workforce health.

Gartner also denounced the idea offering increased autonomy to staff as workload increases, stating this has a detrimental impact on the health of the workforce. It instead advocates for building autonomy up over time.

In light of this, Gartner recommends implementing these steps to promote workforce resilience:

  • Dig deeper than function- or segment-level averages to understand which parts of the workforce have experienced damage and who has thrived. Retaining individual gains in workforce health is as critical to rebounding post-disruption as fixing the points of damage.
  • Help employees connect their personal goals to business goals and realign teams to ensure immediate working relationships are supported.
  • Make work easier and engage employees with empathy, both personally and professionally. Managers can show “work empathy” by adapting priorities to minimise frivolous work and showing employees the impact of their work.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to practice autonomy, but only if the organisation can offer guardrails and training.

Cian O’Morain, Director in the Gartner HR practice, said:

Our research uncovered that one of the biggest drivers of workforce resilience is leaders themselves, and their ability to both understand and address the barriers that are preventing employees from having a healthy work – and life – experience. 

*Gartner clients can read more in the report “Sustaining Workforce Resilience Through Disruption.”