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COVID-19 Work Impact Assessment Report

May 1, 2020 | Research Reports

Much like the rest of the world, Botswana now knows what it feels like to live for two months in lockdown. With the restrictions starting to lift a little, and a few aspects of life becoming a little more normal (although who would have predicted a few months ago, that we would now all be walking round wearing face masks), many businesses are able to open their doors and people are returning to work.

It has been an incredibly tough time for business, and the struggle to recover from this lockdown is far from over. To help understand the situation better, Positive Performance created the Covid-19 Work Impact Assessment (CV-19WIA) to monitor and evaluate the economic impact on organisations, as well as the psycho-social impact on employees. This is the second data set collected since March 2020.

20 organisations, representing approximately 600 employees across public, private and education sectors, participated in the CV-19WIA survey. The survey was divided into two parts – one for the leadership to complete, and the other for the employees. This provides us with a view on the pandemic’s impact on the financial, strategic, and HR areas of different organisations, as well as the levels of stress, resilience, and general well-being at work, and the practical ways that people’s lives have been affected.

The current survey data was collected between 1st and 8th May, and relates to the month of April. This data, therefore, is reflective of the first month of lockdown.

Results

Prior to the official lockdown starting, organisations were a little more optimistic than they are now. Back in March, 59% of participants viewed the pandemic as a threat, whilst 35% perceived it as an opportunity. These figures have worsened, with 87% now viewing it as a threat, and only 13% as an opportunity.

Not unexpectedly, other results have worsened too. In March, 12% of participants achieved higher than expected revenues, whilst in April, this dropped to 7%. And whereas in March, 44% reported a reduction in expected revenue, this figure doubled to 87% for April. This suggests that the 40% of participants reporting cancelled orders that we saw in March, is currently taking effect on business’ revenue streams, and is only set to get worse, with 60% of respondents reporting orders being cancelled in April.

Public facing businesses and organisations have been hit the hardest, with 93% of respondents reporting a drop in service consumption. 57% of these organisations found ways to deliver their services in a non-face-to-face manner, demonstrating the importance of IT and internet infrastructure in Botswana.

By the end of April, 57% of participants had been forced to temporarily cease trading due to government regulation (an increase from 34% at the end of March). Disruptions to imports and exports remained similar to March, at around 50% for each.

Although participants reported similarly in terms of how uncertain their business plan is going forward (67% for April vs 65% for March), their view of how long it will take their business to recover from the pandemic has worsened significantly. None of the participants reported that it will be a seamless recovery (compared with 7% of participants for March), 61% expect it will take between 1 and 12 months to recover (compared with 85% for March), and 39% predict it will take 1-3 years to recover (compared with 8% for March).

This pandemic has stretched many organisations beyond what they had imagined possible, and demanded more from many of our leaders than ever before. Although some participants reported that the pandemic has not affected their leadership role and responsibilities, many have encountered new challenges. These include communication hurdles, difficulties monitoring work and deliverables from a distance, managing during times of financial crisis, having to face potential lay-offs, loss of structure and time-keeping, an inability to connect to the same extent, and an inability to motivate team members. 80% of leaders reported feeling anxious and 60% felt stressed during the month of April.

This new way of working also revealed where some of the opportunities may be in our organisations, for example, it highlighted the need to lead with clarity, demonstrated that some employees are able to work from home, showed the benefits of more regular and detailed analysis of sales performance, and highlighted the need to engage with suppliers on cost cutting. It has proven the benefit of more regular leadership meetings to address issues and action response and tasks, the positive impact of regular communication with team members and customers, led to a deepened commitment to serving staff, served as an inspiration to be even more connected, and some leaders mentioned needing to put more trust in their staff to carry on their work unsupervised. 80% of leaders report experiencing high levels of resilience and 53% felt hopeful during the month of April.

Many employees have been impacted not only by the changes to their work, but also the changes in their homes, with parents trying to home school and run a household, whilst fulfil their job demands. Many employees have reported significant loss of productive working hours due to the coronavirus, with lost productivity ranging from 6 hours to over 80 hours during the month of April.

One of the biggest impacts on individual employees has been heightened stress levels, with 85% (up from 71% for March) of respondents reporting that they experienced stress during the month of April. 69% of respondents report being fairly high or very high in resilience, an increase from 44% for March, suggesting that perhaps we are discovering strengths that we did not realised we had.

Encouragingly, our overall well-being at work does not appear to have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Both the results for March and the results for April, are very similar to our pre-Covid-19 data for organisations in Botswana.

The one notable area where the score has dropped significantly, is the score for Engagement, which fell 7% between March and April. This could be due to a number of reasons, including feeling a little less connected while working from home, the increased levels of stress that employees are experiencing, or feeling distracted by worry, children at home, or other practical matters. We are hopeful, particularly due to the high resilience scores, that the engagement levels will pick up once people are fully back to work.

In spite of the encouraging signs, it is critical that we do not forget that our employees have been going through an extremely challenging time, and some may come back to work with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Of the participants who responded to the survey, some reported difficulties with not being able to exercise, struggling with being confined to their homes, missing their families and friends, worry about children’s education, a general sense of fear, worry about job security, fear for their health, feeling stagnant, worries about finances, feeling lonely, worry about the speed at which our rights were removed, feeling disconnected from family, and breakdown of their marriage. As leaders, these are things we are going to need to be sensitive to, and help support our employees back to a place of wellness.

For more information on this report, or how to take care of the psychological well-being of your employees, please contact celia@positiveperformance.co.bw.