Employees in Southeast Asia expect their workplace will change for the better post Covid-19

Almost 74% of workers in Southeast Asia expect their industry will change for the better after Covid-19 due to the changes being implemented in response to the pandemic, according to Qualtrics in its recent study.

This is one of the key findings from Qualtrics’ Work Different study, which draws upon insights from 611 respondents in Southeast Asia, including more than 250 Malaysians, to provide a comprehensive scorecard into how people rate their employer’s response over the last 6 months, what work routines employees want once the pandemic eases, and what shifts in workplace policies they expect of their employers. 

The majority of respondents in the study (66%) rated the way their employer responded to the pandemic as “above average”.

With many people working from home during the pandemic, a large portion (58%) of respondents said their employee experience has improved during the pandemic, while 27% said it has remained the same. 

The most effective actions employers have taken to make their teams feel more valued throughout this period have been more workplace flexibility (28%) and gratitude from direct improved benefits (17%).

“As a result of their employers’ quick thinking and actions, the majority of workers across Southeast Asia say they feel a lot more valued (67%) at their company, and a lot more proud (68%) to work for them. This is in part down to the human-centered approach many adopted when the pandemic hit,” said Qualtrics head of Southeast Asia Mao Gen Foo.

“While many have made steps in the right direction, businesses cannot afford to take their foot off the gas. Employees want to be listened to, and there is more change on the road ahead as people return and industries adapt. To ensure they continue to successfully move forward businesses need to formalise the human-centered approach adopted with employees,” added Mao Gen.

How to work different

As businesses continue to plan and manage their return to the workplace, the Qualtrics study gives insight into what measures they want to see, and what actions they expect their employer to take.

For 90% of employees in Southeast Asia, it’s important their employer asks them what action they want to see taken to make them feel confident about returning. The top actions workers want to see are a higher focus on personal hygiene (11%) and more flexible work schedules (9%).

“While there is so much talk of when things will go back to normal or how we’ll come to terms with the “new normal,” those conversations are fundamentally missing the point, and missing an important opportunity to come back better, stronger, and more inclusive than ever. We’ve witnessed how changing the way you listen to and engage employees can have a positive effect, which is why those who make lasting changes now will have a key advantage in the future – from attracting and retaining talent to improved loyalty and productivity,” added Mao Gen. 

The importance of feedback

The study reveals 83% of workers think it’s very important their employers listen to their feedback during a crisis. 72% of workers in Southeast Asia say their employer has listened and acted (71%) on feedback more during the pandemic. 

“With situations continuing to change very quickly, being able to listen to and deliver what your employees want is a key advantage in ensuring they feel safe and supported. Longer-term, employee expectations have been changed forever by the pandemic, requiring a shift in the way businesses have traditionally managed engagement. It’s now business-critical that businesses have real-time insights into the things that matter most, and the skills and leadership to act on them effectively,” said Mao Gen.

Industry-specific findings

Retail: More than three fourths (79%) of retail workers expect to see an additional focus on e-commerce and home delivery (84%) after the pandemic, with the majority (83%) expecting an increased focus on website functionality and usability. 

Technology: The majority (82%) of workers agree the industry has reacted well to changes from the pandemic with more than half (66%) feeling more productive than before. 

Key changes workers expect to see as a result of the pandemic include:

  • 70% expect increased remote work 
  • 81% expect an increased focus on new uses of technology
  • 73% expect an increased focus on innovation

Automotive: 85% of workers say that their organisation has reacted well to the uncertainties posed by Covid-19 with half (50%) saying they’ve been more productive. 

While the industry has reacted well, staff expect fundamental changes including:

  • 80% expect to see a shift to touchless vehicle delivery to the end consumer 
  • 76% agree there will be more online retail car sales 
  • 72% agree there will be a shift to remote/concierge service models 

Financial services: 83% of financial services workers agree their industry has reacted well to shifts in the industry, however they expect significant changes to the industry including: 

  • 79% expect to see increased remote working 
  • 85% expect to see a shift towards online and digital services 
  • 79% agree there will be an increased focus on new uses of technology
  • 83% expect increased innovation to benefit customers 

Travel and hospitality industries: Industry changes are expected to primarily focus on personal and protective hygiene measures over technology-led transformation changes. These changes include:

  • 89% expect to see an increased emphasis on cleanliness 
  • 79% expect public spaces will be designed to make social distancing easier 
  • 85% expect greater investments in contactless interactions 

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