While Canadians may be isolated and “socially distanced” from their employers and co-workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new national study shows that the shared crisis experience is bringing them closer together.

INFOGRAPHIC: COVID-19 crisis improves relationships between employers and workers.

INFOGRAPHIC: COVID-19 crisis improves relationships between employers & workers. (CNW Group/Argyle Public Relationships)

In a special edition of the Argyle Public Relationships Index™, a national survey conducted last week by Leger for the Argyle Group, 49% of respondents report an improvement in their relationship with their employer, with only 29% reporting a decline. 52 % of respondents also cite improvement in their relationships with their co-workers, compared with 25% whose relationships with colleagues have declined.

It also appears that even those who have lost or left their jobs during the pandemic do not blame their employers – with a narrow majority (53%) reporting satisfaction with their most recent employer.

In the various dimensions of a healthy relationship, Canadians also give their employers high marks:

  • 72% are satisfied with their employer (31% strongly);  
  • 69% agree that their employer “takes care of people who work here” (31% strongly agree);   
  • 68% trust their employer (30% strongly);  
  • 65% agree that their employer is “concerned about people like me” (30% strongly agree); and   
  • 63% agree that their employer is “committed to meeting my expectations” (25% strongly agree).

While the improvement in employer-employee relationships is common across Canada, this trend is most acute in Quebec – the region hit hardest by the pandemic so far – where 57% of respondents cite improved relationships with their employers. The next strongest improvements come in Alberta (55%), and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (54%).

“With employers anxious about their businesses, and employees worried about their jobs, Argyle’s research suggests people are working harder on their workplace relationships,” says Argyle CEO Daniel Tisch. “This is essential as we adapt to new ways of working. For essential-service workers, these are particularly stressful times. For people working remotely, there’s an intimacy to interacting with co-workers from our homes, creating connection even when we’re isolated.”

Relationships are thriving – both professional and personal Argyle’s research shows this improvement in relationships extends through both the personal and professional spheres. 69% of respondents say the crisis has improved their relationships with their families, versus only 15% who report a decline. While it is not surprising that Canadians feel closer to their health care providers (42% report improvement, 19% decline), they also report improvement in their relationships with the businesses they frequent (40%/26%), notwithstanding the increased difficulties of doing business in recent weeks.

Where can employers improve? Employee engagement. The one big weak spot for employers in the study is that only 39% of respondents believe they can influence their employer’s decisions or direction.

“In times of crisis and change, one of the most terrifying things is feeling like we have no autonomy or influence over the events shaking our lives,” Tisch says. “Wise employers will be more transparent than ever with their teams, and engage employees consistently and creatively to help address business and organizational challenges.” 

Data summary: Change in personal & professional relationships during COVID-19 pandemic

Relationship Relationship improved Relationship declined Don’t know / No change
Family 69% 15% 17%
Co-workers 52% 25% 23%
Employer 49% 29% 22%
Health care provider(s) 42% 19% 39%
Businesses I deal with 40% 26% 34%

Argyle’s research has found that measuring relationships is particularly relevant during a crisis, because relationship measurement combines rational assessments of competence and satisfaction with emotional dimensions such as empathy, affinity, influence and trust.

About the study
This edition of the Argyle Public Relationships Index™ is based on a survey of 1,590 Canadians, completed between March 27-30, 2020, using Leger’s online panel, LEO. The margin of error for the study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%.

Source: Cision News Wire