The first wave of coronavirus cases was exceptionally difficult for employees trying to manage the new normal. (Credit: Syuzann/

A month into the COVID-19 pandemic, HR software firm Zenefits conducted a survey that found a majority of workers felt that their employers genuinely cared about their well-being and were doing their level best to ensure their safety and retain jobs. Even as they felt anxiety about the future, employees were generally pleased with the way their companies provided clear and timely communication as the crisis unfolded.

New research from employee feedback provider Effectory takes a deeper dive into the salutary effects of crisis communication—and how badly it’s needed during stressful times for employees.

Related: A measure of calm during the COVID-19 crisis: How to communicate with employees

Between late March and early June, over 120,000 employees responded to Effectory’s COVID-19 Workforce Pulse surveys. The research found that, on average, only 40% of employees were able to maintain a good work/life balance during the pandemic. The percentage of employees reporting a good work/life balance only got as high as 42%. The normally expected figure, according to Effectory, is 69%.

The first wave of coronavirus cases was exceptionally difficult for employees trying to manage the new normal. 26% of employees surveyed reported working in a home environment not conducive to concentration, and 25% said the limited availability of their work colleagues made them feel less enabled to work effectively. Overall, 30% of respondents felt limited in their ability to perform at optimal level.

Employees who were satisfied with the way their companies were communicating and managing the COVID-19 pandemic felt more empowered to perform. They also had more confidence about the future of their organizations.

Although employee confidence in crisis management declined a tick over the weeks, feelings of performance enablement increased slightly and business continuity stayed stable. Employee confidence in the future of their organizations dipped by more than 6% between mid-April and late May, but increased thereafter.

“If an organization shows strong leadership in times of crisis, it can help to develop a sense of solidarity,” says Effectory’s CPO and Innovation Manager, Merel van der Lei. “Employees then think: We are going to overcome this situation. That motivates them to be committed and to perform well.”