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TriNet and The Harris Poll Reveal Pulse Survey Results Highlighting the Current State of Employee Productivity and Work-Life Balance for Small and Medium-Size Businesses During COVID-19

82% of Surveyed Companies Have Taken Actions to Enhance Employee Wellbeing During the Pandemic

Dublin, CA — May 13, 2020 — TriNet, a leading provider of comprehensive human resources, teamed with The Harris Poll for four industry-wide pulse surveys to better understand broad COVID-19 sentiment, beyond its own small and medium-size business (SMB) customers. The latest round of surveys, released in a whitepaper today, sought to uncover how SMB business owners were balancing productivity with employee work-life balance during the pandemic.

According to the survey results, the majority of SMBs (58%) were investing in the health of their workforce by adjusting healthcare benefits or offering guidance to employees. Further, 92% have made efforts to shift to a remote workforce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty-two percent of SMBs have taken actions to enhance employee wellbeing, with the most common and effective of these actions allowing for the flexibility to balance the new work/home life conditions. And, lastly, the majority of SMBs (71%) have made HR changes, or plan to make them, as a result of the pandemic.

Amber Broughton, managing director of The Harris Poll noted, “small and medium size businesses continue to step up as they adapt to the new realities of this pandemic, investing in the wellbeing of their workforce through enabling remote work, staying in close contact, and offering increased flexibility to balance daily work and life.”

Surveys were conducted April 14–26 and included more than 700 SMBs with an employee base between 5–249 employees. Detailed results of the surveys can be found in the whitepaper issued by TriNet.

Supporting Employee Wellbeing

The current state of the remote workforce has made 82% of SMBs take concrete actions to enhance employee wellbeing. According to survey respondents, the single action they feel that’s been most effective in enhancing employee wellbeing include:

• Increased flexibility to balance new work/home life (44%)

• Virtual gatherings such as happy hours, coffee breaks, book clubs (10%)

• Increased visibility of leadership/management team (10%)

• Stress management information (7%)

Overall, 74% of SMBs say that most or all of their employees have taken advantage of the new employee wellbeing offerings. In fact, 57% of SMB leaders say their workforce remains optimistic in light of the current circumstances, with 52% believing their optimism is trending upwards since the start of April.

Employee Health Coverage

Highlights from The Harris Poll administered survey show that SMBs have invested more in their employees’ health and safety.

• Nearly 58% of polled companies have adjusted healthcare benefits or are offering guidance to employees

• 39% have changed their healthcare benefits to respond to the pandemic, such as extending healthcare coverage to laid off employees

• 53% are offering at least some form of guidance in areas like the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, short-term medical, and telemedicine, for employees that are losing healthcare coverage

When it comes to short-term healthcare coverage, SMB leaders are primarily concerned about the cost to the employee, with 22% citing this as the single most important consideration.

Enabling Remote Work

While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for SMBs, 75% of SMBs who have made efforts to shift to a remote workforce said it has been challenging. Sixty-five percent of SMB leaders for whom remote working is a possibility said they wished they had implemented a remote workforce earlier.

According to the survey, the majority of SMB leaders (62%) have seen a downtick in productivity. In fact, when identifying the single biggest challenge in workforce management during the pandemic, lower employee productivity ranked third on the list for SMBs (12% selected it as the single biggest challenge). The other aspects SMB leaders picked as their single biggest challenge include:

• Maintaining morale (24%)

• Managing employee workload (14%)

• Unknown employee availability/ambiguous working hours (9%)

• Lower level of engagement (9%)

• Technological difficulties (8%)

The current state of the remote workplace has SMB leaders planning for the future once the pandemic subsides. Fifteen percent of SMBs expect that all of their employees will remain working remotely, 52% expect that some will remain remote, and 33% say none of their employees will stay working remotely when the crisis is over.

HR Support

According to the survey, 63% of SMBs believe the pandemic has revealed some aspects of their current HR capabilities as lacking. This has led to 71% of SMB leaders making, or plan to make, HR changes which include:

• 48% are making a concentrated effort to enhance staff morale

• 42% are ramping up employee health and safety programs

• 65% of these SMB leaders planned or implemented changes to optimize HR capabilities, including reorganization of the company structure, changing to outsourced HR functionality/PEO, providing additional training/education for HR talent, and hiring/contracting additional HR talent

The whitepaper can be downloaded here. More information on TriNet’s continually updated resources for SMBs around COVID-19 can also be found on TriNet’s Business Resiliency and Preparedness Center.

For this research, TriNet teamed with The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey of more than 700 business leaders in U.S. companies with 5 to 249 employees between April 14-16, 2020 for the fourth wave, April 16-20, 2020 for the fifth wave, April 21-24, 2020 for the sixth wave and April 23-26, 2020 for the seventh wave. Business leaders were qualified as either owners/partners or C-level executives.

TriNet previously released the results of three pulse surveys that were conducted April 3–12 focusing on the topics of cash flow and liquidity. The results showed that despite the challenges, SMB optimism was strong.

About TriNet

TriNet (NYSE: TNET) provides small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) with full-service HR solutions tailored by industry. To free SMBs from HR complexities, TriNet offers access to human capital expertise, benefits, risk mitigation and compliance, payroll and real-time technology. From Main Street to Wall Street, TriNet empowers SMBs to focus on what matters most—growing their business. TriNet, incredible starts here. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter. 

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