What We Found
This report summarizes the results of the Survey of Employee Experiences During the Pandemic, issued by the Auditor’s Office in September 2020. Responses overall were generally positive. However, in analyzing the data and reading over 8,000 written comments, it is clear that employees have had very different experiences.
Nearly nine out of ten employees said they feel supported by their coworkers and the vast majority feel supported by their supervisor. Most respondents agreed that leadership is doing a good job of handling the COVID-19 pandemic and a majority have confidence that leadership will make the right decisions during this pandemic. While results are positive overall, there were big differences in responses between onsite workers and teleworkers. Library employees and employees from the Sheriff’s Office had the lowest levels of agreement with county leadership and employee satisfaction questions.
Employees who worked onsite or in the field had safety concerns related to COVID-19. Many onsite workers talked about the unfairness of having to report in person while others were able to telework. They had fears of COVID-19 exposure and taking the virus back to their households. They also talked about increased workload and challenges of childcare. Those working in the jails expressed safety concerns related to both COVID-19 and the downtown protests. Some respondents who worked in the jails talked about coworkers not taking the pandemic seriously. Library employees expressed anger and concern over potential library layoffs and reorganization plans. They voiced a lack of trust and confidence in management.
While teleworkers tended to be more positive, they also identified challenges. Teleworkers talked about difficulties with remote communication, childcare, getting needed equipment, and having space to work at home. Many mentioned that services to clients had suffered. Many also expressed appreciation for being able to work from home and hope some form of telework can continue.
Why We Conducted the Survey
We conducted this survey in the fall of 2020 to inform our audit of the county’s response to the pandemic. We saw this as an opportunity to gain an understanding of how employees were experiencing the pandemic in their work environments. This report summarized the results of a survey from fall of 2020 – much has happened and many things have changed since we issued this survey. We believe this survey will provide valuable information for employees, county leaders, and the public.
Results of the Survey of Employee Experiences During the Pandemic
Thank you participants
We received responses from 3,374 employees, or about 59% of the County workforce. The highest response rates came from employees in the Library and the Department of County Management. Please see the appendices for a copy of the survey and response rates and survey results for each department by question.
We provided opportunities for employees to share their perceptions, which were wide-ranging
We organized the survey into four sections with several optional comment boxes throughout. About 80% of those who took the survey, approximately 2,750, chose to comment. Some employees made more than one comment for a total of over 8,000 comments. Employees were more inclined to share negative perceptions than neutral or positive ones. We have included employee comments throughout the report and in a separate section to illustrate individual employee perceptions on particular topics. We edited responses for clarity and to remove identifying references.
We conducted this survey at a challenging and changing time, with many external and internal stressors affecting employees. In addition to the global pandemic, employees experienced the racial justice uprising in personal and professional ways. Employees were also affected by nearby forest fires and layoff announcements. Many employees reported increased workloads while some changed assignments to respond to the pandemic. We asked employees to express their experiences in their own words. Comments were wide ranging and reflected these various experiences. Some comments were lengthy and many expressed strong emotions.
Report describes examples of differences by groups
We also looked for differences in responses based on respondents’ position in workplace (worksite, department, operational level) and identity (race/ethnicity, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation). The report includes some examples of differences, but not all. The biggest differences were among different worksites and departments. To protect individual identity, we do not report results for groups with fewer than 30 respondents. Responses for those groups are included in overall results. Many respondents chose not to provide demographic information. Respondents who declined to provide this information tended to have lower agreement than other respondents. Respondents who answer questions negatively may be more concerned about providing any information related to their identity. Demographic categories in the demographic questions reflect recommendations from the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) and the Gender Identity, Equity and Data Governance Project, and were selected to allow for comparing trends both over time and to other County data.