More Than Half Say Pandemic Has Harmed Finances and 74 Percent Worry About Impacts on Retirement Security

K-12 Public School Employees Report Increased Hours and Burnout While Job Satisfaction and Morale Tumble, According to Center for State and Local Government Excellence and ICMA-RC Research

A new national poll of state and local employees finds that the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis are taking a heavy toll on the public workforce. Since the early days of the pandemic, negative job sentiment is climbing, while 54 percent of the public workforce say they have been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic.

When looking at K-12 education employees, job satisfaction has fallen as hours on the job have increased. The percentage of K-12 employees who are very or extremely satisfied with their employer dropped from 69 to 44 percent from March to October. This segment of the workforce also feels higher levels of stress (63 percent) and burnout (54 percent) as compared to all other state and local workers, at 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

These findings are contained in two new infographics from SLGE and ICMA-RC, Public Sector Employee Views on COVID-19: May 2020 vs. October 2020 and K-12 Education Employee Views on COVID-19: March 2020 vs. October 2020.  A full report with additional survey findings will be issued in January 2021.

“The pandemic is weighing heavily on the state and local workforce, employees who are the front lines of public health and safety and trying to educate children under difficult circumstances,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, SLGE director of research. “Even before the pandemic, public employers were struggling to recruit and retain essential workers, and morale was an issue.”

“Layer on the massive budget shortfalls facing state and local governments and the long-term impacts on the public workforce could be disastrous,” she explained. “Job satisfaction is falling and burnout is high at a time when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging. Also troubling is the negative job sentiment among the K-12 workforce. Many educators indicate that they are working more hours, which could explain why stress, burnout and morale is even more problematic for this sector of the public workforce.”

“This research is critical as those who serve their communities face the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Orlando Cruz, senior vice president, ICMA-RC. “As we look ahead, there are opportunities to work closely with those on the front lines to address these issues, both for the day to day challenges faced and as they work to save for their financial goals.”

Key findings contained in the Public Sector Employee Views on COVID-19: May 2020 vs. October 2020 infographic are as follows:

  • State and local government workers’ negative feelings about working in the public sector during COVID have increased from May to October 2020. In October, nearly half (48 percent) say the risks they are taking working during the pandemic are not on par with their compensation, as compared to 32 percent in May. Also, 31 percent in October say that working during the pandemic has made them consider changing jobs, as compared to 20 percent in May.
  • In October, most state and local employees (76 percent) consider their job at least somewhat risky in terms of potential exposure to people who may have COVID-19 (as compared to 70 percent in May).
  • More than half (54 percent) say they have been negatively impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The majority of state and local employees (74 percent) remain concerned that the pandemic and the related economic crisis will impact their ability to save enough to be financially secure throughout retirement. About one quarter (26 percent) have reduced their retirement savings since the start of the pandemic.
  • Respondents were nearly two times more likely to report no remote work in October (49 percent) as compared to May (26 percent).
  • Trust in government leaders to make appropriate decisions about employee safety during the pandemic has decreased for all levels of government from May to October.

Key findings contained in the K-12 Education Employee Views on COVID-19: March 2020 vs. October 2020 infographic are as follows:

  • The percentage of K-12 employees who are very or extremely satisfied with their current employer dropped from 69 percent in March to 44 percent in October.
  • Compared with other state and local government employees, K-12 employees are more likely to report job stress (63 percent); burnout (54 percent); negative morale among co-workers (42 percent); and negative morale about work (34 percent).
  • Forty-one percent indicate that they are working somewhat/significantly more hours than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • K-12 employees are substantially less satisfied with key job elements in October as compared to March. Satisfaction with their ability to serve the community fell from 83 percent to 58 percent; job security satisfaction fell from 77 percent to 57 percent; personal job satisfaction fell from 75 percent to 56 percent; and work/life balance satisfaction fell from 61 percent to 40 percent. K-12 employees are also less satisfied than other state/local government workers with many of these job elements.
  • In October, 45 percent of K-12 employees agreed that employees who retire from jobs in K-12 education are generally able to live comfortably in retirement, down from 51 percent in March.
  • More than half of K-12 employees (60 percent) report that their employer solicited their opinion/feedback about the school’s plan for how to hold classes.
  • More than half (56 percent) somewhat/strongly approve of their school’s decision/plan on how to hold classes. K-12 employees reported that schools are most likely to be holding classes through a hybrid of in-person and online/remote learning (53 percent).
  • More than half (52 percent) say their employer has been very/extremely understanding regarding the staff’s adjustment to the school’s approach to holding classes. In contrast, only 30 percent agree that parents been very/extremely understanding with the school’s approach to holding classes and any limitations or inconveniences it may entail.

Information for these infographics is from an online survey of full-time state and local government employees fielded by Greenwald Research in May 2020 (n=1,008) and October 2020 (n=1,205, including a sub-sample of 494 K-12 employees); and an online survey of 400 full-time state and local government K-12 employees fielded by Greenwald Research in March 2020.  Final data were weighted by gender, age, income, and industry type to reflect the distribution of the state and local government workforce and K-12 public school employees as found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

 

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) helps local and state governments become knowledgeable and competitive employers so they can attract and retain a talented and committed workforce. SLGE identifies leading practices and conducts research on public retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, and labor force development. SLGE brings state and local leaders together with respected researchers. Access all SLGE publications and sign up for its newsletter at slge.org and follow @4GovtExcellence on Twitter.

About ICMA-RC

Founded in 1972, ICMA-RC is a non-profit, independent financial services corporation with approximately $63 billion in assets under management and administration (as of September 30, 2020), focused on providing retirement plans and related services for over 1.5 million public participant accounts. ICMA-RC’s mission is to help those who serve their communities work towards achieving their retirement savings goals. For more information, visit www.icmarc.org, download ICMA-RC’s mobile app from the App Store® and Google PlayTM or follow ICMA-RC on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Media Contact:

Center for State and Local Government Excellence | Kelly Kenneally | 202.256.1445 | [email protected]