2020 can’t be over soon enough. In a year where every time you thought things couldn’t get worse, they did, it is easy to believe that 2020 was just a big bucket of misery. While this is mostly true, a recent analysis by our Data Science team finds proof that at least one good thing occurred during all of the awfulness.

In a surprising finding, RepTrak found evidence that the public became much more concerned for the welfare of others than seen in previous years. While analyzing the changes in corporate reputation over the course of the year, our data science team noticed an unusual increase in the concern for how well companies treat their employees. While this pattern is seen across all industries, the Technology industry best shows how this played out.

Move Fast and Break Things...At Home

The Tech industry arguably had an easier time transitioning to fully remote work than most. The fact that Tech employees could work effectively at home did not mean that Tech executives were going to embrace having them actually do so. Tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple had spent billions creating corporate campuses so enticing that employees would not want to leave, but they were amongst the first to send them home and many closed their offices earlier than required. They explained that the priority was employee safety, and quickly instituted policies such as expanded paid leave for childcare or caring for someone with COVID-19. Many companies provided stipends to help employees improve their home workspace and took steps to communicate their positions and actions frequently, and the public rewarded them for it.

In the Misery That Was 2020 1In the Misery That Was 2020 2

What is interesting is that while the Tech industry took care of its employees’ pre-pandemic, it wasn’t an important part of its corporate reputation. Forget fully catered lunches - that’s table stakes for Tech companies attempting to lure the best and the brightest to join their ranks. Perks such as tuition reimbursement or 12 months of paid parental leave are increasingly common, and while these benefits may have helped recruitment, they did little to affect the industry’s corporate reputation.

But, as COVID-19 hits, we see this change and it is interesting because the Tech industry didn’t change, the public did. The public suddenly cared if Technology companies supported its workforce, when it hadn’t cared before. 

Our hypothesis? In the midst of common adversity, we became concerned for the welfare of the collective whole. It suddenly became important that companies treat their employees fairly, and we see that in how the public no longer views the workplace as just the physical space where people work; it now includes a holistic view of how companies treat their employees.

In a truly awful year, people became concerned for the welfare of others.

Does This Mean Humanity Is Saved?

Alas, probably not. As you can see below, we returned to our regular callous ways in October:

In the Misery That Was 2020 3

One of the many things Data Science will closely monitor as we close out 2020 and into 2021 is if employee well-being will remain a top priority across the board. Has the broader recognition of systemic racism and the unequal effects of COVID-19 on communities of color fundamentally altered our sense of fairness? Will we continue to care once a vaccine is widely distributed? 

Only time and data will tell, we continue to care and begin to address long standing inequities, or will we go back to not caring. We hope the change is here to stay, but 2020 has taught us to be ready for anything. 

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