Employees give leadership high marks for communication and integrity in the first six months of the pandemic.

At rst glance, you might expect COVID-19 to be a disaster for corporate culture. The widespread shift to remote work — half of employees in the U.S. were working from home in April — decreased the face-to-face interactions that reinforce organizational culture. The economic downturn in many industries and a spike in layoffs threaten to unravel the social fabric that holds companies together.

Our ongoing analysis of 1.4 million employee-written reviews on Glassdoor, however, tells a very different story. To examine how the pandemic has influenced employees’ perceptions of corporate culture, we looked month by month at how workers at Culture 500 companies rated their employer for the ve years through August 2020. When current or former employees review a company, they are asked to rate its culture and values on a five-point scale, from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied.”

We found that the average culture rating across the Culture 500 companies experienced a sharp jump between March and April 2020. (See “Company Culture and Values Ratings Before and During COVID-19.”) The months of April through August 2020, which saw widespread lockdowns, shifts to remote work, and layoffs, occupy the top ve spots in terms of average culture ratings during the five-year period.

To understand what was driving this positive spike in culture ratings in the COVID-19 era, we analyzed how employees discussed more than 200 topics in company reviews during the 12 months before the coronavirus pandemic. Our natural language processing platform identified which topics employees mentioned in the free text of their Glassdoor reviews and whether they talked about them positively or negatively. We then compared how often and how favorably those topics were discussed pre-COVID-19 with results from reviews written during the pandemic.

For most topics, there was little difference in sentiment before and during the coronavirus pandemic. But one important theme that does stand out in the months of the pandemic is the quality of communication by leaders. Employees of Culture 500 companies gave their corporate leaders much higher marks in terms of honest communication and transparency during the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic compared with the preceding year.

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