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3 Must-Know Insights From Gallup’s Latest Engagement Poll

In Gallup's most recent, “State of the Global Workplace” report, three key themes are revealed. This insight article sheds light on each theme and the importance of each in achieving improved employee engagement and a sharper competitive advantage as a result.

Statistics of interest

Gallup has collected data using their Gallup World Poll since 2005. Their data includes information from over 160 different countries along with “extensive random samples of working populations in the United States and Germany.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they transitioned to virtual computer-assisted-telephone interviews and collected data from 116 countries by early 2021. Below are key statistics found from this research that reflect the state of the global workplace from 2020 to early 2021.

  • 45% of people say their own life has been affected “a lot” by the Coronavirus

  • 50% of workers received less money than usual from their employer or business

  • 49% of workers worked fewer hours at their job or business

  • 53% of workers temporarily stopped working at their job or business

  • 32% of workers lost their job or business- just over 1 billion adults

  • 20% of employees are engaged at work, a 2% decrease

  • 32% of employees are thriving, a 2% increase

  • Approximately 7 out of 10 employees are “struggling or suffering, rather than thriving, in their overall lives”

  • Negative emotions increased more for employees who are younger than 40 than those we are 40 and older

  • Negative emotions increased more for female employees than male employees

  • 41% of employees experienced worry during a lot of the day prior to questioning, an increase of 6%

  • 43% of employees experienced stress during a lot of the previous day, an increase of 5%

  • 24% of employees experienced anger during a lot of the day previous to surveying, an increase of 4%

  • 25% of employees experienced sadness during a lot of the day previous to surveying

  • 14% of employees say they were not treated with respect all day on the day previous to surveying, an increase of 2%

  • 69% of employees say corruption is widespread within businesses located in their country, an increase of 1%

Key insights

There are three key themes in Gallup’s research study: engagement, COVID-19’s effects on the workplace, and mental health. COVID-19 has affected many employees financially, medically, and emotionally. Globally, engagement for employees has gone down and negative mental health indicators such as anger, stress, and worry have gone up.

“Employee engagement is a catalyst for success and sustainability that cannot be ignored.” - Irene Becker

1. ) Engagement

The importance of engagement

According to Gallup, “employee engagement reflects the involvement and

enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace” (2021). Previous analysis by several researchers at Gallup has indicated that businesses with high levels of employee engagement “achieve higher productivity, higher customer loyalty/engagement, better safety, lower turnover, and higher profitability, among other positive business outcomes” (Gallup, 2021 & Harter et al., 2020). They also estimate that “low engagement costs the global economy US$8.1 trillion” (Gallup, 2021). Their research indicates employee engagement is a valid way to compete in the global marketplace.

Global and national trends

While the global trend for employee engagement is negative, some countries such as the US and Canada have experienced a slight increase in employee engagement. However, coming in at 34%, the percentage of engaged employees for these countries leading in engagement is still low. Western Europe is estimated to have the lowest rate of employee engagement (11%) while Eastern Europe has the average rate of employee engagement at 21%.

Interested in learning more about employee engagement? Consider visiting our research article, “How Employees Avoid Work and Evade Engagement,” where we discuss several strategies that employees use to evade engagement and why they might be doing so.

“Taking care of the mental health of your employees is going to make your business more competitive.” - Mark Henick

2. ) The mental health crisis

Jim Clifton’s Summary

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, states in his introduction to the 2021 Workforce Report:

“negative emotions — worry, stress, anger, and sadness — among employees across the world reached record levels in 2020...These problems existed long before COVID-19. Gallup has discovered that negative emotions have been rising over the past decade. Even if we return to pre-COVID-19 levels of these emotions, the trends are still concerning. But it is possible — even likely — that employee mental health will get worse...Measuring employee mental health is critical. Besides destroying lives, suffering can destroy the human spirit that drives innovation, economic energy, and eventually, good jobs. This is likely tied to declining economic dynamism. Global GDP per capita is slowing — it has been for decades.” - Jim Clifton, 2021

Global and national trends

Gallup’s research has indicated that almost 7 out of 10 employees are “struggling or suffering, rather than thriving, in their overall lives.” Although engagement in the US and Canada increased, over half of the workforce reported “high stress — far above the global average.”

Meanwhile, countries with reduced engagement reported feeling less stress (Gallup, 2021). They propose that this could be due to “supportive social safety nets in many European countries, such as well developed social systems that helped to prevent some job loss and unemployment” for women in western Europe. Regardless, “worry, stress, anger, and sadness increased for employees globally in 2020” especially for women and those under 40 years of age (Gallup, 2021). Global daily stress levels experienced a record high, increasing by 5% since 2019. Anger and feelings of sadness also increased by 4% since 2019 (Gallup, 2021).

“The most successful organizations are now turning their attention to employee wellbeing as a way to gain emotional, financial, and competitive advantage.” - Tom Rath, Gallup

Gallup’s five elements of wellbeing

Gallup states that there are five areas in which wellbeing can be supported. They state that “wellbeing is about more than physical health. When people are thriving in all five areas, they have better health outcomes than when thriving in just physical wellbeing. Compared with those who score high on physical wellbeing alone, those who score high on all five elements report 41% fewer unhealthy days.

Corporations need employees who are consistently high in energy, focused, innovative, agile, and resilient. In other words, they need employees who are engaged at work and thriving in their overall life” (Gallup, 2021). The five areas that they believe employers should support for their employees are as follows:

  1. Career Wellbeing: you like what you do every day

  2. Social Wellbeing: you have meaningful friendships in your life

  3. Financial Wellbeing: you manage your money well

  4. Physical Wellbeing: you have energy to get things done

  5. Community Wellbeing: you like where you live (Gallup, 2021)

Gallup offers several suggestions on how employers can develop these areas of wellbeing such as “developing their employees’ strengths to help foster long-term careers, creating family-friendly policies and encouraging friendships at work, providing financial services and education, encouraging physical activity and making it easier to choose healthy foods, and celebrating those who give back to the community through service” (Gallup, 2021). Their research suggests that business leaders should “create a culture in which leaders, managers, and employees weave wellbeing into their everyday conversations.” (Gallup, 2021).

Interested in learning more about wellbeing and mental health? Check out relevant articles in the Arete Coach Insight library:

3. ) The effects of COVID-19

Gallup’s research study revealed many effects that COVID-19 has had on the global workforce. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and we transition to new normals, consider the following insights from Gallups research.

“Employees are a company’s greatest asset.” - Anne M. Mulcahy

Increase in negative emotions

As stated in the “mental health crisis” section, negative emotions such as fear, anger, worry, and stress increased globally from 2019 to 2020 (Gallup, 2021). These negative emotions “represent the frustrations and struggles of millions of workers across the planet” and can negatively “affect the involvement, enthusiasm, and productivity of workers in both good times and bad” (Gallup, 2021). Although negative emotions have been increasing in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated some of these trends via the stress and health challenges brought by the pandemic.

Financial effects

There are several financial effects that the COVID-19 virus has had on the global workforce. According to Gallup’s research 50% of employees received “less money than usual from their employer or business,” 53% of employees “temporarily stopped working,” 32% of employees lost their jobs or business, and 49% of employees “worked fewer hours.” They state that “just over 1 billion adults” lost their jobs during the pandemic.

However, they also state that “pandemic affected work varied widely by region.” For example, only 6% of workers lost a job or business in Western Europe and 66% of adults in South Asia temporarily stopped working due to the pandemic (Gallup, 2021). Regardless, job losses have financial and emotional repercussions. Whilst managing the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults were also managing their changing financial incomes, potentially increasing stress.

The main takeaway

The Gallup 2021 Workforce Report indicates the importance of supporting employee wellbeing and also creating a culture of engaged employees. According to Gallup, employers can do this by supporting Gallup’s five measures of wellbeing, examining employee engagement, and letting employees know in action, and word, that “their employers, leaders, and managers truly care bout them as people.”

Closing questions to ponder

As we examine this data and take away the importance of wellbeing and engagement, as well as the effects that COVID-19 has had on the workplace, we close with a few questions for the executive coach to ponder and pose to executives seeking to better their businesses.

  • From Gallup (2021), “Are your employees engaged and thriving?”

  • Are your employees engaged? If not, why? If yes, how do you know?

  • What are you doing today to show your employees you care for them? Are they aware of this?

  • How has COVID-19 affected your workplace and the lives of your employees?

  • How can you establish a culture of caring leaders and engaged employees?

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” - John Maxwell


Gallup, Inc. (2021). State of the Global Workplace Report - Gallup. Gallup.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., Agrawal, S., Blue, A., Plowman, S. K., Josh, P., & Asplund, J. (2020.) The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes: 2020 Q12® Meta-Analysis: 10th Edition. Omaha, NE: Gallup. Retrieved from:

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