Apolitical Survey Reveals What Public Servants Need During COVID-19 Crisis

The survey found the greatest challenges to be supporting vulnerable populations and small businesses, working from home, and communicating with the public and other agencies. 

As public servants work to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Apolitical, a global peer-to-peer learning platform for government used by public servants in 170 countries, conducted a survey to assess their difficulties and what they need to be most effective in this global crisis. 

We surveyed 750 public servants from 52 countries, with most respondents coming from Canada, the UK, Australia and the United States, and it ran from 26 March to 8 April. Nearly 50 percent of respondents were managers or department leads. 

Top findings

1. Continued strong commitment to citizens: Overall, we heard that this is a difficult time – but also that public servants remain deeply committed to protecting citizens.

2. Focused on societal impact: We heard that more public servants are concerned about the societal impact of the crisis than are concerned with the personal impact.

3. Protecting vulnerable populations: as their number one concern, and were three times as focused on supporting small businesses as large firms.

4. Challenges working from home: The COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of technical challenges as public servants seek to do their work. As for all of us, working from home is difficult for them, with blurred boundaries between the professional and personal, as well as mental health challenges due to the crisis. There are also complications due to security measures, as many government systems do not allow access to email or other important documents on personal devices, and work devices don’t always support video or call services like Zoom.

5. Keeping up morale: Managers also noted the difficulty of managing remotely and keeping up morale for public servants overloaded with their everyday work and the new demands of the crisis.

6. Sourcing: Unsurprisingly masks and ventilators were among the most needed supplies.

7. Need for more learning: To help carry out their work of serving citizens, we noted a few particular focal points for learning:

  • Communication – both with keeping the public informed through a rapidly changing situation and internal coordination and collaboration as they work in new ways through the crisis. 
  • Digitisation – which would allow them to provide desperately needed services while in-person events and meetings for community development and capacity building aren’t possible.  

Supporting public servants now

Many public servants  are on the frontlines of the pandemic response or working on secondary impacts (education, transportation, violence prevention, climate, etc.), and we need them now more than ever. In turn, we need to get them sufficient resources to do their jobs. Some are already sharing great ideas with each other, like how to meet the new digital services challenges, and Apolitical is continuing to support public servants with idea sharing and resources through this crisis. See more of our COVID-19 focused webinars based on these insights and more information here.

For additional insights, below are the full results of the survey by each question.

Question 1


Question 2


Question 3


Question 4


Question 5


Question 6


About Apolitical

Apolitical is a peer-to-peer learning platform for government, equipping governments with the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to tackle 21st century problems. It is used by policymakers in 170 countries, from mayors to ministers to millennial digital innovators. It was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2018. Policymakers and public servants: Sign up today for free. In response to COVID-19 Apolitical is offering a number of related webinars, a resource hub and other learning and exchange opportunities during this extraordinary time.