Pandemic-related stress leads to less employee engagement

Posted on October 13, 2020

“A global pandemic can lead some people to think about their own mortality, which will understandably make them more stressed and less engaged at work,” said Jia (Jasmine) Hu, lead author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“But business leaders who are attentive to employees’ emotional needs and unite them behind a common purpose made a positive difference and helped workers stay engaged at work and contribute to their communities.”

The researchers conducted three studies.

One study involved 163 workers at an information technology company in eastern China who filled out surveys twice a day over three weeks while cases of COVID-19 were surging in the country.

Results showed that the more that the employees thought about COVID-19 related deaths, the more anxious they felt and the less engaged they were in their jobs.

But the employees’ anxiety and engagement were influenced by the type of boss they had. Employees did better if their boss exhibited what is called “servant leadership.” As the name implies, servant leaders prioritize fulfillment of others’ needs, attend to employees’ emotional suffering, work to empower employees, and emphasize serving the community.

Employees in the study rated on a scale of 1 to 7 how much “My supervisor makes my career development a priority” and other statements that measured servant leadership.

Those who rated their supervisors higher on servant leadership showed less anxiety and were more engaged with their jobs than other employees, Hu said.

“Servant leaders care about their employees’ well-being and prioritize their personal growth and happiness at their jobs,” she said.

“These types of leaders made it easier for their employees to deal with the anxiety associated with the pandemic.”

Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from Ohio State University