As stress levels hit stratosphere amidst Covid-19, employees contemplate mortality: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 13, 2020 Published on October 13, 2020

The right kind of boss — a high scorer on the ‘servant leadership’ scale — helps reduce stress, increase engagement and pro-social behaviour in the workers anxious about the virus

The coronavirus pandemic has led to high levels of stress and least engagement at work as people have started to contemplate their own mortality, according to a study.

The researchers conducted three studies in China and the United States, which were published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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

Also read: Covid-19 can trigger maternal clinical insomnia: Study

“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,” she added.

The authors of the study noted that the right kind of boss helped reduce stress and increase engagement and pro-social behaviour in their workers who were anxious about the virus. Employees did better if their boss exhibited what is called ‘servant leadership’.

For the study, the researchers asked employees to rate their supervisors on a scale of 1 to 7.

The team noticed that those who rated their supervisors higher on servant leadership showed less anxiety and were more engaged with their jobs than the other employees.

Jia Hu added: “Servant leaders care about their employees’ well-being and prioritise their personal growth and happiness at their jobs. These types of leaders made it easier for their employees to deal with the anxiety associated with the pandemic.”

Their survey also showed that employees who rated their bosses as higher on servant leadership were more likely to report that they engaged in pro-social behaviour, such as volunteering for a charitable group in their community.

Also read: Indian workers are stressed more during Covid: LinkedIn report

“Servant leaders encouraged their employees to find meaning in the pandemic by channelling their anxiety into helping less fortunate people in their communities,” Jia Hu said.

Growing stress after reading news

In both studies conducted in the US and China, the researchers asked participants to first read about Covid-19. Half read the information that was designed to make them think how dangerous and deadly the disease is. The other half read less stressful information about Covid-19, such as how to prevent transmission.

The findings showed that those who had read the more alarming news about Covid-19 reported more anxiety than those who read the neutral news.

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Published on October 13, 2020
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