A combination of job insecurity and the financial concerns associated with the uncertainty that COVID-19 is inflicting upon workers worldwide are combining to produce a growing prevalence of depression and anxiety
Research from Ohio State University has investigated how COVID-19-triggered mortality salience influences employees’ state anxiety and task engagement.
“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,” Ohio State University researchers said.
However, such risks can be offset by an effective manager. Servant leaders were proven in the study to be the most effective at helping people to feel supported, find motivation in their work and want to engage.
This is likely because servant leaders imbue a sense of control over a situation for employees. Such leaders work to empower their employees by being there as mentors for their team. Servant leaders act as a solid foundation for their team members to rest upon, and it is this solidity that gives people a sense of calm.
“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 said.
Research shows that when people are faced with life’s fragility, they experience death-specific anxiety as well as general anxiety.
The research consisted of three distinct experiments; a daily diary study and two experiments, as well as samples from two countries (China and the United States) when COVID-19 cases were surging in each country.
The first experiment required employees at an IT company in China to complete a survey twice a day for three weeks during the peak of the pandemic in the country.
The survey showed that as the pandemic progressed, people became less engaged with their work and increasingly anxious.
Those employees who worked under a manager who was rated high on servant leadership reported lower anxiety and higher employee engagement than those who reported being guided by a different type of leader.
The researchers proposed that, compared with other management styles that follow a hierarchical structure, such as transformational leadership, servant leaders were more effective in reducing the negative influences of anxiety during COVID-19 on employees’ performance because they focus on promoting the growth of their team members.
It is believed that servant leaders are those who acknowledge the uncertainties and worries of their team, empathize with employees’ anxiety, and provide affirmation of their confidence in their employees. It is this simple act of showing that managers care about the well-being of their employees that helps people feel that they are valuable contributors at work, which also means that they are more willing to invest adequately in their work roles.
Stress need not be the negative influence in our lives that paralysis us and blocks our minds, it can be used as a force for creativity and productivity. It can also help us to bond with people who are facing the same conflicts if we are willing to be vulnerable.
Studies also show that people who feel valued for their work often want to join community groups so that they can give back. They understand that their contribution makes a difference, and this confidence, gained through the appreciation and support given from a servant leader, motivates people to remain focused during times of state anxiety.
Activities such as volunteering or participating in community projects give people a deeper sense of purpose in their lives.
Taking an interest
Leadership comes in many forms, and there are different situations, and personalities, that require different types of leadership. Right now, people are seeking leaders who are emotionally intelligent, kind, caring, and, mostly, human.
The pandemic is like nothing any of us have faced before. The constant uncertainty, the isolation, the negativity, and the pressure of a world on pause are weighing on people in ways that are new and challenging.
Workers will have days, weeks and maybe even months of being productive, engaged, and focused, or they might slip into a foggy-minded sludge of poor quality work and low output. People cannot be judged at this time for their lack of enthusiasm and engagement. Now is the time for managers to be supportive, complementary, and grounded. The only way that businesses and individuals will move forward in good health is together. By creating safe and supportive workplace atmospheres, it is possible that people will be inspired, might work harder than ever before, and even conceive of an idea that changes the future of your business.