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  • Writer's pictureGavin O'Brien BSc., MSc., LLM., C.Psychol., AFBPsS.

COVID19 Anxiety in Workers is Real - What Employers can do.

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Research, just published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, by Savolainen et al (2021) that investigated psychological, situational, and socio-demographic predictors of COVID-19 anxiety demonstrated what factors have impacted the increased levels of anxiety in workers. The study used longitudinal data in the form of a nationally representative sample of workers in Finland (N = 1308). Data was collected from the same group of workers before the start of COVID19 and 12 months later during the COVID-19 crisis.

The research found that of the demographic factors, female gender and younger age predicted higher levels of coronavirus-related anxiety. These results support previous findings, indicating that those who feel lonely and individuals high in neuroticism, as well as females and younger people, are more vulnerable to experiencing COVID-19 anxiety. The results also highlighted that workers who had recently changed their job or company had expressed decreased levels of social support from their work community and reported higher levels of COVID-19 anxiety.

Increased technology use has not entirely been able to maintain or create a meaningful psychological connection to work communities for those working remotely during the pandemic. In fact, increased use of technology has created additional stress and a further burden for many workers. Maintaining an inclusive and caring work culture and providing technical and psychological support are crucial ways in which organisations can ensure the wellbeing of their employees in these difficult times for workers.

The areas of prevention and intervention are recognised in research, and support programs should be developed and provided to prevent and minimise the collateral damage caused by COVID-19. Employers who foster communication via teleconferencing and other tools that mimic face-to-face communication in remote work may achieve benefits that help both their workers and the organisation. Connectivity at a human level is the key to maintaining a feeling of support and inclusiveness among teams who are now separated, dispersed, isolated, and who are perhaps further impacted by other family and social stressors.

Drawing on the research from Finland, the results showed that COVID-19 anxiety was significantly associated with different psychological, situational, and socio-demographic factors. The increased anxiety can significantly disrupt wellbeing at work, which further emphasises the organizations’ role in maintaining an inclusive and caring work culture and providing technical and psychological support to workers during this crisis. COVID-19 anxiety can negatively impact workers’ wellbeing, mental health, and work performance. Organisations should provide additional support to their employees and reassure them during this crisis in order that their individual staff can get through this and that the organisation itself can get through this.

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