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Effects of COVID-19 on Attitudes, Feelings of Employees and Culture, Organizational Structure, and Systems

The effects of COVID-19 on attitudes, behaviors, feelings of employees and culture, organizational structure, and systems

Short Summary

The outbreak of the COVID-19, although it has led to building creativity, innovation in some businesses, have had changes in organizational culture, structure, communication methods. The pandemic has led to many companies’ closure, restrictions on working hours of workplaces, reduced commuting to workplaces, decreased human communication, increased stress and fear, and changed human attitudes, behavior, and emotions towards the workplace. The evaluation of the pandemic’s effects on employee’s attitudes, behaviors, and feelings is critical because prolonged stress in employees may disturb employees’ mental health and even causes psychosomatic diseases and influence employees’ productivity and performance. Fear of the unknowns and layoffs, economic concerns, ineffective work communication, unclarity of work directions, and interruptions during WFH (work from home) that cause losing time are the triggers of stress in employees’ pandemic period (Sahni, 2020). This paper’s findings show how COVID-19 has disturbed employees’ work-life balance and has led to creating stress and has decreased productivity because of lack of access to advanced workplace facilities. This paper also investigates how COVID-19 has led to reduced interpersonal interactions in workplaces and has affected employees’ attitudes, behaviors, and feelings about their work environment, and has influenced culture, organizational structure, and systems. The pandemic has brought changes in administrative and health systems, support for new technologies, and greater attention to personal safety.

Introduction

The advent of new technologies has revolutionized work patterns and has increased flexibility in doing tasks in space and time. It has also enabled employees to work from anywhere or do telecommuting by benefiting from information and communication technologies and using smartphones, tablets, laptops, or P.C.s to do tasks outside the workplace (Oakman et al., 2020). The findings of Oakman et al. (2020) show that although telecommuting has improved the integration of family and work, has reduced fatigue, and improved employees’ productivity and performance, but it has blurred the physical and organizational boundaries between the workplace and home.  Besides, work from home has negatively impacted employees’ mental and physical health because of long work hours, lack of clear line between work and family, lack of physical interaction with others, limited support for the organization, and work exhaustion. These negative impacts and concerns about employees’ mental and physical health are growing because of COVID-19. So, the need for changes in organizations’ structure and individuals’ performance to cope with this crisis is seen clearly.

Stress triggers such as fear of unknown communication, dysfunction in the workplace, inadequate clarity and direction, interruption during the WFH, and consequent results in loss of time and energy can impair employees’ mental health and lead to long-term stress even psychological illness. Therefore, solving this problem should be a priority for all organizations (Sahni, 2020). As a result, it states the urgent need for psychosocial and community support, an effective system, and support from the organizational which will maintain employees ’emotional and mental health. These factors According to Lazarus & Folkman (1984, as cited in Sahni, 2020), the stress appraisal theory states that an individual behavior and emotions is as a result of events’ assessments. Besides stressors as determining actors in our responses, our cognitive evaluation of the stressors has an unconscious role towards an individual emotional response. Long-term stress eventually leads to decreased in performance, changes in attitudes, poor decisions making, and inefficient work relationships.

Enforcing the law of social distance and doing things and conducting remote meetings through technology individually because of COVID-19 and the benefits that it may have for an organization’s staff may be accompanied by challenges such as the fear of not being seen and understanding emotions. Sahni (2020) cites that sometimes doing affairs online through video conferences causes staff not to use their body language to convey their feelings and show their attitudes and emotions. Another negative aspect of remote work is the lack of human interaction between a company that may lead to poor performance and increases staff concerns and stress. Focus simultaneously on work, family, and health in the same place is a factor of stress for employees (Sahni, 2020). This paper aims to look at the challenges of work from home during the pandemic, stress, and its effects on staff performance, workplace, organizational structure, and systems alongside investigating the Big 5 personality traits of employees during COVID-19.

Findings

It is now over a year since the pandemic of COVID-19 has started spreading. It has brought many challenges to the world and caused many changes in people’s daily routines. COVID-19 has redesigned how we communicate with society and each other. For example, masks are now mandatory by health authorities. We need to stay in the grocery line-up to enter grocery stores because a limited number of people are allowed to remain in grocery stores. I (Vahid) have been part of this change because I have been working at grocery stores, and I am observing people line-up and how it can change their shopping behavior when they enter our store. The challenges are undeniable, and now employees need to adapt to different workplace shapes, which can be another source of concerns, expectations, inconvenience, etc.

 

Work from Home

To guarantee a safe workplace and control the spread of COVID-19 various among employees, many organizations decided to direct their workforce from home. While COVID-19 turned the work routines upside down, it also led to the speed of orientation that was on the way to change the work environment to online or virtual. According to a survey done by Gartner (2020), nearly one-half of the organizations in the world had forced 80 percent of their staff to work from home when the first COVID-19 started. Also, increases for long-term remote working are being estimated. It may be hard for employees to distinguish between work and non-work activities while staying at home (Ramarajan & Reid, 2013).

The mandatory limitation of employees in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic has made this issue more complicated. Working from home may be favored by many, but we have to consider the reduce number of commutes who provide a new environment between work and home; it can also be another burden. Yet, since many employees require WFH, it has led to many severe challenges due to a lack of space in one’s home. Employers also consider WFH challenging to keep the boundary between work practices and nonwork activities. The additional mandatory limitation has made this issue more complicated. There are no clear metrics to measure employees’ performance when working from home, and it is hard to track employees’ work. Whereas managers could keep an eye on employee’s performance and provide them feedback in the physical office (Davis, 2021).

Work-Life Challenge

The concept of work-life wellness is always along with ” conflict in work place and family, balance of life and work, and integration” (Rudolph et al., 2020). When personal life blendes with work, some people can be problematic because it is associated with exhaustion (Brower, 2012). It should be highlighted that during COVID-19, working full time from home with a family who are likely to see each other more than before can resulting having less personal time to recovery (Grant et al., 2013). Conversely, based on Brenan et al. (202), many employees have reportedly become more productive and spent an extra two hours working at home. The reason is that they do not see themselves under the pressure of employers, so they work harder and for longer hours. Also, employees who work remotely enjoy the company of their family when they are doing their jobs.

Lack of human interaction

Lack of social connection for the employees who have to work from home or get laid off has harmed employees. An active social interaction like a casual conversation with coworkers is vital for health mentally and physically (Mogilner et al., 2018). More seriously, by losing social connection, loneliness is a painful emotion that rises if social needs are not sufficiently satisfied, highlighting the starting of a pandemic. A study done by Ozcelik and Barsade shows that workplace loneliness is associated with negative commitment, performance, and behavior of employees (2018). Notably, the virtual meeting is not highly effective, while we need to consider the risk of misunderstanding possibility because there is no verbal contact, which increases employees’ concern regarding interpersonal rejection. Therefore, organizations must address this problem in their H.R. policies as it is an indicator of employee well-being. If an employee does not have any family member while working from home and not having interaction with coworkers simultaneously, it can be called social isolation (Pinola, 2020). However, working from home can be a dream work for many employees, but we also need to consider the coin’s dark side. Despite all the flexibility and more concentration on the job, it is tough to ignore loneliness and isolation with this sort of work style.

Workplace Changes

The COVID-19 has caused a variety of workplace adjustments. The required changes at the workplace allow employees to stay productive and safe. Some significant changes that happened with the starting the pandemic are as follows:

  1. Social Distancing and changing work-shift: as a safety factor to decrease the virus’s possible risk among other employees, organizations have adopted a new approach to social distancing and work-shift strategy. Workers need to maintain two meters distance from customers or fellow employees (Franklin, 2020).
  2. Urgent reduction in the number of workforces: many organizations have faced significant economic and financial problems by COVID-19, so they decided to downsize and decrease their workforce (Franklin, 2020).
  3. Office operation shouts down: as a response to COVID-19 outbreak, to increase the safety of stakeholders, offices, and procedures has been closed for a short term.Deficient Facilities

When employees work remotely from home, they may lack the required technical facilities, systems, and operations—one of the most critical deficiencies is the absence of communication. For example, an employee is struggling with a complicated problem. In this case, he or she needs to have a meeting with supervisors and expert employees; it can affect the project’s process if they are not responding and can lead to delay in the project. Organizations must provide complete technical support during working remotely, which can be an extra burden for them. The employee should not be abandoned on their own in crucial conversations (Milano, 2020).

Personal safety

  1. Because of COVID-19, most people have paid enormous attention to the importance of keeping healthy, while it is now the apparent danger that has raised the awareness about healthy living.
  2. As everybody at work has had to deal with the flu and the common cold, this added another layer of safety awareness for personal and public health.

Mental health and well-being

Employers who adopt wellness programs would assist their employees, particularly those with less robust productivity during tough economic times. To allow personal calls, separate, peace-seeking spaces, or quiet concentration, distinct or give each person individual space are indeed good ideas.

Lack of effective communication between teams and colleagues:

The in-home employee will have little face-to-to-face interaction with coworkers, and his contact will almost entirely do through email and the phone. Moreover, remote work doesn’t help create long-term bonds with colleagues.

Terrifying impact on the global economy

COVID-19 disease has generated negative impact on the world’s economy because factories and businesses were disrupted by the new workflow management while also decimating employees’ productivity and obliterating operations that were wholly dependent on workforces. With each passing day, hundreds of factories and businesses will find themselves unable to pay their bills and go out of business because of this outbreak.

Importance of employee well-being:

We encourage organizations to provide 100% of medical assistance to the employees in the COVID-19.  Due to the rising global unemployment, workers’ mental well-being is deteriorating. Companies must display economic assistance and encourage themselves to rebound as a result of the problem at hand. It is also helpful to outsource mental well-being consultation to a practitioner who doesn’t have the same personal constraints that face the organization.

Big 5 Personality Traits of Employee During COVID-19

When employees need to adapt to a new working style, their characteristics matter most. All the various aspects of our personalities are the aggregate of how we respond and communicate with others. Every person is different because in a challenging environment, mixed or conflict situations, responses, and acts will occur, and therefore performances and people can look somewhat different. Some workers are seen as being well-liked, and others are seen as challenging.

Emotional stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are all factors that influence one’s personality. Having these characteristics may help a company succeed, although losing them may cause problems.

Emotional Stability:

People are suffering physically and socially as a result of the pandemic. You find that most people get less motivated because they’ve been working from home for a while, over time. It distracts from working toward the objective of productivity and causes additional problems if you can’t focus. People with emotional balance are less likely to experience and express negative feelings. It helps you become more effective and offers a greater level of personal fulfillment.

Extraversion:

Being in constant touch with your team members is key to leading them effectively and keeping things moving. To interact well and express themselves, employees should be sociable. It can contribute to better leadership.

Openness:

Good employees should always be open to new and varied experiences. More needs to be done concerning training to enable workers to use modern communication equipment when working from home. It is easier to handle with the shift, and the results would be higher.

Agreeableness:

Most people agree that they tend to be considered likable, and they are more socially successful than disagreeable people. As you would imagine, they have a lower degree of deviant conduct. The greater the employee’s similarity with the problem, the less conflict there is within the company. Competent employees should adopt an attitude that accepts things as they are.

Conscientiousness:

It is also the case that highly conscientious workers attain more overall job expertise than their counterparts who rank lower in conscientiousness. More possibly, because people are highly ethical, they learn by their willingness to challenge things. Conscientiousness can lead to negative consequences as well. Hardworking, highly moral people tend to put their family duties and interests before their professional ones, thereby causing tension in their family life positions. This character may also cause changes in work behavior, where employees can become more involved in their work and be less able to shift their attention when the environment changes.

Analysis

Based on the information in the findings part, the analysis part will evaluate and analyze the effect of COVID-19 on both employees and employers and the effect of external forces and internal factors on the organization.

Employment

The external factors that affect employment include the social distancing regulations of each country and region, lock-down, layoff, and the communication barrier. At the same time, internal factors from the individuals’ physical and mental health resulted in the variation in responses to the external factors.

Emotions

Because of COVID-19, many businesses had to lay off a large number of employees and change the working environment from the workplace to remotely. A question in virtual meetings during this challenging time was, “What is your biggest fear during the pandemic?” (Pokroy & Stevens, 2020). Based on a survey among 2000 employees in 7 countries, the three most considerable emotions that people have to face these days are emotional exhaustion, increased sadness, and heightened irritability, which frequently happened for more than half of participants (Qualtrics, 2020). An emotionally intelligent leader needs to analyze this high fear trend’s massive impact and initiate open dialogues about it with employees instead of letting individual persons solve it by themselves. Besides the focus on maintaining business operation and creating profit, the leader needs to take care of themselves and their staff’s physical and mental health to keep the organization healthy. Porkroy & Stevens (2020) believe that speaking openly about fear lets people know that they are not the only ones who are these feelings and create a community to sympathize with and support each other. This way will enhance employees’ positive emotions by letting them know that they are not alone, and together they can figure out how to overcome this situation.

On the other hand, as time goes by, some employees report that working from home helped them be more happy, self-motivated and provided a better work-life balance than working in the office, where there are more stress and distractions. (Tansey, 2021).

Attitude

There is always a gap in understanding and analyzing the working attitude between employers and employees. This gap is becoming bigger and harder to bridge than ever when the organization is under the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (Schiavo, 2020). The data shows that 96% of managers and 86% of employees reported satisfaction with positive well-being with their work before the pandemic happened. During the pandemic, these numbers decreased to 73% and 59%, respectively. It also showed that during the tough times of COVID-19, while 83% of managers feel comfortable asking for a day off when they feel unwell, this corresponding number in employees is only 68%. The difference in these numbers can be explained by two reasons: power dynamics and organizational norms. Employees do not feel supported and safe to share their issues and concern, while on the other hand, their employers believed that the support they provided for their staff is enough. Employees are now demanding open communications and better access to healthcare. In some instances, they prioritize those even more than financial security.

It is essential to empower employees to close the misunderstanding gap between employers’ and employees’ perspectives. In general, employees need to feel safe and active in their work. Moreover, it is suggested that the managers pay attention to their teams by asking about employees’ concerns and issues and letting them have a chance to express themselves and not make decisions solely based on the employer’s assumptions. Also, it will improve communication between employers and employees, which is even more critical when people have to work remotely and have fewer chances to speak their minds. Moreover, managers should acknowledge and understand the relationship between happiness and productivity (Cerutti & Grodoski, 2020). If they want their organization to make a profit, it is compulsory to first care about employees’ mental health.

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