Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have been bombarded with changing information regarding safe practices. For example, guidance from the Center for Disease Control on mask wearing, social distancing, and safe workplace practices has shifted as more scientific data has become available. Has constant exposure to changing information hindered aspects of employee work performance? New research (Yoon et al., 2021) explores this question.
DAILY NEWS CONSUMPTION, CREATIVITY, AND GOAL PROGRESS
The researchers wanted to examine how employees’ daily news consumption was related to their level of uncertainty (i.e. a lack of information or understanding needed to predict the future). Additionally, the researchers explored if daily news consumption was associated with decreased goal progress and creativity as a result of increased uncertainty.
To test their hypotheses, the researchers surveyed 180 couples working at a large university in the United States. Participants were surveyed three times per weekday over the course of three weeks. In total, the participants provided 2,029 responses over the course of the data collection period.
Results from their analyses indicated that daily news consumption was associated with more uncertainty. The researchers then explored the role of a third variable called death anxiety. This refers to a person’s tendency to feel anxiety related to one’s own eventual death. Results from their analyses indicated that the relationship between daily news consumption and uncertainty was weaker for those with higher death anxiety. The researchers proposed that those with higher death anxiety were less impacted by the novelty of the news of the pandemic.
Further analysis found that daily news consumption was related to uncertainty, which subsequently predicted lower goal progress and lower creativity. However, these effects were weaker for those with higher death anxiety.
First, organizations should strive to reduce uncertainty as much as possible. They can do this by communicating policies and information clearly through official channels of communication. Second, managers should work with their employees to help them process information during a crisis. Offering group counseling sessions and encouraging employees to reduce time on social media or news cites may be beneficial. However, these practices may only prove beneficial for those with lower death anxiety.
Finally, organizations should aim to provide resources for employees with higher levels of anxiety or mental illnesses. These programs could reduce uncertainty and improve critical work outcomes such as creativity and goal progress.
Yoon, S., McClean, S. T., Chawla, N., Kim, J. K., Koopman, J., Rosen, C. C., McCarthy, J. M. (2021). Working through an “infodemic”: The impact of COVID-19 news consumption on employee uncertainty and work behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(4), 501-517.