How COVID-19 News Consumption Impacts Work Engagement
News consumption has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as people try to make sense of the evolving situation. However, there is evidence that consuming a significant amount of negative news can provoke anxiety and negatively affect our mental health. How does this affect workers’ ability to be engaged at work during the pandemic?
Schulich Organization Studies professor, Winny Shen, and her collaborators, Stephanie Andel from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Maryana Arvan from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, set out to answer this question.
“Early on in the pandemic, the World Health Organization came out with recommendations that people should limit their consumption of news related to COVID-19 to just one or two times per day and only from trusted news sources, and this really caught our attention,” says Shen.
In their new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Shen and her collaborators examined relationships between COVID-19 news consumption, anxiety, work engagement, and occupational calling by following a sample of 281 Canadian workers over a period of eight weeks during the first wave of the pandemic. They found that on weeks where workers watched more news than usual, they experienced greater anxiety, and consequently, lower work engagement. However, workers who felt called to their job because it provides them a sense of purpose and fulfillment were able to maintain high levels of work engagement even when they felt highly anxious. Moreover, workers who were more engaged with their job in a given week generally experienced lower anxiety the following week.
“Many companies are worried about engagement during the pandemic,” says Shen. “Our work suggests that in order to promote an engaged workforce, companies should try to help their workers find personal fulfillment, joy, and purpose in the work that they are doing.”