Plugging Back into Work and Keeping Employees Focused During Difficult Times
Companies are struggling with the challenge of keeping their employees focused on work during the pandemic. Further, employees who have been working from home are currently or will be challenged with reintegration back into the workplace.
Research in the Journal of Applied Psychology explored what factors help to increase job engagement. To explore this topic, the researchers surveyed 395 supervisor-employee pairs in Wuhan, China at the height of pandemic. Participants included individuals who had stopped working during the first lockdown and returned to work following the lockdown. All participant-supervisor pairs were surveyed at three different points in time.
The results revealed that job reattachment was positively related to job engagement. Job reattachment refers to reconnecting with work by mobilizing energy and directing attention. Participants who were better able to mentally connect with their work were more likely to be engaged with their jobs.
The results also showed that managers were crucial in job engagement. Workers with supervisors who had higher safety commitment helped to strengthen the effectiveness of job reattachment in increasing job engagement. Safety commitment refers to the extent that managers enact the company’s safety practice. The researchers explained this finding by arguing that employees with managers who followed safety precautions felt physically safer because of the example set by their managers. In turn, these employees could better focus and engage in their work.
Lastly, the results revealed that as job engagement went up, employees were less likely to withdraw from their work, more likely to wear PPE and had higher levels of task performance. When managers had higher safety commitment, these effects were even stronger.
Yuan, Z., Ye, Z., & Zhong, M. (2020). Plug back into work, safely: Job reattachment, leader safety commitment, and job engagement in the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.