How Your Boss Can Reduce COVID Stress

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Working during a pandemic is fraught, no matter where you're doing it. Whether you're interacting with the public on-site or fending off constant interruptions at home, the very fact of COVID-19 is always out there, weighing on you, your coworkers, and everyone around you. It's a tough way to get anything productive done, but your supervisor may have more power to help than either of you would think.

Researchers at Ohio State University have just published a study looking at how employee engagement has changed during lockdown. It's no surprise that stress is through the roof, but the paper's findings about how workplace factors could make a difference were surprising. Employees with bosses who are "servant leaders" — those who "care about their employees' well-being and prioritize their personal growth and happiness at their jobs," according to lead author Jasmine Hu — were less anxious and more engaged with their jobs overall.

One key element of this success was in another kind of service. "Servant leader" bosses also encouraged their team members to channel their fear and frustration about the pandemic into action that helps others, thereby finding meaning in an overwhelming and all-encompassing situation that otherwise feels pretty helpless.

We already know that employees are more likely to give back for bosses who walk the walk on ethics and corporate responsibility. It should be no surprise that a workplace which prioritizes an employee's mental health will get better work done — and happier employees. These solutions are best practices even beyond a pandemic, which means there's no time like the present for putting them in place.