Impact on Employees in Times of Crisis and Distress

Work and Life Stress

Throughout history, crises and distress have been a part of people’s lives. Daily life can include many mild to moderate stressors like work tension, managing time and money, and stress from inter-personal relationships either at work or in personal life.

A person may also currently be experiencing significant stresses in life through the loss of a job, civil rights unrest or political uncertainty, or the death of a loved one. During times of crisis, such as our current pandemic or community violence, the coping mechanisms people use can be strained even further.

According to the United Nations (UN), depression and anxiety caused by stress cost the global economy one trillion dollars annually before the crisis events of 2020. The additional crisis events of a worldwide pandemic and community violence over the past year may cause psychological distress in nearly everyone affected by these emergencies.

The UN states that people who coped well with life stressors before these crises are now facing additional, multiple stressors and may be unable to manage their responses fully.

People prefer certainty. Much of the anxiety workers and their families feel today is related to wanting control of their lives but not having that control. Peoples’ income, health, and work are being affected in negative ways. Situations involving social isolation, restricted movement, and the lack of a plan and outcome for crisis affects peoples’ mental health and their behavior.

FDR Quote on Fear

Anxiety Consequences

Anxiety can cause a person to:

  • Feel on edge
  • Be angry
  • Feel helpless
  • Experience sadness
  • Become frustrated
  • Try to avoid the crisis

For employees who already had minor underlying anxiety issues, a crisis can cause increased depression and less motivation to participate in activities of daily work life. In times of crisis and distress, protecting your mental health becomes extremely important, but can be stressful under the circumstances.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress highlights these current factors causing additional stress during an urgent situation like COVID-19 and it ramifications:

  • Frustration and boredom related to social isolation from working at home or lockdowns
  • Fears about getting sick or infecting others
  • Inadequate access to medical care
  • Insufficient reliable information
  • Financial loss
  • Stigmatization and rejection from society
  • Inadequate food supplies
  • Adjustments needed return to a regular routine

The World Health Organization (WHO) divides these factors into social and mental health problems, all of which can affect peoples’ ability to cope with crisis.

Social Problems
  • Pre-existing: low income and discrimination of marginalized groups
  • Emergency-induced: family separation, lack of safety, loss of livelihoods, disrupted social networks, and low trust and resources; and
  • Humanitarian response-induced: overcrowding, lack of privacy, and undermining of community or traditional support.
Mental Health Problems
  • Pre-existing: mental disorders such as depression or schizophrenia
  • Emergency-induced: grief, acute stress reactions, harmful use of alcohol and drugs, and depression and anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder; and
  • Humanitarian response-induced: anxiety due to a lack of information about food distribution or about how to obtain basic services.

Yet despite these crises and distress stressors, multiple organizations have identified ways to help find relief.  Flexicrew will address some of these ways we have uncovered in subsequent articles.

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