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.

Reduce COVID Emotional Load – Manage Your Expectations and Live In Today

If one thing is true of COVID-19, it’s that our resilience has been truly put to the test. If your mind has been consumed by news about COVID, conversations on COVID, and consumption of COVID statistics, then you’re not alone.

With our minds so consumed by what’s going on, it’s no wonder so many people are struggling under the weight of their emotional and cognitive load. It’s certainly one of the most challenging events that we will experience because it has impacted the entire world.

people under stress at work


How do you deal with it?

How do you reduce that cognitive and emotional load of COVID?

Manage Expectations



First of all, I want to touch on the idea that this is your opportunity to write a best-seller or compose the next 1812 Overture. There have been a lot of hot takes on social media about how you can best use this downtime. If you haven’t ‘accomplished’ anything, that’s fine. Ultimately, we’re all just trying to get by and even though you may have more time on your hands than normal, your brain isn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders in a way that facilitates creativity.

You shouldn’t feel bad about that. However, if you went into this thinking you could be super productive and feel disappointed… don’t. This is where expectation management comes into play. There’s a lot going on, and this type of stress is distracting, it results in low motivation and disrupts concentration.

The pandemic has brought a series of cognitive and emotional load and that will impact on productivity. So, go easy on yourself as you find a new rhythm and routine in your life. Set realistic goals and manage expectations.

Manage Stress

The foundation of good mental health has to lie in stress management. That means you need to prioritize sleep, eat well, exercise, and drink plenty of water. If you’re normally a good sleeper, don’t give in to the impulse to disrupt your routine. If you have always struggled with a sleep routine, now is your time to change that.

Maintain a routine around when you go to bed and when you get up, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and screens in an hour or two before bed. When under extreme stress, it’s easy to manage it with food and alcohol. It’s an understandable impulse, but it isn’t one you want to give in to. It will be damaging over the long-term. Exercise will help you reduce stress while boosting your emotions and providing you with sleep routine help.

Rely on Routine

A routine will help you manage your stress and anxiety levels, which is key to adapting to the new reality we are faced with. You should have clear boundaries between working hours and non-working hours. This is something you can do in your headspace as well as the physical workspace you use. Embrace things that provide you with joy.

Maintain Connections

Even the introverts need social connections, and it’s a particularly challenging time for extroverts. Create a virtual forum for your friends and family, have video chats over coffee, join a book club, do whatever it takes to maintain your social connections. It’s important that you don’t feel alone so be proactive. Even if you live with a spouse and children, it’s important to reach out beyond your closest ties to connect with others outside your immediate circle.

Stay Present

The best thing you can do to manage your load is to focus on things as they come by taking every day as it comes. It’s a stressful time for everyone and it’s going to put your mental health to the test. Take a proactive approach to protect your mental health and be kind to yourself and others.

Right now, there isn’t a whole lot for you to control. What you can control is how you speak to yourself, how you speak to others, and how you proceed through the rest of this pandemic.