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New forms of leadership and well-being of workers in times of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has continued for nearly a year. The past year has forced people to adapt a new set of normative behaviors and markedly influenced workers’ well-being. Working from home has introduced new types of stressors for workers, as many remote workers share their work-environment with other family members. In addition, adjusting one’s behavior in accordance with the current recommendations, such as keeping social distance and wearing a face mask, can feel like additional inconveniences when coping with the unusual time. At the same time, supervisors have had to rethink how to effectively lead remote workers.
Iina Savolainen
EDITOR, Post-doctoral Researcher of Social Science

iina.savolainen@tuni.fi

Why adherence to physical distancing measures during a pandemic is challenging?
A recent study by Belgian researchers published in the journal Health and Wellbeing examined the possible personal determinants of behavior change. Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, adapting a new set of behaviors, such as keeping a 1–2 m physical distance and staying at home), has become vital in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID‐19. However, adapting these new behaviors is not easy to all and some personal factors may function as barriers to adherence to physical distancing measures.
In their study, Beeckman and colleagues surveyed Belgian adults during March (N = 2,379) and April (N = 805) 2020. The surveys measured participants’ levels of psychosocial well‐being and social support as personal determinants of behavior change. The first survey focused on assessing adherence to physical distancing measures, while the second survey focused on evaluating difficulties, perseverance in, and adherence to the required measures.
The study found that lower psychosocial well‐being and lack of social support were related to more difficulties with adhering to physical distancing. These individuals also showed less perseverance in maintaining behavior change. Self‐efficacy, outcome expectancies, intention, action planning, and coping planning were found to be associated with higher adherence to physical distancing measures.
Consequently, family’s, friends’ and colleagues’ encouragement is needed to maintain these behavioral changes, adhere to social distance and wear face masks. This type of external social support helps us to be more conscious about our own role in this pandemic and plan how to behave correspondingly, at home and at work.
"Consequently, family's, friends' and colleagues' encouragement is needed to maintain these behavioral changes, adhere to social distance and wear face masks. This type of external social support helps us to be more conscious about our own role in this pandemic and plan how to behave correspondingly, at home and at work."
Matti Vartiainen
Professor (emer.) of work and organizational psychology at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University, School of Science.

matti.vartiainen@aalto.fi

Literature: Literature: Beeckman, M., De Paepe, A., Van Alboom, M., Maes, S., Wauters, A., Baert, F., & Poppe, L. (2020). Adherence to the physical distancing measures during the COVID‐19 pandemic: a HAPA‐based perspective. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 12(4), 1224–1243.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subjective well-being: changes in work life influence satisfaction with work and family In their research article published in European Societies, Möhring and colleagues investigated how COVID-19 lockdown policies –remote work, short-time work and closure of schools and childcare, have impacted people’s satisfaction with work and family life. The study utilized panel data and a longitudinal research design. Data were collected before and during the lockdown, from March to April 2020.
The authors set to examine 1) how individuals’ satisfaction with both work and family have changed over the lockdown period, and 2) how changes induced by the pandemic and the lockdown situation (i.e., working remotely and being sent on short-time work) have influenced these satisfactions. The study analyzed sub groups of mothers, fathers, and persons without children.
When looking at the whole sample, the results of the study showed that there was a general decrease in family satisfaction during lockdown. A general decrease in work satisfaction was found particularly among mothers and those individuals without children who had had to reduce their work hours due to the pandemic. In contrast, the authors discovered that fathers’ well-being was less affected negatively during lockdown: in fact, among those fathers who changed to short-time work, family satisfaction increased.
It is possible that the general decrease in family satisfaction among parents is a result of increased stress due to higher demands of childcare and homeschooling while working from home. Whereas fathers who have reduced work hours do not necessarily experience these same stressors regarding work-life balance. The decrease in family satisfaction among those without children might be related to the impoverishment of social contacts outside the home.
"These research findings are noteworthy and highlight that members of different subgroups experience the changes brought by the pandemic in differing ways. Attention should be paid particularly on work satisfaction of mothers working from home and those who have had to cut their working hours due to the pandemic. "
Iina Savolainen
Post-doctoral Researcher of Social Science at Tampere University

iina.savolainen@tuni.fi

Literature: Möhring, K., Naumann, E., Reifenscheid, M., Wenz, A., Rettig, T., Krieger, U.,  & Blom, A. G. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and subjective well-being: longitudinal evidence on satisfaction with work and family. European Societies, 1–17.

How to lead service employees effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic? Professor Silke Bartsch and her colleague studied employee (n = 143) perceptions regarding leadership and work productivity during the COVID-19 crisis in German nonessential service industries (media, consulting, insurance, etc.). Their research focused in particular, on the lockdown period in Germany, which forced company staff to abruptly switch primarily to remote work (April – May 2020). The results of the study were recently published in the well-respected Journal of Service Management, in a special issue discussing the ongoing pandemic.
The research group expected that leadership work that fostered autonomy and openness (Enabling leadership behaviour, ELB) would reduce individual and collective tensions and thus lead to better productivity. In contrast, leadership behaviour that emphasized structure and control (Managing leadership behaviour, MLB) was presumed to increase stress and fear of failure among the staff, which would lead to increased tensions and reduced productivity.
Unlike expected, however, the results showed that successful transition to remote work and fostering productivity actually required combining the two leadership behaviours. It seemed that clear structures and guidelines supported the formation of well-functioning virtual collaboration practices. Simultaneously, fostering openness and providing autonomy helped the staff to adapt to special circumstances in a way that best fits each individual. The researchers also noted that firms that were digitally more mature were better equipped to deal with the crisis.
"The results of the study as a whole underlined the importance of versatile leadership behaviour and solid digital infrastructure in dealing with a crisis like the one we're currently facing."
Tuomo Eloranta
Doctoral Student at Aalto University, School of Science

tuomo.eloranta@aalto.fi

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Literature: De Clercq, D., & Literature: Bartsch, S., Weber, E., Büttgen, M., & Huber, A. (2021). Leadership matters in crisis-induced digital transformation: how to lead service employees effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Service Management. Vol. 32(1). pp. 71–85. 

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