Study: COVID-19 news overload impacting workplace behaviour

COVID pandemic facemask

New research from York University’s Schulich School of Business has shown that around-the-clock COVID-19 news exposure is impacting employees’ workplace behaviours.

Ruodan Shao
Ruodan Shao

Ruodan Shao, an associate professor of organization studies at the Schulich School of Business, co-authored the research paper together with Long He, a Schulich PhD student, and Chu-Hsiang Chang, Mo Wang, Nathan Baker, Jingzhou Pan and Yanghua Jin.

The research paper, titled “Employees’ reactions towards COVID-19 information exposure: Insights from Terror Management Theory and Generativity Theory,” will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The paper explored findings from two separate survey studies involving full-time employees. According to the study, employees’ exposure to COVID-19 news – including constant reports about the number of daily cases and mortality rates – could result in decreased efforts at work, or what the researchers termed “work withdrawal.” At the same, employees exposed to excessive amounts of COVID-19 news were also more likely to engage in positive reflection and subsequently exhibit “helping behaviours at work,” including helping co-workers and colleagues, according to the researchers.

The research findings also revealed that an organization’s internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices play important roles in attenuating the negative effect of employees’ COVID-19 information exposure. The findings suggested that offering support and protection to employees during the pandemic may not only lead to direct health and safety benefits, but also result in an indirect downstream effect by reducing work withdrawal.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the media coverage of COVID-19 information has been virtually nonstop,” says Shao. “Our study offers new insights into better understanding how this constant stream of negative news impacts work-related behaviours.”