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April 6, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak response represent a global crisis that has affected various aspects of people’s lives, including work. Speculation is rife about the impact of the crisis on employees. Countries and organizations worldwide have categorized some work as essential and, by extension, other work as nonessential. This study aims to investigate the impact of the pandemic by examining the relationship between work disruptions (at time 1) and general distress (at time 2) through various work stressors, contrasting the experiences of employees in essential versus nonessential work. For employees with essential jobs, there is a significant indirect effect of work disruptions on general distress through hindrance stressors. This relationship is not found for employees with nonessential jobs. The general distress of these employees is more strongly affected by disruptions through social stressors (here, social isolation). Hence, this study demonstrates how general distress is affected in different ways for employees conducting essential work and those conducting nonessential work. We further highlight the importance of considering social stressors in this relationship, especially for nonessential work. Organizational change communication quality mitigates the relationship between isolation and general distress for employees with nonessential jobs, but not for those with essential jobs.
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