IS PANIC WORKING THE NEW NORMAL UNDER COVID-19?

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There are four reasons why people do it when they’re based at home.

Hyper-productivity – or panic working – can happen when people work from home for long periods in a climate of uncertainty. 

And with people now toiling away their kitchens and living rooms under coronavirus lockdown, that’s exactly what’s happening, warns a behavioural specialist

Covid19 poses a threat to one’s livelihood and health which makes people unsure, adds Dr Ali Fenwick from Hult International Business School.

People adopt different coping strategies to deal with the current situation – but they all lead to a similar state of mind, resulting in panic working.

According to Dr Fenwick, there are four reasons why people panic work when home based:

1. The ostrich effect: When uncertainty and fear kick in, home-working employees can choose to cope with a perceived threat by ignoring it, sticking their heads in the sand and pretending it’s business as usual. The more these people ignore reality, the harder they work, leading to panic working.

2. Busy bee syndrome: This need always to appear busy is very common. People feel pressure to show others they’re busy, usually by sending emails the whole time, making themselves constantly available, or finding other ways to prove how productive they are. Missing the usual workplace cues of validation, acknowledgement and feedback can lead to panic working.

3. Working to survive: The fear of losing their jobs can spur some employees to go into hyperdrive. This defence mindset is driven mainly through emotions and triggers employees to work harder as a way of acting out their need to survive.

4. Working to regain control: Feelings of confinement and insecurity can make employees feel powerless. When this happens, it is normal for them to want to regain control over their surroundings. Panic working is a way that employees can exert their control in a meaningful way which leads to excessive working as a way to feel safe and more secure.

“People have different ways of dealing with the Covid19 situation,” says Dr Fenwick.

“Be it working to survive, regain control, act busy or ignore reality - many employees react in a similar way by panic working. 

“Employers can easily mistake busyness for productivity and overlook the negative consequences of hyper-productivity when it comes to employee well-being and performance.”

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