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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 329-333

Workplace anxiety due to COVID-19

Assistant Professor, Business Management, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Management Studies and Research, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission28-Oct-2020
Date of Decision15-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance22-Mar-2021
Date of Web Publication18-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sushant Kishore Waghmare
14, Ankur, Nargundkar Layout, LIC Colony, Deonagar, Khamla Road, Behind Tajshree Honda Showroom, Nagpur - 440 015, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_384_20

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COVID-19 has impacted the way work is conducted across the globe. In this unprecedented pandemic, people, processes, and employers have had to re-assess the way work is conducted. However, it is also evident that these changes have not been applied throughout all the organizations. A sample of 150 employees comprising of 100 males and 50 females was collected from various organizations such as banks, retail, health care, information technology, and education. The sample was segregated according to gender and an independent samples t-test was performed to assess whether there is a statistically significant difference between them with respect to fourteen factors which may lead to workplace anxiety. These 14 factors were identified through a comprehensive review of literature. The results showcase that with respect to the factors of irritability, access to equipment and communication and communication tools are the areas where there is a statistically significant difference between male and female perceptions.

Keywords: COVID-19, gender, pandemic, phobia, workplace anxiety

How to cite this article:
Waghmare SK. Workplace anxiety due to COVID-19. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2021;16:329-33

How to cite this URL:
Waghmare SK. Workplace anxiety due to COVID-19. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Sep 25];16:329-33. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/dmms/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?2021/16/2/329/328472

  Introduction Top

COVID-19 has changed the way people work and perceive their own workplace. It has brought to the fore various anxieties previously unbeknownst to employers, employees, and the general public. A continuously suspicious environment coupled with the multiple levels of sanitation and sensitivity to be observed in general and professional life has taken a toll on the public. It has led to high levels of anxiety among general public related to their lives, their work, and their day-to-day activities. The manner in which the general public has had to modify its entire set of behaviors at the workplace has created a deep level of anxiety among them.

Anxiety is a common yet often overlooked problem. Anxiety takes a toll on every aspect of an affected person's life, including work. Anxiety affects job performance and also has a negative impact on relationships with co-workers and peers. Stress in the workplace can take a toll on the entire business operations leading to missed deadlines and higher employee turnover and due to this, the company reputation may be tarnished.[1]

COVID-19 has challenged the way normal functioning used to be acceptable and now has forced everyone to accept a “New Normal” of maintaining social distancing, different etiquettes of interaction, greater sensitivity to other's space, etc. Thus, it is very relevant and important to assess and study whether the pandemic of COVID-19 has created any statistically significant difference in the workplace and if so then, an attempt must be made to identify the key areas or factors wherein there is a statistically significant difference among employees. Therefore, with this aim in mind, the researcher has conducted the following study.

  Review of Literature Top

COVID-19 has exacerbated certain key factors which earlier used to be considered as commonly acceptable. This has created a toll on the minds of professionals as they conduct their day-to-day activities at the workplace. It must further be stated that this new style of functioning has created a sense of loneliness, as well as, an extra burden of responsibility on the shoulders of every professional. This burden leads to anxiety.

Anxiety has been defined as a person's response to stress. Experiencing dread is one its key features. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.[2] This may be beneficial in that it may accelerate efficiency and performance. Unless controlled, tireless stress and anxiety may prove detrimental to living normally. A significant number of people suffer from workplace stress and it deteriorates the productivity, work quality, relationships, and overall well-being of a person.[3]

”Work Anxiety” refers to stress caused by work that leads to anxiety or the impact of an anxiety disorder at work.[4] Furthermore, he elaborates that work anxiety must be addressed to prevent poor results among employees and organizations due to its many negative effects.

Factors such as (a) excessive worrying, (b) sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, (c) tiredness or fatigue, (d) exaggerated reactions, (e) jitters, (f) feeling a lump in the throat, (g) dry mouth, and (h) sweating tend to be signs of anxiety. Other indications may also be high levels of absenteeism, overreacting to situations, constant negativity, lack of concentration, or inability to meet targets.[4]

Anxiety disorders may impact one's career negatively. In general, obsessive compulsive disorder ( OCD), panic attacks, PTSD, etc., are the key characteristics of anxiety disorders.[5] Such behaviors in the workplace may prove counterproductive. Anxiety-related problems are serious because they may cause absenteeism or lack of participation in the workforce. Their study discovered that health impairment and motivational variables were significantly related to workplace phobic anxiety and subsequently to absenteeism.[6]

Anxiety and depressive disorders are the most common mental disorders and affect millions of people daily.[7] One-third of the general population suffers from mental disorders.[8] The relationship between anxiety and work is quite strong and new concepts of “workplace related anxieties and workplace phobias are new work-clinical concepts”.[9] Workplace phobia can affect organizational performance and is related to absenteeism.[10]

Workplace anxiety and phobia are not the same as traditional anxiety disorders.[11],[12] Workplace anxiety can be distinguished empirically from other anxiety disorders.[9] Workplace phobia is characterized by a classical phobic anxiety reaction concerning the stimulus workplace. Workplace phobia showcases a panicked physical reaction and creates a deep desire to avoid the workplace.[13] Along with this, the American Psychiatric Association concurred with the World Health Organization that this can be considered as an anxiety disorder.[14],[15]

Linden and Muschalla and Haines et al. used differential diagnostic approach and published the first experimental study proving the existence of workplace phobia.[11],[16] Employees exhibited workplace avoidance and physiological and psychological responses to workplace stressors. They reported (i) self-reported intensive fear when coming to or going by the workplace; (ii) sever anxiety resulting in not being able to even enter the workplace; and (iii) reduced physiological response upon leaving the workplace. Their study reported a boost in psychophysiological arousal and psychological responses to work stressors and increased heart rates among such employees.[16]

Workplace phobia is different from concepts such as mobbing[17] and burnout[18] which are characterized by negative behaviors against a single person for a continuous time period and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficiency. Instead, it can be said that workplace phobia is the result of stimulus provided by a confrontation at the workplace leading to avoidance.[9] The World Health Organization[15] declared workplace phobia with its symptoms as a disease and it was corroborated by Muschalla et al.[19]

Muschalla.[9] has identified the factors of (i) conventional mental disorder; (ii) workplace-related releases; (iii) nonworkplace-related events; (iv) psychosocial stressors and personality; and (v) individual mental and physiologic disposition as the antecedents and consequences of workplace phobia. On the topic of psychosocial stressors, factors such as demands for achievement at the workplace may provoke anxiety among employees.[14] It was also reported that even a perception of high workload could be a factor relating to high workplace anxiety.[12],[13]

The characteristic features of workplace phobia are avoidance of the workplace, irrational fear of confrontation with anything remotely connected to work[9] and other tendencies such as absenteeism, sick leaves, etc. These factors of workplace phobia have been identified through various studies.[16],[19]

Work avoidance[20] and taking leaves,[21] etc., can be strategies for saving energy, rejuvenation, and relaxation. This is deeply observed in the stress filled, nonrewarding, and non-upportive workplace environment.[22] Bakker[23] distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary absenteeism by citing individual number of times and the prolonged nature of times an employee has taken leave. The duration and frequency are the two measures of absenteeism. Their study concluded that absenteeism should be measured without making attributions about voluntary and involuntary absenteeism.[24]

Around 5% of mentally healthy employees also avoid work.[13] The effect of job demands on the health of employees also plays a role in workplace anxiety and many employees are unable to recover from it due to the sustained nature of work which may lead to burnout in the long run.[25] Motivation also plays a major role in roping in the anxiety.[26] Schaufeli and Taris[25] observed that diminishing health and motivation is not mutually exclusive. They promoted the combined study of health and motivation.[25] Ahola et al.[27] in their study suggested that exhaustion should also be studied in this regard. Bakker,[23] propagated that there is a sufficient indication that burnout leads to poor health which, in turn, leads to workplace phobia and anxiety, finally leading to reduction in workplace efficiency. They concluded that job resources are the major factors for work engagement, which reduces the workplace phobia.

Factors such as job demands and job resources, workload, neuroticism, and self-efficacy are majorly responsible for the incidence of workplace phobia.[28] Further arguments can be made that situational factors play a greater role in assessing workplace phobia. Previous models of worker's well-being have suggested that physical and psychological demands have are greatly impacted by the job demands and social support from colleagues and supervisors.[29]

Workplace phobia is especially found in people with the comorbidity of social anxiety towards people or the workplace.[9] Workplace phobia is reported by more people who are overburdened by work.[19] There is also evidence that this dimension is related to anxiety disorders in both men and women.[30] Thus, taking this into consideration, the current study has been conducted with the intention of gaining an insight into the factors which lead to workplace anxiety among male and female employees. The physical demands of the job leading to biomechanical and ergonomic factors[31] among employees are being studied by the researcher.

  Research Methodology Top

Aim of the study

The aim of the study was to assess and identify the factors leading to workplace anxiety among employees during COVID-19 pandemic and compare the workplace anxiety levels depending on gender.

Objectives of the study

  1. To assess the factors causing workplace anxiety during COVID-19
  2. To identify the factors relating to high levels of workplace anxiety among employees during COVID-19
  3. To compare the factors leading to workplace anxiety among employees based on gender.

  Sampling Methodology Top

Sampling technique

A convenience sampling technique was applied by the researcher for data collection. It was with the intention to gather as much data as possible from professionals belonging to four sectors, namely banking, information technology, and retail sector. A total sample of 150 participants were collected and then segregated according to their respective genders. The total respondents are 100 males and 50 females.

  Data Collection and Analysis Top

Data collection

Data collection was conducted with the help of Google Forms with the aim of maintaining social distancing and safety of both the participants and researcher. Certain telephonic interviews were also carried out to gain a deeper insight into the minds of the participants.

Data analysis

Data analysis is conducted using SPSS software. Independent samples t-test is applied to compare between the two groups of male and female employees.

  Hypothesis Top

H0: There is no statistically significant difference between factors leading to workplace anxiety among male and female employees with respect to COVID-19.

Ha: There is a statistically significant difference between factors leading to workplace anxiety among male and female employees with respect to COVID-19.

  Data Analysis and Interpretation Top

An independent samples t-test was conducted for the purposes of this study. Data of a total of 150 respondents were collected using Google Forms to gather the data and then segregated according to gender. Upon segregation, it was observed that there were 100 male respondents and 50 female respondents. Data were collected on the data points of 14 factors in all, comprising various emotions that an employee experiences at the workplace. The identification of factors was done using an extensive literature review. Independent sample t-test was applied to the sample so that a comparison could be made between the responses of male and female employees. The results are displayed in [Table 1].
Table 1: t-test for independent samples

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It is observed from the above table that from the review of literature, a total of 14 factors leading to workplace anxiety were identified, namely irritability, uncertainty, motivation, burned out, depression, loss of sleep, trouble, concentrating, exposure risk, personal and family needs, workload, access to equipment, job future, communication and communication tools, and finally, workspace and work schedule. An independent sample t-test was conducted using the SPSS software and the results were tabulated with 95% confidence levels.

It is observed that for the factors of irritability, access to equipment, and communication and communication tools, P values are 0.03, 0.024, and 0.022, respectively. Thus, we can state that there is a statistically significant difference with respect to the factors of irritability, access to equipment, and communication and communication tools between male and female employees. Thus, we reject the null hypothesis that there is no statistically significant difference between the factors leading to workplace anxiety among male and female employees with respect to COVID-19.

  Conclusions Top

The results suggest that workplace anxiety does occur among employees and there is a statistically significant difference with respect to gender. It is further to be noted that areas such as access to equipment and communication within the organization along with communication tools either available of being utilized pose an issue along with a feeling of irritability at the workplace. It is also worth mentioning that on an average, it can be noticed that female employees have a higher level of difference with respect to male employees.

COVID-19 has proven to be a major game-changer in the way work used to be conducted traditionally. These changes have had to be adapted on the day-to-day functioning across the sectors, departments, and societies. Thus, it is quite evident that the workplace is already a high-stress environment for many; however, the addition of the pandemic has changed the nature of work thus, leading to a high level of anxiety with respect to certain new parameters.

If the organizations can tackle leading factors of workplace anxiety, then they will be able to adapt quicker and retain their efficiency in the marketplace. Such steps are also of great importance for maintaining a motivated and high performing workforce. Workplaces need to re-evaluate the kind of resources and equipment that will be required in the “New Normal” of functioning. Greater insulation of the employee, higher levels of sanitation, and access to medical and physical resources will pave the way for greater safety and reduce workplace anxiety. Furthermore, there needs to be a clear and proficient communication structure which puts in place among organizations. In times of COVID-19, it is observed that clear and precise communication will pave the way for ensuring that the anxiety levels of employees are mediated and controlled, thus improving their performance at the workplace. Finally, a combination of the above-mentioned activities can lead to the reduction in irritability experienced by employees at the workplace.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

American Psychology Association. Available from: https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety. [Last accessed on 2020 Oct 17].  Back to cited text no. 2
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Cuncic A. Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com. https:/. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 22].  Back to cited text no. 4
Zamora D. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/features/anxiety-at-work. [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 04].  Back to cited text no. 5
Vignoli M, Muschalla B, Mariani MG. Workplace phobic anxiety as a mental health phenomenon in the job demands-resources model. Biomed Res Int 2017;2017:1-10.  Back to cited text no. 6
Mucci N, Giorgi G, De Pasquale Ceratti S, Fiz-Pérez J, Mucci F Arcangeli G. Anxiety, stress-related factors, and blood pressure in young adults. Front Psychol 2016;7:1-10.  Back to cited text no. 7
Wittchen HU, Jacobi F. The size and burden of mental disorders and other disorders of the brain in Europe. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2010;21:655-79.  Back to cited text no. 8
Muschalla B. Workplace phobia. German J Psychiatry 2009;12;45-53.  Back to cited text no. 9
Demerouti E, Bakker AB, Nachreiner F, Schaufeli WB. The job demands-resources model of burnout. J Appl Psychol 2001;86:499-512.  Back to cited text no. 10
Linden M, Muschalla B. Anxiety disorders and workplace-related anxieties. J Anxiety Disord 2007;21:467-74.  Back to cited text no. 11
Muschalla B. Workplace-Related Anxieties and Workplace Phobia. A Concept of Domain-Specific Mental Disorders. Potsdam University; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 12
Muschalla B, Heldmann M, Fay D. The significance of job-anxiety in a working population. Occup Med 2013;63:415-21.  Back to cited text no. 13
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington D.C: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 14
World Health Organization. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1992.  Back to cited text no. 15
Haines J, Williams CL. Workplace phobia: Psychological and psychophysiological mechanisms. Int J Stress Manage 2002;9:129-45.  Back to cited text no. 16
Einarsen S, H Hoel. Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice. London, UK: Taylor Francis; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 17
Schaufeli WB, Leiter, Michael. The Maslach Burnout Inventory. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologist Press; 1996.  Back to cited text no. 18
Muschalla B, Linden M. Workplace phobia, workplace problems, and work ability among primary care patients with chronic mental disorders. J Am Board Fam Med 2014;27:486-94.  Back to cited text no. 19
Johns G. Contemporary research on absence from work: Correlates, causes and consequences. Int Rev Ind Organ Psychol 1997;12:115-73.  Back to cited text no. 20
Kristensen TS. Sickness absence and work strain among Danish slaughterhouse workers: An analysis of absence from work regarded as coping behaviour. Soc Sci Med 1991;32:15-27.  Back to cited text no. 21
Anagnostopoulos F, Niakas D. Job Burnout, health-related quality of life, and sickness absence in greek health professionals. Eur Psychol 2010;15:132-41.  Back to cited text no. 22
Bakker, Demerouti, D. Job demand and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. J Vocational Behav 2003;62:341-56.  Back to cited text no. 23
Johns G, Al, Hajj. Frequency versus time lost measures of absenteeism: Is the voluntariness distinction an urban legend? J Organ Behav 2016;20:456-79.  Back to cited text no. 24
Schaufeli WB, Taris, T. A Critical Review of the Job Demands-Resources Model: Implications for Improving Work and Health. Vol. 79, Springer; 2013. p. 181-90.  Back to cited text no. 25
Bakker AB, Demerouti, E. The job demands-resources model: State of the art. J Manage Psychol 2007;22:309-328.  Back to cited text no. 26
Ahola K, Kivimäki M, Honkonen T, Virtanen M, Koskinen S, Vahtera J. Occupational burnout and medically certified sickness absence: A population-based study of Finnish employees. J Psychosom Res 2008;64:185-93.  Back to cited text no. 27
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  [Table 1]


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