Sensemaking by employees in essential versus non-essential professions during the COVID-19 crisis: A comparison of effects of change communication and disruption cues on mental health, through interpretations of identity threats and work meaningfulness

Ward van Zoonen*, Ronald E. Rice, Claartje L. ter Hoeven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

This study examines the implications of categorizing workers into essential and non-essential groups due to disruptions in work associated with—and the quality of organizational change communication about—the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we examine how these cues trigger identity threats and influence the meaningfulness of work, consequently affecting the mental health of workers (anxiety, distress, and depression). The results show that change communication reduces identity threat, while also increasing meaningfulness of work, for both work categories. However, the disruptions increase identity threat only for non-essential workers. Conversely, identity threat increases two of the three mental health issues while meaningfulness of work reduces two of them. The study contributes to our growing understanding of the pervasive, though subtle, implications of COVID-19 for the workplace by showing how a process of employee sensemaking and organizational change communication directly and indirectly influence important dimensions of mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-349
Number of pages32
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2022

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Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

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