Michael J. DiStaso, M.S. Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida; Ignacio Azcarate, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida; Angela Le, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida; Mindy K. Shoss, Ph.D., Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida; Steve M. Jex, Ph.D., Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida; Cynthia Mejia, Ph.D. Hospitality Administration, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida
Hospitality workplaces have changed due to COVID-19. Laid-off and furloughed workers may expect that their return to work will be met with workload intensification (increases in the amount of effort required to perform job tasks; Green & McIntosh, 2001). Our goal was to examine currently furloughed and laid-off hospitality workers’ threat (perception that workload intensification will result in personal harm or loss), hindrance (perception that workload intensification obstructs work goals), and challenge appraisals (perception that workload intensification provides an opportunity for mastery) upon returning to work, and the extent that these appraisals relate to their intentions to return to their organization.
We hypothesized that (H1) challenge appraisal of workload increases would be positively related to workers? intentions to return to their organization whereas (H2) hindrance and (H3) threat appraisals of workload intensification would be negatively related to hospitality workers’ intentions to return to their organization.
Hospitality workers’ employment was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020; American Hotel and Lodging Association, 2021), and many of these workers have begun returning to work (O’Connel, 2021). COVID-19 has also impacted hospitality work itself. Employees are now tasked with additional responsibilities related to safety and sanitation (Center for Disease Control, 2020). Prior studies show that expecting high workloads can be stressful (Casper & Sonnentag, 2020; DiStaso & Shoss, 2020), and expecting hindrance stressors may increase workers’ intention to leave to their organization (Podsakoff et al., 2007). This study leverages the challenge-hindrance occupational stress framework (Cavanaugh et al. 2000), and investigates workers’ challenge, hindrance, and threat appraisals of the workload increases that they expect to encounter when they return to work. Stressors appraised as challenges are theorized to have positive relationships with work attitudes, whereas hindrance and threat appraisals are posited to have negative relationships with work attitudes (Horan et al., 2020).
We used a cross-sectional survey of hospitality workers who were laid-off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic. Analyses include 192 participants from various hospitality sectors (e.g., theme park, food service, lodging). A summary of our measures is provided in Table 1. Multiple regression analyses tested the relationship between the three types of stress appraisals and intent to return to one’s organization.
Tables 2 and 3 summarize our regression analysis and provide descriptive analyses and correlations for the study measures. In support of H1, challenge appraisal of workload intensification was positively related to employee’s intentions to return to their organization after being furloughed or laid-off due to COVID-19 (b = 0.26, SE = 0.08, p < .01). H2, which stated that hindrance appraisal of workload intensification would be negatively related to employees’ intentions to return to their organization, was also supported (b = -0.38, SE = 0.11, p < .01). H3 was not supported; threat appraisal of workload intensification was not negatively related to intentions to return to one’s organization (b = -0.05, SE = 0.10, p = .63). This model captured 22% of the variability of intentions to return to hospitality workers’ organization (R2 = .22, p < .001).
One strength of our study is that we used employees’ appraisals of workload intensification, rather than assuming that workload increases would be negatively related to intent to return to work. One limitation is that there is evidence of multicollinearity between hindrance and threat appraisals because they are strongly correlated (r = .72). Another limitation is the cross-sectional nature of our study. This is a limitation because we can only measure our participants’ intent to return to work, not whether they actually return to work once their organizations start bringing back employees who have been furloughed or laid-off.
In practice, our findings suggest that managers in hospitality organizations should strive to provide employees information about workplace changes so that employees adopt a “challenge mindset”. That is, they should communicate COVID-19-instigated workplace changes as a challenge or learning experience, rather than hindrance. Moreover, organizations should measure how employees appraise certain aspects of returning to work during COVID-19, as some changes may be perceived to be more hindering than others. In doing so, organizations can recognize if there are problems that may influence employees’ decisions to return back to the organization.
We found that individuals who appraised workload intensification as a challenge expressed more desire to return back to their organization after they had been furloughed or laid off and the opposite for hospitality workers who appraised workload intensification as a hindrance. Future research should build upon these findings by investigating predictors of appraisals, such as communication (Bordia et al., 2004) and change readiness (Rafferty et al., 2013). Longitudinal studies may also be leveraged to capture whether employees’ employment decisions throughout the pandemic.