If you are lucky enough to still have a job, simply having that job may be one of the best ways for you to maintain your wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s one of the conclusions drawn from two recent pieces of research carried out by my organization, The Myers-Briggs Company.

People are less negative about day-to-day work-life than the overall COVID picture

As part of a survey into how people’s personality type influenced their feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked participants both about their general concerns regarding the crisis, and also about specific aspects of their working lives and their attitudes to the pandemic. When people were asked to come up with words that described their feelings about the situation, negative words predominated, especially around being anxious, worried, concerned, fearful or scared. Words around uncertainty, confusion, chaos and the unknown, around being frustrated, angry, annoyed, or irritated, around being stressed, overwhelmed, tired or exhausted, and around being sad, depressed, emotional or heartbroken were also fairly common. 

In contrast, when asked specific questions about their working lives, most participants gave more positive answers. This suggests that for many of those who’re working, wider expectations and worries about the COVID pandemic may be more negative than their day to day lived experience. People were worried to some extent about the bigger picture and about how COVID was affecting others, and were somewhat more stressed than usual, but were generally positive about their jobs. At least for people who have a job, their day to day working experience seems not to be as negative as one might expect from their wider concerns and worries. 

Promoting well-being at work

In a separate research project, we have been investigating the factors that promote wellbeing in the workplace. These vary to an extent depending on an individual’s personality type, but in general the activities that you can do while you are at work that are likely to increase your wellbeing include:

  • Focusing on work tasks that interest you
  • Focusing on a work task that makes you feel positive
  • Undertaking work where you learn something new
  • Taking breaks at work when needed
  • Undertaking challenging work that adds to your skills and knowledge

While the top five activities to try outside the workplace were:

  • Spending time with family or friends
  • Listening to or playing music
  • Reading
  • Focusing on positives
  • Exercising, playing sports, or going for walks

Clearly some of these are easier to carry out than others in our current situation, but most are still achievable in some form.

We also found that for those who enjoyed their work, just being at work and doing their job was in itself a major contributor to wellbeing. 

Autonomy, new learnings, and breaks are key to workplace well-being

Combining the findings from both studies, the results suggest that for many people work can be the best medicine, with most individuals, even Extraverts, finding many aspects of home working enjoyable despite their wider concerns about the pandemic. If you have at least some degree of autonomy to craft your job so that you can undertake work that fits your interests, and allows you to engage in learning, and if you can take breaks when you need to then this can really help your wellbeing. And if you can’t, then maybe your employer should take note, if they want a more motivated, engaged workforce who can better withstand the strains of COVID-19.