Allostatic Load from Coronavirus — A Hidden but Real Threat to Crisis Management

Another complication for orgs working to get back to ‘business as usual’

We all know that the novel coronavirus is affecting most of us negatively on a personal and professional level.  It’s harder to focus, easy tasks seem more difficult, we tire easily.

Psychologists call this “allostatic load” and it’s not only a personal threat, it’s a threat at the workplace.

Consider this.  Is a worker suffering (possibly undiagnosed), from coronavirus-related allostatic shock more or less likely to:

  • Make errors, including those that could lead to further crises?
  • Be able to function effectively during a breaking crisis (that will continue to occur regardless of COVID-19’s impact)?
  • Be productive?
  • Have interpersonal issues at work?
  • Engage in theft that would help with financial losses resulting directly or indirectly from the virus?
  • Commit acts of discrimination or harassment?
  • Avoid coming to work if there were recently diagnosed cases there, even if it wasn’t someone who worked with them in close proximity?
  • Criticize the company’s COVID-19 response privately and/or publicly?
  • In general, have all his/her worst character defects “on display?”

We have examined the level of threat increase for organizations in multiple industries and found that 50-75% of the crises to which they would routinely be vulnerable are more likely to happen in the days, weeks and months ahead, even as the world does its best to put a lid on the virus’ spread.

This is yet another reason why your head of HR needs to have a permanent position on your Crisis Management Team.  Every employee is a public relations representative for your organization whether you want them to be or not.  Crisis prevention, reputation management, STARTS at the employee level.

It’s also a reason why you should have a system in place that allows employees to seek emotional and other needed help at this uniquely stressful point in history, a system that also allows your colleagues to report mistakes and wrongdoing, intentional or not, “up the chain” for the record or anonymously.  All while examining the types of risks bullet-pointed above and others that might be more specific to your individual organization and brainstorming how you can prevent or at least mitigate damage from those potential crises.

All of your stakeholders, internal and external, will benefit from a higher level of attention to this growing threat and you can easily distinguish yourself from your competition by how you manage this process.  Knowledge alone is useless.  Knowledge + Action = Solution.

Jonathan Bernstein