Abstract: Anxiety Is the Major Impediment to Job Satisfaction Among Essential Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

404P Anxiety Is the Major Impediment to Job Satisfaction Among Essential Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hyeri Choi, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Pennsylvania
Ioana Marinescu, PhD, Associate professor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background: This study examined the relationships between anxiety, unstable work schedules, volatile earnings, and job satisfaction with a sample of U.S. part-time workers in food and beverage retail stores. COVID-19 created not only many uncertainties to the work environment, but also anxiety for workers to come into work. Previous studies showed that part-time workers in retail sectors experience unstable work schedules and earnings. Disrupted business hours during the COVID-19 period have only exacerbated these issues for part-time workers, leading to working conditions that may have lowered workers’ job satisfaction.

This study also examines the effect of work status congruency on job satisfaction. Discrepancy theory suggests that part-time workers whose desired job is part-time do not have discrepancies (congruent work status), while part-time workers whose desired job is full-time have discrepancies (incongruent work status). Job satisfaction may be lower for workers with incongruent work status during COVID-19.

Methods: A cross-sectional correlation was conducted with data collected through an online survey on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. A sample of part-time workers in the U.S. food retail sector (N=212) was recruited through a non-probability and respondent-driven sampling method between July and August 2020. Most participants were White (75%), not married or not partnered (61.3%), and non-immigrants (95.8%). Their mean age was 31.7, 48.6% had not completed college, and 80.7% had an annual household income below $75,000.

Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression analyses were conducted with a set of covariates chosen through stepwise regressions. For robustness check, the study re-estimated regression models by excluding outliers, including all covariates with a LASSO (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) technique, and using survey weights derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Results: We found that, among retail workers, anxiety was the most important determinant of job satisfaction. A 1 standard deviation increase in anxiety was associated with a 0.28 standard deviation decrease in job satisfaction. Workers with higher anxiety had higher work hour instability (t=2.46, p=0.01) and more volatile earnings (t=2.51, 0=0.01) than workers with lower anxiety. Also, workers with higher anxiety were more likely to work fewer hours compared to the pre-COVID19 era as their employers had cut back hours and were less likely to have paid leaves than workers with lower anxiety.

Exposure to an unstable work schedule was also associated with lower job satisfaction, but the effect was smaller. Congruent work status predicted lower job satisfaction, and the result was significant when using CPS weights.

Conclusions and Implications: While previous studies showed that part-time retail workers experience unstable work schedules, less is known about the associations between anxiety, unstable work schedule, and job satisfaction during COVID-19 specifically. The findings suggest that anxiety was central to the experience of precarity and an important psychological determinant of job satisfaction. Employers and public policies may alleviate workers’ anxiety about coming to work and increase job satisfaction by supporting paid leaves, stable work hours, and earnings during the COVID-19 period.