In China, the Year of the Rabbit represents hope and peace.1 These are much welcomed. After a turbulent year of COVID-19 surges and pandemic-related social restrictions, well-being in China is a concern for many organizations and their employees. Understanding individual differences, especially resilience, will be key. Can we expect the Year of the Rabbit to shed optimism for organizations and their employees?
How Has the Pandemic Affected Well-Being?
Research on the effects of the pandemic around the world has described its detrimental impact on well-being.2 For employees, restrictions and lockdowns were significant contributors to poor well-being.3 Moreover, unequal economic effects have contributed to the pressures placed on workers and organizations.4 Each country has had a unique context in its response to and recovery from the pandemic.
In China, life during 2022 was distinctive. Major infection surges persisted, along with pandemic-related social restrictions. These conditions created unprecedented challenges for organizations, leaders, and employees to overcome. When the social restrictions were dropped in the fight against the virus, people wondered how the future would look.
Research investigating the effects of the pandemic in China found that there had been a detrimental effect to people’s well-being through 2022. By Q4, 27.4% of study participants had “low well-being” in comparison with moderate- and high-scoring peer groups. This was a high percentage in comparison with similar global studies of well-being.5 Women and younger people were impacted most adversely, along with expats. Yet by the end of 2022, scores had become low among locals too.
Low levels of well-being within organizations negatively affect productivity, increase employee turnover and absenteeism, and raise healthcare costs for employers. In the US, this can amount to as much as nearly $200 billion per year.6 Research has linked stronger employee well-being to other important pillars of organizational success, such as engagement, productivity, and overall company performance.7 Consequently, a focal point for business leaders and organizations in China is to restore employee well-being.
How Can We Restore Well-Being?
At Hogan, our stance is that employee well-being is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. Restoring employee well-being in China will require effort from both.
Research on the pandemic in China found that employee perception of organizational support could significantly predict positive changes in employee well-being levels (22%) and organizational commitment (68%) during the pandemic.8 This links well with research around the globe that found an increased demand for companies to support employee well-being.9
Of course, well-being is also the responsibility of the employee. Employees have individual needs, and their responses to the pandemic will have varied. But employers can take some strategies to help them become more self-aware of their individual differences.
A starting point might be using personality assessments to understand exactly which strategies are likely to work well given employee and team values. For example, Hogan uses the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory to identify what motivates an individual at work. Someone who scores high on the Affiliation scale is likely to appreciate opportunities to work alongside others. Leaders who prioritize individual and team values can ensure employees feel supported, potentially increasing their well-being and organizational commitment.
Resilience is an individual difference that varies within humans. It is defined as “the developable capacity to rebound or bounce back from adversity, conflict.”10
Research from the pandemic in China indicated that resilience was a strong predictor of levels of well-being, explaining 50% of the covariance.8 Resilience could therefore be a key component of well-being recovery for employees. Determining people’s levels of resilience is likely to help employers understand their individual needs for support.
How Can We Measure Resilience?
One of the best ways to measure resilience is by using a personality assessment. The Hogan Personality Inventory measures resilience with its Adjustment scale. High scorers on Adjustment are generally perceived as confident and resilient. Conversely, low scorers are perceived as being prone to stress and may seem to take longer to recover from the pandemic’s effects.
Personality assessments can help people become more self-aware about how they are likely to be perceived when under stress. Likewise, they can offer insight into how others may try to support them. For example, those who score high on Adjustment may appear to deal with stress well, yet internally feel as though they need more support.
Can We Increase Our Resilience?
You might question whether resilience can be increased. While personality tends to be consistent over time, it is possible to become more resilient. The answer lies in development.
Hogan’s Chief Science Officer Ryne Sherman, PhD, uses the analogy of weightlifting to answer this question: “Some people are naturally gifted with strong bodies and the right hormones that make weightlifting and building muscle mass relatively easy. Certainly, they still have to go to the gym to build those muscles, but for some it is easier or more difficult. That’s how I think about adjustment—resilience. Some people are naturally going to be more resilient than others. Regardless of your adjustment level, becoming more resilient takes work, like putting yourself in challenging situations and persisting.”
An example of this could be proactively seeking out new work projects that could present a new challenge or require perseverance. The type and level of challenge depend on an individual’s context, but with support from one’s colleagues and organization, this kind of development can be managed well.
What Does 2023 Hold for China?
Organizational support can help improve employee well-being in China. To ensure support is individualized, organizations should seek to understanding how people differ in their resilience. A high-quality personality assessment such as Hogan’s HPI can help with this. In summary, support and resilience are key to “bouncing back” in 2023.
This blog post was written by Nathan Cornwell, MS, senior consultant.
- Suliman, A. (2023). Lunar New Year: What to expect as we hop into the Year of the Rabbit. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/01/21/chinese-new-year-lunar-rabbit-cat/
- OECD. (2021, November 25). COVID-19 and Well-Being: Life in the Pandemic. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/1e1ecb53-en
- CIPD. (2021). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Mental health support for employees. https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/supporting-mental-health-workplace-return#gref
- Cotofan, M., De Neve, J. E., Golin, M., Kaats, M., & Ward, G. (2021). Work and Well-Being During COVID-19: Impact, Inequalities, Resilience, and the Future of Work. World Happiness Report. https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2021/work-and-well-being-during-covid-19-impact-inequalities-resilience-and-the-future-of-work/
- Ammar A., Mueller P., Trabelsi K., Chtourou H., Boukhris O., Masmoudi L., et al. (2020, November 5). Psychological Consequences of COVID-19 Home Confinement: The ECLB-COVID19 Multicenter Study. PLoS ONE, 15(11), e0240204. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240204
- Pfeffer, J. (2018). The Overlooked Essentials of Employee Well-Being. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-overlooked-essentials-of-employee-well-being
- Gallup. (2023) Employee Well-being is Key for Workplace Productivity. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/215924/well-being.aspx
- Cornwell, N., & Rochon, P. (2023). Evolution of Well-Being During the Pandemic in China. Engineering Well-Being. https://engineeringsleep.com/well-being-and-lockdown-q4-2022/
- Adecco Group (2022). The Future of Work Beyond the Pandemic: Takeaways from Global Workforce of the Future. https://www.adeccogroup.com/future-of-work/latest-insights/the-future-of-work-beyond-the-pandemic/
- Luthans, F. (2002). The Need for and Meaning of Positive Organizational Behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 695–706. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.165