Not Quiet Before the Storm: Calming Employees’ Pre-Hurricane Fears

Recent uneventful hurricane seasons have done little to calm Florida workers’ fear of hurricanes, according to a new study by Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran professor of business administration at the Florida State University College of Business.

For his study, Hochwarter surveyed approximately 600 full-time Florida workers prior to the onset of the 2013 hurricane season and found these workers had levels of anxiety comparable to those reported in years when hurricane season was more active. For example, one-half of the individuals surveyed admitted they were worried about the impact a hurricane would have on both their home and work. More than one-third (34 percent) indicated that even the thought of a hurricane scared many of their co-workers and 33 percent indicated individuals in their company tended to be on “pins and needles” right before the onset of hurricane season.

“In recent years, businesses have been told to expect several impactful hurricanes, but even when reality doesn’t match these predictions, employees remain fearful of what may be lurking around the corner,” Hochwarter said. “These fears are particularly intense for employees who directly or indirectly experienced hurricanes in the past.

Hochwarter’s research also indicates that hurricane-related apprehension trickles into other aspects of work and home life, causing significant stress in both of these areas. Compared to less nervous employees, individuals who indicated heightened levels of anxiety over hurricanes reported:

  • Lower rates of concentration at work
.
  • Less willingness to work extra hours.
  • Greater concern that work and home lives would become imbalanced.
  • Reduced eagerness to provide constructive suggestions to improve work.
  • Decreased levels of passion for work.

Not Quiet Before the Storm: Calming Employees’ Pre-Hurricane Fears
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