April 6, 2020

Study Examines How People Can Thrive at Work in Uncertain Times

Jessica Diaz is research lab manager and director of coaching at CGU’s LeAD (Leader Evaluation, Assessment & Development) Labs. The team seeks to empower leaders through evidenced-based research and practice.

“My purpose for doing research is to make people’s lives better at work,” says organizational behavior doctoral student Jessica Diaz. “Thriving in life requires thriving at work—and that starts from the top.”

Diaz, who has more than a decade of leadership development experience in education, initially wanted to explore manager-employee relationships that focus on individual consideration and follower engagement for her thesis work.

Everything—including the focus of her study—changed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was partnering with a healthcare company at first, and of course their work shifted accordingly,” Diaz says. “So, I got to thinking, how can I use my knowledge and expertise to make an impact?”

Diaz has created a longitudinal study about worker experiences in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

She petitioned for a topic change, and with help from Becky Reichard, her faculty advisor and an associate professor in the university’s Division of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Diaz designed a study aimed at better understanding worker experiences during times of crisis.

The goal of Diaz’s study is twofold: Disseminate concrete data that, first, will support executives in guiding their employees for the foreseeable future, and that will also help in designing leader development for the long term.

“Obviously, this won’t be the last-ever crisis,” Diaz says of the current global public health crisis. “We need to be prepared.”

Diaz’s longitudinal study includes questions that range from the quantitative—such as work-task productivity over the past week—to more qualitative ones that explore to what extent the global pandemic has affected everyone’s work overall.

Participants also are prompted to respond weekly via email over a six-week period.

Crisis or no crisis, Diaz well understands the nature of productivity from her own life. She is conducting the research for this study while balancing her roles at the LeAD Labs, her responsibilities with running a small selection and promotion firm, and her time as the mother of two children.

The close bond that Diaz has forged with her mentor Reichard, who directs the LeAD Labs, is apparent: Her newborn daughter’s middle name is Rebecca.

Diaz couldn’t have chosen a better, more appropriate focus for her study, which is sure to help many people when it’s finished. But she remains modest about her work.

“I hardly consider my efforts right now heroic,” she says, “but they’re certainly my attempt to use my expertise to help people weather this storm. It’s my humble endeavor to extract a bit of positive from this pandemic.”


Interested in helping? Diaz is still looking for participants: Visit the study’s landing page if you would like to be included in the research. It is open to all employees who work at least part-time and have a direct supervisor.