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Restaurant employees' attitudinal reactions to social distancing difficulties: a multi-wave study

Meng-Long Huo (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Zhou Jiang (Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Zhiming Cheng (Department of Management, Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia) (Social Policy Research Centre, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Adrian Wilkinson (Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 10 February 2022

Issue publication date: 9 March 2022




Grounded in the job demands–resources (JD-R) theory, this study investigates how the difficulty in social distancing at work, resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, may lead to intention to quit and career regret and how and when these effects may be attenuated.


Three-wave survey data were collected from 223 frontline service workers in a large restaurant company during the COVID-19 crisis.


The results show that difficulty in social distancing reduced employees' work engagement, and consequently, increased their turnover intention and career regret. These relationships were moderated by external employability, such that the influence of difficulty in social distancing weakened as external employability increased.


Social distancing measures have been applied across the globe to minimize transmission of COVID-19. However, such measures create a new job demand for service workers who find it difficult to practice social distancing due to the high contact intensity of service delivery. This study identified personal resources that help service workers cope with the demand triggered by COVID-19.



Huo, M.-L., Jiang, Z., Cheng, Z. and Wilkinson, A. (2022), "Restaurant employees' attitudinal reactions to social distancing difficulties: a multi-wave study", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 302-322.



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