Coping with COVID-19: Instinctive Actors Help Others While Deliberate Thinkers Focus on Work

Sara Kassir
April 20, 2020

(This article is part of our PorTRAITS Series, Stories Told Using pymetrics Data) 

Adversity has a tendency to reveal a lot about people: what they value, who they confide in, how they solve problems, and - of course - their level of bread-making expertise. This week, we used a short survey to explore the strategies pymetrics users have adopted to navigate the current difficulties

First, we asked respondents to identify the coping strategy they have been most drawn to in dealing with COVID-19: 

1. Enjoying the small things of the here and now

2. Focusing on work

3. Helping others, or 

4. Making future plans. 

We also asked them to describe their overall stress level as low, moderate, or high. Preferences in coping strategies vary only slightly across these groups, with the most anxious among us being more likely to focus on work and less likely to enjoy the present than their calmer peers. 

Interestingly, while stress might not be a huge indicator of a quarantined person’s activities, we found that cognitive and social traits provide a more compelling story. In looking at the average pymetrics factor scores across the preferred coping strategy groups, a few things stand out in this data story:


- Individuals who are trying to enjoy the here and now also lean heavily to the right on this factor, indicating a structured process of sorting through a situation and a tendency to plow through any noise in their environment. Examples of these methodical thinkers might be the moms and dads who have mastered a disciplined homeschooling regiment by keeping external chaos out of the living room. 

- People who have been inclined to help others lean heavily to the left on attention, meaning they are more open to changing things up when new circumstances arise. Think about this group as the camp that hangs on Dr. Fauci’s every word, ready to act on his advice about the best material for homemade face masks. 

Decision making: 

- Those who are more deliberative in how they tackle problems also seem to be drawn to focusing on work to handle their stress. This is the group you can count on for showing up to every Zoom meeting with an agenda, whether the call is for work or to catch up with grandma.  

- Individuals who are more inclined toward helping others rely heavily on gut instincts to guide them. It’s a pretty nice reflection on humanity, actually, that giving back seems to be such an instinctive reaction to heightened challenges. 


- People who lean to the right on this factor have a consistent approach to navigating life, inspiring them to cope with stress by enjoying the present or digging into work. The most centered among us might be using the excess down time to prioritize long-term projects, so expect this group to come out of quarantine with personal memoirs ready for publication. 

- Those who are more inclined toward helping others lean to the left on this factor, indicating a tendency to multi-task. For individuals who enjoy packing their schedules with varied activity, social distancing hasn’t stopped them from finding novel ways to be useful to their communities.


In addition to asking users about their stress-relieving strategies, we wanted to understand what about COVID-19 is actually fueling their anxiety. While the most common response was worry for the health of others, it’s interesting to note that there was a 50-50 split between concern for oneself and concern for one’s community. We saw a very logical trend regarding our Altruism factor: respondents who are most anxious about the health and financial well-being of others also lean more heavily to the right here, indicating a stronger tendency toward generosity.    

A lot can contribute to how any one person responds to stress, and as we adapt to new ways of living and working together, keeping these differences in mind is key for staying unified in times of adversity. If you’d like to learn more about the pymetrics assessment, and its relationship to building empathy, please contact us.