A study has found university staff are struggling to balance work with domestic responsibilities and lower levels of wellbeing, with one in five unsure how to go about their work at home.
A team led by Stephen Wood, professor of management University of Leicester, analysed responses from 835 university employees across two institutions who took a baseline questionnaire followed by weekly welfare surveys. The preliminary results are now being prepared for peer review.
It was found that insufficient information and pending instructions from managers could impede the workflow of staff.
The researchers further found that 15% of respondents said they found it hard to make decisions on their own, while 21% could not decide how to go about doing their work. Another 14% said their work was impeded because it was normally done in a laboratory or had to be on campus.
38% of home-workers reported feeling anxious most or all of the time during the early stages of the first Covid-19 lockdown, with 8% reporting feeling depressed. 17% of remote-workers said they felt lonely.
Increased job insecurity, the unpredictability of future workloads, new ways of working and a lack of support from employers all contributed to lower levels of well-being among staff
– Professor Wood
Professor Wood said: “Increased job insecurity, the unpredictability of future workloads, new ways of working and a lack of support from employers all contributed to lower levels of well-being among staff.
“Some of these well-being effects knock on to concentration or decision-making. Some people call it cognitive stress – it affects their ability to concentrate and make decisions. We’re not talking about massive effects, but it is still there on performance variables, from the uncertainty.”
Professor Wood believes “the factors that affect all jobs – the extent of job discretion, potential loneliness of working alone, and job insecurity – remain important and will remain so after the pandemic”.
Professor Ilke Inceoglu is a member of the research team and Professor of Organisational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Exeter Business School.
She said: “Our research is important in that it adds to the story of Covid, but it also enables us to assess the role of location and whether the Covid-19 pandemic factors over and above conventional job design factors, which is indeed not the case.”