11:40:19 am on
Monday 14 Jun 2021

Social Effects of COVID
Streeter Click

Source: apertureiva.com

“Across the globe, COVID 19 continues to disrupt everyday lives, with serious consequences for individuals' health and well being,” says Professor Roger Gill, a Visiting Professor of Leadership Studies at Durham University Business School, in Durham, England. He and his team surveyed women and men living and working in the UK, France, Germany, Canada and the US in June 2020. They wanted to understand the effects of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on mental health and well-being.

The study explored how various demographic factors, individual differences and leadership experiences influenced opinions of the Covid-19 pandemic on daily and its actual effects. Not surprisingly, individual differences in adaptivity and resilience as well as effective leadership were found to positively contribute to employee work engagement. Yet, the study delivered some unexpected results.

Demographic factors, such as being an essential worker or being responsible for children, certainly influenced how lockdown restrictions influenced the lives of respondents, too. Yet, there was no evidence to suggest these factors had any negative effect on health or wellbeing.

In fact, all three factors led to better wellbeing outcomes. Professor Gill says, “It’s true that many workers encountered new demands on their time, such as needing to learn new tech, such as like Zoom or navigating makeshift work procedures, … new financial demands as well as facing the loss of essential financial resources. … the shift created a series of trade-offs for most people. There were different constraints on the way people allocated their time, energy and money that did not necessarily lead to negative consequences.”

For example, those who previously faced lengthy commutes benefitted from a better work-life balance and reduced expenses, and those with insecure work hours or placed on furlough were able to qualify for financial support to ease the burden.

Instead, the key difference in lockdown experience was found in individual levels of resilience. Those better prepared for remote living and working via flexible work arrangements prior to lockdown fared better than others, regardless of personal circumstances. There’s no surprise here.

The researchers say the study provides vital lessons for individuals, employers and indeed governments in protecting mental health and wellbeing, in the event of future pandemics and lockdown scenarios.

First, the researchers say it’s important for individuals to recognise that increasing their personal resources, such as time, energy and money, may help them mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on their well-being.

Similarly, business leaders would benefit from understanding how individual differences and resources among employees may affect their work-related well-being. This is particularly true when new rules and procedures, such as socially distanced office set-ups, long-term remote working and extended furlough, are implemented.

Leaders must create working conditions that preserve the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Helping employees to recognise signs of stress and their causes, maintaining an open-door policy for discussing problems, and providing training in managing workloads are all simple, but vital steps.

For governments, the researchers say it’s vital that policymakers track social, mental, physical and work-related health status when considering and implementing lockdown measures in future. Professor Gill says, “Given the dynamic nature of lockdowns and restrictions, it is important to track how people in various parts of the world are responding to the crisis and its effects on individual health. Our findings have important implications for individuals, organisations and society ….”

In all, “the Determinants of COVID Effects results [in line] with our expectations. Together, the demographic results suggest many of the negative effects of the pandemic on individual lives and health, [which are] often assumed …purely a function of various demographics, [such as] being an essential worker [or] having dependents under 12, may not be as attributable to them as they may be to other factors [such as [resilience.

“We found no evidence that any of the demographics we assessed resulted in large differences in the way the pandemic affected lives. The demographics accounted for more variance in effect on work life and home life than … on mental and physical health, though even the significant associations were not large.

“The most notable findings, based on the integrated path model, concerned whether respondents (1) were working less, which negatively effected work and home life; (2) were a primary caregiver, which positively effected work and home life); (3) had any remote work experience prior to the pandemic (which positively effected work life); (4) had taken a pay cut, which negatively effected work life; (5) were an essential worker, which positively effected home life; (6) had been furloughed or were anticipating a furlough, which positively effected home life.”

Overall, says Professor Gill, the lead researcher on the project, “our results suggest the following conclusions. First, various demographic factors played small, but significant, roles in the how people experienced the pandemic during June 2020. Second, psychologically based individual differences, such as adaptivity and resilience, were important factors that directly contributed to reports of work engagement. Third, having past remote work experience and having some training in remote-working benefited work-related work life and well-being. Fourth, effective leadership was the single strongest factor predicting work engagement. Finally, resilience offers benefits for both work-related and general well-being.”


The full research paper is available online here.

Streeter Click is editor of GrubStreet.ca.

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