Six students from the School of Human Resource Management pursuing their third year of PhD, collaborated to conduct interviews for a qualitative research study about the impacts of working remotely in the context of COVID-19 at York University. The students are:
Research Survey Objective
The objective of the research was to advance understanding of the role played by an individual’s personal demands and resources beyond jobs, along with analyzing the implications various scenarios have on an employee’s work and non-work outcomes. An inductive, qualitative research design was developed by them, which included interviewing 60 employees (21 academic staff and 39 non-academic staff) at York University.
The main research questions for the study were:
- Why are some individuals experiencing positive work outcomes compared to others due to remote working?
- What are the roles of personal demands besides job requirements and resources that can explain the differences in employee work outcomes during the COVID-19 remote working?
The participants of the study reported mixed work and nonwork outcomes of remote work related to motivation, job satisfaction, productivity, physical and mental health, family relationship strengthening, work-nonwork balance and overall well-being.
Interview findings revealed various personal demands on participants including unequal division of domestic labour, lack of engagement in physical activities, unsupportive climate at home, lack of family support, presence of children at home, social isolation, etc. These factors caused increased stress among the participants. Consequently, some participants reported lack of motivation, decrease in productivity, work engagement, and job satisfaction. Overall, the work-nonwork balance of the participants declined due to increase (or change) in these personal demands. Variation in outcomes were explained in part through participants’ integration boundary management style (i.e., the degree to which they blend or mix work and nonwork issues).
Contrary to the decreased performance in some individuals, there were participants who identified various personal resources that facilitated their overall positive experience during the COVID-19 remote work. A few examples of these personal resources included segmentation boundary management style (separation of work and nonwork issues), equal division of domestic labour, opportunity to engage in physical activities, supportive home climate, availability of financial support, availability of support from spouse/children and availability of time to take care of physical and mental health. Some participants reported increase in motivation and productivity which further provided them with a sense of increased work-nonwork balance in the context of remote working.
It was interesting to find out through interviews how differently faculty and staff perceive productivity which in turn is influenced by their job demands and resources in the wake of COVID-19 working arrangements
— said Tinu Koithara Mathew, 3rd year PhD student, Human Resource Management (HRM).
Whereas, Tina Sharifi, 3rd year PhD student, HRM expressed:
Household responsibilities continue to fall heavily on women in different-sex relationships. The pandemic has simply exacerbated this unequal division of labour. Despite the increase in women participating in the workforce, traditional gender roles continue to dominate.
Research carried out by the students showed that experiences of positive or negative work and nonwork outcomes during remote work are highly variable and dependent on individual context.
Academic staff reported relatively different experiences compared to non-academic staff. For example, academic staff reported a decrease in productivity due to lack of communication with students and not having enough time for research, which were the key success factors for faculty career advancement. In contrast, non-academic staff reported higher productivity mainly due to availability of more time, flexibility and job autonomy.
Assistant Professors Kelly Pike and James Chowhan, both with the School of Human Resource Management, worked alongside these students to interpret the survey data from the quantitative study and to develop qualitative questions that would help further understand some of the puzzling findings of the study. The students expressed great gratitude for Professor Pike who taught the qualitative research methods seminar and guided them throughout the research process, while also assisting and processing the documents required for ethics approval to conduct the research.