The FINANCIAL — New research from Durham University Business School has surveyed people living and working across the UK, France, Germany, Canada and the US, to understand the impact of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on mental health and wellbeing.
The study, conducted by Professor Roger Gill, Visiting Professor of Leadership Studies, in partnership with Professor Matt Grawitch and colleagues at St Louis University in Missouri, surveyed participants throughout June 2020 to explore how various demographic factors, individual differences and leadership experiences had influenced people’s perceptions of the Covid-19 pandemic on their lives and its actual impact.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, individual differences in adaptivity and resilience as well as effective leadership were found to positively contribute to participants’ work engagement. However, the study delivered some unexpected results.
While demographic factors such as being an essential worker or being responsible for children certainly influenced how lockdown restrictions impacted the respondents’ lives, there was no evidence to suggest that these had any negative impact 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 like Zoom or navigating makeshift work procedures, and new financial demands as well as facing the loss of essential financial resources. However, 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 participants’ lockdown experience was found in their 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.
The researchers say the study provides vital lessons for individuals, employers and indeed governments in protecting people’s mental health and wellbeing, in the event of future pandemics and lockdown scenarios.
Firstly, they state it’s important for individuals to recognise that increasing their personal resources (time, energy and money) may help them to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on their wellbeing.
Similarly, business leaders would benefit from understanding how employees’ individual differences and resources may impact their work-related well-being, particularly when new rules and procedures such as socially-distanced office set-ups, long-term remote working and extended furlough are implemented.
Leaders must also 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 society’s mental, physical and work-related health status when considering and implementing lockdown measures in future.
“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 as a whole,”
Professor Gill said.