New research suggests younger workers were impacted more by workplace stress during COVID-19. Liz Emerson, IF-Co-founder, looks at the latest research.
Young more affected
Kingston University’s Business School and Maynooth University in Ireland joined forces to investigate workplace stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that younger workers were more likely to experience workplace stress than senior colleagues. The research, undertaken by “management” academics, “aimed to understand how individuals at different stages of their lives and careers were affected and what resources had a positive impact on their wellbeing.”
Five career stages in 30 countries
The research focused on people at five career stages and surveyed people in 30 different countries in April 2020, shortly after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic, then at fortnightly intervals for eight weeks.
According to co-author, Dr Butler, “Work and personal lives underwent enormous disruption during the pandemic, with people working from home experiencing increased loneliness and a range of mental health issues. Under normal circumstances, the younger generations of workers need additional support from their managers and that was exacerbated during the pandemic, when we saw that relative newcomers to the workforce did not cope as well under the pressures of remote working.”
The researchers suggest that while employers might have interpreted younger workers as being “disengaged”, largely manifested by a lack of interest or cynicism about work, such behaviour was likely to be a way of coping in the workplace while isolated from working from home and physically distanced from managers. Too many online meetings may also have taken people away from other work they had to do and may have been perceived as intruding on employees personal space.
Meanwhile, mid-career workers were more likely to suffer from exhaustion because of juggling other responsibilities, such as home schooling due to school closures.
The study also investigated factors that could mitigate stress or exhaustion, such as giving employees higher levels of autonomy at work.
“Organisations must pay attention to the types of support needed by employees to help them through a crisis,” Dr Butler said. “Extra support is clearly needed to help the younger generation of employees, who don’t cope as well under the new pressures, balance job demands while working remotely. More emphasis on this will help achieve a productive workforce through people having greater connectivity and a sense of wellbeing at work,” she added.
Research project lead Professor Audra Mockaitis, an expert in international business at Maynooth University, concluded that, “unfortunately, poor organisational response and support means that the effects of the pandemic will linger for longer for many. Organisations must do better with respect to their employees at all career stages.”
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