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Telework in academia: associations with health and well-being among staff
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Occupational Health Science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5055-0698
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Occupational Health Science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4187-245X
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Occupational Health Science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4364-467x
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0915-6426
2021 (English)In: Higher Education, ISSN 0018-1560, E-ISSN 1573-174X, Vol. 81, p. 707-722Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As the development of technical aids for telework has progressed, work has become more flexible in time and space. Among academics, the opportunity to telework has been embraced by most, but it is unclear how it relates to their health and well-being. The aim of this study was to determine how frequency and amount of telework is associated with perceived health, stress, recuperation, work-life balance, and intrinsic work motivation among teaching and research academics. An electronic questionnaire was sent to junior lecturers, senior lecturers, and professors at Swedish public universities. It included the General Health Questionnaire, Work Stress Questionnaire, items for assessing recuperation, the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction at Work scale, and parts of Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire, as well as questions about the frequency and amount of telework performed. In total, 392 academics responded to the survey. Multivariate analysis of variance showed significant differences between groups of academics with different telework frequency (p < 0.05). Univariate analyses of variance showed that ratings of stress related to indistinct organization and conflicts were higher among academics that telework several times per week or more than among academics that telework less than once per month. In regression analyses of associations between amount of telework (in hours per week) and the dependent variables, no significant effects were found. Although it cannot be concluded whether stress is a cause or an effect of frequent telework, the findings warrant further attention to academics who telework frequently.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer , 2021. Vol. 81, p. 707-722
Keywords [en]
Flexible work; Boundless work; Autonomy; Competence; Relatedness
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Research subject
Health-Promoting Work, Flexibelt arbete
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-33317DOI: 10.1007/s10734-020-00569-4ISI: 000552154600002Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85088568729OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-33317DiVA, id: diva2:1458448
Part of project
Flexible work & Opportunity and Challenge (FLOC), Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and WelfareAvailable from: 2020-08-17 Created: 2020-08-17 Last updated: 2023-05-02Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Telework in academia – Opportunities and challenges for well-being at work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Telework in academia – Opportunities and challenges for well-being at work
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background:

Telework reshapes the conventional work practice by providing the flexibility to perform work at new places and times. Telework can increase individual autonomy to control and organize work, but can also place higher demands on the ability to separate work-nonwork in time and space, physically and mentally. Leaders’ abilities to manifest trusting relationship with staff, and support them seems important during telework. Academic staff are frequent teleworkers, but little is known about how it may impact on their well-being. The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate how academic teaching and research staff practice telework and how telework affects their well-being at work. Another aim was to investigate the experiences of academic managers leading teleworkers in academia.

Methods: 

Study I was a cross-sectional survey and examined the association between the amount and frequency of telework and perceived health aspects. Study II was conducted with assessments of psychophysiological activity, postures and movements, and with daily self-ratings on stress, fatigue, and recuperation, to compare exposures during telework and work at the conventional workplace. Study III and study IV had qualitative study design and were based on semi-structured interviews using an inductive phenomenographic approach.

Results:

Academics who teleworked several times per week or more reported more work-related stress related to indistinct organization and conflicts, and individual demands and commitment, compared to academics who teleworked less. The psychophysiological activity indicated more relaxation before and after workhours during teleworking days. Academics had overall sedentary behaviors regardless of work location, alternated more between sitting and standing during working hours during telework than at the ordinary workplace. The academics’ experiences of telework were related to work tasks, coping strategies, workgroup relationships, and policies/regulations, which were mostly interrelated. Collectively, the process of change of managers’ conditions and experiences of leading teleworkers before, during and after the pandemic were related to digital and social interaction, work performance, the work environmeny in, and regulations of, telework.

Conclusions:

The use of different research designs and methods showed that telework in academia could impact biological, psychological, social and professional aspects of academics’ well-being. The perspective of academic managers showed that the organizational context could impact on the conditions for providing academics with support in telework. We argue future studies to adopt different research designs and methods when studying well-being in telework, and especially consider the professional and organizational context in telework.

Abstract [sv]

Bakgrund:

Distansarbete förändrar det konventionella sättet att arbetet genom att ge flexibilitet att utföra arbete på nya platser och tider. Detta kan öka autonomin att styra och organisera arbetet, men det kan också medföra högre krav på förmågan att separera arbetet i tid och rum, fysiskt och mentalt, från livet i övrigt. Chefers förmåga att upprätthålla en förtroendefull relation med, och stödja sin personal, verkar vara särskilt viktigt vid distansarbete. Distansarbete är vanligt bland akademianställda, men det saknas kunskap om hur det kan påverka deras välbefinnande i arbetet. Det övergripande syftet med denna avhandling var att undersöka hur undervisande och forskande personal inom högre utbildning distansarbetar och hur det kan påverkar deras välbefinnande i arbetet. Ett annat syfte var att undersöka akademianställda chefers erfarenheter av och förutsättningar för att leda distansarbetare i akademin.

Metod:

Studie I var en tvärsnittsundersökning av sambandet mellan mängd och frekvens av distansarbete och skattade hälsoaspekter. Studie II bestod av mätningar av psykofysiologisk aktivitet, kroppsställningar och rörelser, och av dagliga självskattningar av stress, trötthet och återhämtning vid distansarbete jämfört med arbete på ordinarie arbetsplats. Studie III och studie IV hade kvalitativ studiedesign och baserades på semistrukturerade intervjuer med en induktiv fenomenografisk ansats.

Resultat:

Akademianställda som distansarbetade flera gånger per vecka eller mer rapporterade mer arbetsrelaterad stress relaterad till otydlig organisation och konflikter, och individuella krav och engagemang i arbetet, jämfört med de som distansarbetade mer sällan. De psykofysiologiska mätningarna tydde på mer avslappning före och efter arbetstid under distansarbetsdagar. Akademianställda var generellt stillasittande oavsett plats för arbete, men växlade mer mellan att sitta och stå under arbetstid vid distansarbete jämfört med ordinarie arbetsplats. Akademianställdas upplevelser av distansarbete relaterade till arbetsuppgifter, copingstrategier, arbetsrelationer och policyer/regler. Chefers förutsättningar och erfarenheter av att leda distansarbetare före, under och efter pandemin relaterade till digital och social interaktion, arbetsprestationer, arbetsmiljön i och regleringar av distansarbete.

Slutsatser:

Studierna med olika forskningsdesign och metoder i denna avhandling visade att distansarbete i akademin kan inverkan på biologiska, psykologiska, sociala och professionella aspekter av akademianställdas välbefinnande i arbetet. Akademianställda chefers erfarenheter var att den organisatoriska kontexten kunde påverka deras förutsättningarna att ge akademianställda stöd vid distansarbete. Vi rekommenderar att framtida studier använder sig av olika forskningsdesign och metoder för att studera välbefinnande vid distansarbete, och särskilt beaktar den professionella och organisatoriska kontextens betydelse för välbefinnande vid distansarbete.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gävle: Gävle University Press, 2022. p. 116
Series
Doctoral thesis ; 32
Keywords
telework, academia, psychophysiological activity, physical behaviors, stress, well-being, leadership, phenomenography, distansarbete, akademianställda, psykofysiologisk reaktivitet, fysiska beteenden, stress, välbefinnande, ledarskap, fenomenografi
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-39871 (URN)978-91-88145-95-6 (ISBN)978-91-88145-96-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2022-10-27, Krusenstjernasalen, Kungsbäcksvägen 47, Gävle, 09:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2022-10-06 Created: 2022-09-05 Last updated: 2022-10-20

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Heiden, MarinaWidar, LindaWiitavaara, BirgittaBoman, Eva

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