Tagged / work-life balance

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 5): lessons learned

As the week ends, we would like to close this series of blogs by sharing with you some of the lessons we believe can be learned from the experiences of 70 BU colleagues who completed our survey. Many thanks to all who have already contributed to this research. The results we have presented so far are only part of the data. The survey will remain open until the end of May, when we will then analyse all responses to improve our understanding of the impact of the C-19 lockdown on academics across the UK and beyond. If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you are kindly invited to do so here: tiny.cc/acad19, and please do share with your networks. This is a cross-faculty (FHSS and FST) collaboration conducted by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in social sciences (Prof Sara Ashencaen Crabtree), public health (Prof Ann Hemingway) and physical geography (Dr Luciana Esteves).

Lesson learned 1. The complementarity of the quantitative and qualitative data.
The quantitative data helped identifying the factors that are affecting the largest number of respondents and where there are contrasting views or experiences between groups of respondents. The qualitative data provided insights into how the factors have affected the respondents and why, particularly on specific personal circumstances and other aspects that were not included in the closed-ended questions. This research would be deficient without one or the other.

Lesson learned 2. Working from home is bringing compounded benefits to the majority and is something that is wished to remain as an option in the longer term.
You can find some insights about the benefits identified by respondents at the end of blog Part 2. Academics are not alone in wishing for flexibility to work remotely to continue after lockdown and some employers have already surveyed their employees preferences as they start planning for reshaping their office spaces.

Lesson learned 3. Some negative aspects of working from home will subside when lockdown restrictions are reduced but others will persist.
These are some examples:

  • Less pressure from balancing family and work needs when schools re-open; home-care support can resume; when social distancing measures allow some more interaction with family and friends (even if just a small number)
  • Inadequate workspace at home may persist due to space and/or financial difficulties in making adjustments to transform home shared spaces into quiet workspaces.

Lesson learned 4. Online teaching is seeing as positive by some and negative by others (see blog Part 2).
Part of the negative effect was due to the increased workload resulting from the fast pace in which adjustments needed to be made, sometimes under duress of lack of experience/training (including how to use software/tools) and/or inadequate equipment. Considerations of how to provide training and sharing of good practices are likely to be beneficial to some staff.

Lesson learned 5. The increased inequities that are arising from the rapid changes in the academic environment.
Conditions are wide ranging when the workspace is each one’s home. Some are perfectly suited or can be well adjusted, others were never meant to be. Identifying and supporting the staff who need to work from an office outside their home becomes crucial and urgent. Other long-standing inequities have been aggravated during lockdown (see blog Part 4), including but not limited to gender bias, with strong consequences to research.

Lesson learned 6. A fresh management approach is needed to address these emerging inequities.
Providing the specific support that is needed by staff who have been the most negatively affected should be prioritised to reduce inequities. The resulting short and long-term impacts of lockdown on staff productivity, health and wellbeing need to be taken into consideration in appraisals and career progression decisions.

Lesson learned 7. Most are greatly concerned about workloads and work-life balance when lockdown ends (see blog Part 1).
In addition to addressing emerging inequities, there is considerable concern and opposition to a possible ‘return to normal work’, which has been expressed by respondents (and the academic community at large) as working arrangements and demands affecting productivity and the health and wellbeing of staff.

Lesson learned 8. There is a need to improve communication and guidance from managers to staff dealing with students’ requests and concerns, such as programme leaders.
Managing students’ expectations is a major concern for a large proportion of respondents, more so for specific cohorts or programmes.

Lesson learned 9. Many staff are missing the interaction and support from colleagues.
Identifying ways to promote spontaneous interactions 1-2-1 or in small groups is likely to benefit staff.

Lesson learned 10. Staff wish that their experiences inform decisions and help shaping the ‘new normal’ working environment.
A working group with university management, UCU and senior leadership staff could be formed to co-create and shape the ‘new normal’ and the strategies that can be implemented to reduce emerging and long-standing inequalities.

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 3)

In our previous blogs, we showed that work-life balance during lockdown got worse for 59% and improved for 37% of the 70 BU academics who responded to our survey (blog Part 1). We also showed how some aspects of life in lockdown have affected groups of people differently. For example, a considerably higher proportion of respondents under 40 years of age reported negative effect from switching to online teaching (75%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (50%) in relation to other age groups (blog Part 2). This blog Part 3 focuses on how the main concerns of academics shifted through time and the support they have found most helpful.

If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you are kindly invited to do so here: https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics, and please do share with your networks. If you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to provide this information in one of the open questions.

We asked respondents to identify the three main concerns they had at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present from a list of 15 options. While respondents’ main concerns have changed through time, the health of a family member or close friend have always remained within the top three (Figure 1). Own health and coping with changes at work were within the top three main concerns at the start of both the outbreak and lockdown but subsided in priority afterwards. As lockdown progressed, main concerns shifted to broader issues such as the duration and/or gravity of the pandemic and longer-term impacts in the country or the world in general. It is important to note that, from the start of the outbreak to the time they responded to the survey (end of April/early May), work-life balance and the consequences to own work in the longer-term became a major concern to a considerably larger proportion of respondents.

Figure 1. Respondents’ main concerns at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present.

In open comments, respondents identified other aspects that are of major concern, which can be grouped as worries about own or others health, managing circumstances at home or at work (Table 1).

Table 1. Other major concerns expressed by respondents

Figure 2 highlights the types of support that were considered to be helpful and the ones that need to be improved to help a larger number of staff (e.g. provision of IT equipment, which BU is currently addressing and support from line managers). Unsurprisingly, having good internet connection at home was considered very helpful by 65% of respondents and the support from family and colleagues was considered extremely valuable at these critical times .

Figure 2. Respondents indication of how helpful were these particular types of support available to them.

Responses to open questions provided insights on the relevance of support received and identified other means of support not listed in Figure 2. These other means of support are summarised in Table 2.

The support offered by learning technologists and other colleagues to enable the quick turnaround to online teaching was considered invaluable. In terms of support provided by the university, the extra days of leave were mentioned most often. Respondents indicate that they appreciate the ‘gesture of goodwill’ but are concerned that they might not be able to take these days in the near future due to work pressures. It was also mentioned that these extra days do not cover for the costs of working from home, e.g. internet charges.

Table 2. Examples of other types of support and coping strategies respondents found useful during lockdown.

Respondents identified four aspects in which support from the university could be more effective:

  • Availability of equipment and workspace adequate for job – this included computer/laptop, desk/chair, internet and quiet space at home.
  • Better communication and/or more timely guidance from the university to help staff dealing with student queries – issues of concern included the cascading of communication, with staff sometimes learning information from students and poor/insufficient information and support to staff, particularly affecting programme leaders, the first port of call to student cohorts.
  • Need for management to plan ahead more efficiently
  • Support and guidance to staff undertaking PhDs

 

Who are the respondents?

Exposure to Covid-19

  • 7% of respondents (5 out of 68) had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive or live with someone who did. All are female respondents in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Two of these households had someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • 22% of respondents (15 out of 68) had close family members, friends or colleagues who had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive. All are female respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s (the majority, 9 respondents).
  • 41% of respondents (28 out of 68) live in a household where there is at least one person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Research Policy News – 4 Jan 2018

It’s a quiet week in policy. The UK Parliament is currently in recess, meaning parliamentarians are focussed on their constituency business rather than national initiatives. Below are brief summaries of recent news, click into the links for more detailed information.

 

The UK Research Office publicised their Participant Portal highlighting its functionality to search for partners within the context of individual call topics.

 

Research Professional describes German innovations in nursing. Four practice centres will harness new technologies to trial new equipment and advances in practice in a partnership which combines research with industry and Government investment. Ideas to be trialled at the centres include reclining beds that adjust the patient’s position via sensors, innovative transport systems to get nurses around the centres more quickly, disinfectant robots, digital companions and innovative solutions to reduce noise pollution.

 

Research Professional report that the European Patent Office has changed its infrastructure and made senior appointments to speed up the patenting processes. The department has also been reorganised to reflect current demand for patenting:

  • mobility and mechatronics
  • healthcare, biotechnology and chemistry
  • ICT

 

Research Professional detail Eurodoc’s call for Framework 9 to support studies into early career researchers health and working conditions. They also requested that every project funded by Framework 9 should help researchers gain the skills to switch to working in industry, as many researchers choose to do. Finally they requested the budget be doubled to, in part, increase the number of positions for early-careers researchers in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme and in the Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council.  Happiness at work was also one of the most popular THE articles in 2017.

 

BU’s Jo Garrad describes how you can get the best out of your Research Professional subscription by personalising the content you receive: Jo’s blog.

 

Institutes of Technology Fund: In December the Government announced a £170 million fund to establish Institutes of Technology delivering high level technical skills that meet employer needs. The Institutes of Technology will combine business, education and training providers within technical (particularly STEM) subjects to deliver the specific provision needed by local, regional and national employers. It forms part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy that will directly target skills gaps through upskilling existing and new entrants to the workforce. The first Institutes of Technology are expected to open in 2019.

Justine Greening stated:

“Institutes of technology will play a vital role driving our skills revolution with business and unlocking the potential of our country’s young people through better technical education. By bridging the country’s skills gaps, these new institutions will drive growth and widen opportunity.”

“This Government continues to invest in developing our homegrown talent so British business has the skills it needs and so that young people can get the opportunities they want.”

 

UKRO announced that the European Commission has published the list of expert evaluations who reviewed the Horizon 2020 proposals (2016 calls). See more here and in the European Commission’s reference documents.

 

Research Professional set out the top 10 EU policy stories of 2017, whilst UKRO contemplates the busy year ahead.

 

Industrial Strategy: The House of Lords has produced a library briefing on the Industrial Strategy and the UK Economy

 

Artificial Intelligence & Automation: The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper on Artificial Intelligence and Automation in the UK. Increasing digital skills, filling employment gaps, and funding for AI research are key issues for Government who seek to grow the AI industry. A sector deal for AI was announced in the Autumn 2017 Budget. This briefing paper considers the impact of AI and automation on the UK workforce, including how working lives may change. There are a broad range of predictions caveated by uncertainties such as the rate of technological development, rate of deployment, and the geographical variations. The paper concludes that the impact is likely to be significant and the Bank of England predicts that 15 million jobs will be influenced by automation over the next 20 years.

 

Consultations: Current academic consultations cover economist degree apprenticeships, health service workforce development and inshore fisheries pilots.

See the list of all live consultations relevant to BU here and BU’s responses here.

 

We’ll be back with the general HE policy update tomorrow.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                   SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

65111                                                                                     65070

 

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                   |                      policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Royal Society launches stories from its Parent Carer Scientist project

The Royal Society’s Parent Carer Scientist project aims to increases the visibility of people in the UK combining a career in science with a family life, and to encourage and inRoyal Societyspire current and future talented scientists to succeed regardless of non-work commitments. Stories from mothers, fathers and carers about their efforts to balance a career in science with family life can be found at https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/diversity-in-science/parent-carer-scientist/ – the stories are being launched in small groups so more will be added over the coming months.