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U of R researcher part of a worldwide team looking at impacts of working from home

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: August 24, 2020 5:04 a.m.

About 90 per cent of the University’s 3,000 employees are working remotely.
About 90 per cent of the University’s 3,000 employees are working remotely. Photo: stock

Chances are you are reading this story from the friendly confines of your home, which, likely, has also served as your workplace for the past five months. In a pandemic ironic twist, during these times, as much as people are working from home they’re also living at the office. 

According to a recent Statistics Canada survey, in the midst of COVID-19, the number of people working from home has risen from the typical 12 to 14 per cent in recent years, to about 40 per cent. Those numbers are significantly higher, some 90 per cent, for the more than 3,000 faculty and staff employed by the University of Regina, the vast majority of whom are working remotely while classes have been moved to remote formats.

Now, a University of Regina researcher along with colleagues from 12 universities in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, are conducting a wide-spread study to find out how working from home during the pandemic is impacting the lives of university faculty and staff members. 

Shelagh Campbell, an associate professor in the U of R’s Hill and Levene Schools of Business, is leading the University of Regina research. Her involvement is the result of her membership in the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work (or Le Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail (CRIMT), as its French language equivalent is known) which examines globalization and employment. Campbell’s CRIMT colleagues in Australia launched the study and invited Canadian CRIMT co-researchers to join the project. CRIMT is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant. Dr. Campbell’s research is also supported by the offices of the Vice-President (Research) and the Dean, Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina.

08-241.jpg
Shelagh Campbell, an associate
professor at the University of
Regina’s Hill and Levene Schools
of Business, is leading the University
of Regina survey investigating
working from home.
Photo: U of R Photography

“This research is important for the University of Regina in three ways,” says Campbell. “We are contributing to the global discussion of the impact of COVID-19 on workplaces and workers, generating real-time data as the pandemic unfolds. Our institution experience is included in an international study, giving a voice to our unique circumstances and allowing us to compare ourselves to other Canadian and International universities. The study will provide a profile of the U of R and Federated Colleges at this point in time which can contribute to policy and operational decision-making,” she adds. 

The complete results will be compiled by Campbell’s Australian partners. The U of R data will be sent to Campbell in early September. She will then lead a U of R research team analyzing the results. After the analysis, reports will be presented to leadership at the U of R and each of the Federated Colleges. She expects journal articles will be published based on the entire international data set and others will follow based on the Canadian experience. 

“This type of international research provides an opportunity to highlight the expertise of our scholars. These collaborations not only advance our understanding of the challenges of living and working during a pandemic, but also allow for the mobilization of knowledge within and beyond our borders,” Dr. Kathleen McNutt, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Regina. 

While Campbell says it’s too early to speculate on the survey’s biggest takeaway, she notes through informal conversations she’s had with colleagues that isolation from co-workers and lack of human contact appear to be the most significant challenges for some U of R staff. She adds that the uncertainty surrounding returning to work is compounding stress for many people – including herself.

“I am working from home for the most part,” she says. “I have found difficult the social isolation, the uncertainty of when we’ll return to work, and what work will look like for the next year. The demands of learning new technology and adaptations to teaching processes have been overwhelming, particularly in light of the short time span to prepare for the Summer semester, on top of the ongoing service and research commitments. Staff in non-teaching roles face different - but equally challenging - kinds of demands in serving their clients at a distance.” 

It is observations like these that can help guide the U of R and universities around the world to better working from home practices, process, and policy creation. 

On the bright side, Campbell says having her daughter at home for longer than expected because of the pandemic has been a joy. Working from home, for all of its challenges, can mean spending more time with those we love or on the hobbies we enjoy. 

If you would like more information, contact Shelagh Campbell at shelagh.campbell@uregina.ca or 306-337-3307.

 

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Information for faculty and staff including working remotely