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Youthful era suffered extra stress at work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, examine finds

A study by management experts from Kingston University Business School and Maynooth University in Ireland showed that people early in their careers were more likely to be affected by work stress during the Covid-19 pandemic than their older colleagues.

The pandemic has been widely reported to be adversely affecting the mental health of all populations, particularly young people, said researcher Dr Christina Butler, an associate professor at Kingston Business School. In response, the study aimed to understand how individuals were affected at different stages of their lives and careers and which resources positively influenced their well-being.

The research focused on people at five career stages – from the start of their working career to retirement, when there was less emphasis on career advancement. They found differences in how these groups responded to ongoing disruptions related to the 2020 pandemic and adapted over time.

The researchers first surveyed people in 30 different countries in April 2020, shortly after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, and then every two weeks for eight weeks.

The resulting article, Covid-19 Pandemic Disruptions to Work Lives: A Multilevel Examination of Impacts on Career Stages, was published in Journal of Professional Behaviorfound that people early in their careers were more likely to feel stressed, said Dr. Butler.

“Work and personal life have suffered major disruptions during the pandemic, with people working from home experiencing increased loneliness and a range of mental health issues. Under normal circumstances, younger generations of workers need extra support from their managers, and this has gotten worse during the pandemic. , when we saw that newcomers to the workforce weren’t coping as well with the pressures of remote work,” said Dr. Butler.

The research also found that early career workers were more likely to disengage during the pandemic. This can appear when the employee shows a lack of interest and becomes cynical about the job as a way to cope and disengage, explained Dr. Butler. Meanwhile, mid-career workers — categorized as those settled into a career and building on those foundations — were prone to burnout during the pandemic. In some cases, this was due to juggling other responsibilities, such as homeschooling due to school closures.

“Employers faced an even tougher challenge than usual to engage young people and support them in their jobs so they don’t burn out. Disengagement is a clear indicator of burnout and burnout is another,” she said.

Being too tired and disengaged may also have contributed to a national trend in which highly skilled workers over 50 were leaving their profession before retirement, Dr Butler said. “This group is at risk of leaving the job prematurely in what is sometimes called the Great Resignation or engaging in what is called the Quiet Resignation,” she explained. “They have re-evaluated their lives, especially during the pandemic, and even if they don’t quit their jobs completely, they may change careers, leave the city or work fewer hours, causing organizations to lose their wealth of experience.”

In addition to staff well-being, the study also looked at factors that could alleviate stress or burnout, such as giving employees greater levels of autonomy at work.

The researchers found that there appeared to be a change in attitude towards organizational support, which had traditionally been seen as positive. “During the pandemic, there was often a lot of organizational support that people could find inconvenient and tiring, such as a lot of online dating, which sometimes took people away from their work and resulted in a lot of screen time,” said Dr. Butler. . “When organizational support is positive, it is seen as a useful resource for managing work, but it may have seemed more like a demand placed on people during the pandemic.”

As the world began to live with Covid-19 and the likelihood of another pandemic increased due to globalization, a better understanding of how pandemics affect the working life and well-being of employees at different stages of life was needed, said Dr. Butler.

“Organizations need to pay attention to the types of support employees need to help them get through a crisis,” said Dr. Butler. “It’s clear that additional support is needed to help the new generation of employees, who are also not adjusting to the new pressures, to balance work demands while working remotely. A focus on this will help achieve a productive workforce through more connected people and a sense of well-being at work,” she added.

Professor Audra Mockaitis, research project leader and international trade expert at Maynooth University, agreed that with the return to hybrid or personal working, it was important to assess whether well-being was improving for the workers most affected. “The pandemic and organizations’ responses to it have significantly affected working life – each person has their own story of pandemic trauma,” she said. “Unfortunately, poor organizational response and support means the effects of the pandemic will last longer for many people. Organizations must do better for their employees at all stages of their careers.”

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