Newbies vs. Old-Timers: University Workers’ Differential Experiences of Working from Home During COVID-19

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Jason Foster
Mojan Naisani Samani
Shelagh Campbell
Scott Walsworth


This article examines how the pandemic related work from home experience differed between two groups of university workers: those for whom working at home was new and those with experience working predominantly from home.  Survey responses collected from approximately 6,000 employees from seven universities in Canada are analyzed to measure productivity, satisfaction, and stress across four determinants of successful work from home arrangements, including: the nature of the job, attributes of the worker, support of the employer, and domestic responsibilities.  The results support the contention that all four determinants must be satisfied for home working to succeed.  While prior experience with work from home leads to greater durability in those four realms, it is not sufficient to sustain them regardless of circumstance.  For instance, we find compelling evidence that for all university employees, having a child dependent and being the primary care provider predicts diminished productivity and augments stress, and an additional penalty (higher stress) is observed for women.  We synthesis our findings with emerging studies concerning sudden shock in stable employment environments in the larger change management literature.

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The Labour of COVID