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    Home-working and e-communications with colleagues during COVID-19: impact on psychological health and productivity

    Braithwaite, Elizabeth C, Cooper, Cary and Jones, Marc V (2023) Home-working and e-communications with colleagues during COVID-19: impact on psychological health and productivity. Minerva Psychiatry, 64 (2). pp. 106-117. ISSN 2724-6612

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    Abstract

    BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a wide-scale shift to home working for many employees in the UK. We hypothesized that during the lockdown, employees working from home would rely more heavily on work emails and other forms of e-communications to remain connected to colleagues and the workplace. We additionally hypothesized that an increase in e-communications with colleagues outside of normal working hours would be associated with poorer health and productivity. METHODS: We surveyed 204 full-time UK-based employees during October 2019 (pre-COVID) and during April 2020 (N.=153, during-COVID). Ninety-two participants indicated that they were working exclusively from home during-COVID and were therefore included in analyses. RESULTS: Email volume was higher during-COVID than pre-COVID, and the use of instant messaging and video calls outside of normal working hours increased. Change in email engagement outside of normal working hours was not associated with poorer health and productivity. However, increases in other forms of e-communications during leisure time was associated with poorer physical and mental health. CONCLUSIONS: A legacy of COVID-19 may be to accelerate a trend towards greater levels of home working, therefore understanding how to maintain health and productivity when working from home will be critical to ensure business continuity. Ours is the first study to suggest that increases in work-related video calls, instant messages, and social media engagement outside of normal working hours may be detrimental to employee health.

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