"Heaven or hell" – new research on how remote work affected university employees

Christer Theandersson is the lead author of the report Heaven or hell?: University and college employees' experiences of work and private life during the first wave of COVID-19 (Theandersson & Arvidsson, University of Borås 2021), which he wrote together with former Master's student Julia Arvidsson. The empirical material was used in her Master's thesis in Work Life Science.

Teachers and researchers as well as support staff responded to questionnaires in order to show how increased remote work in connection with the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic affected factors related to their work situation, work hours, and private life.

The results show that there were both similarities and differences between the different occupational groups, but that it was above all Lecturers and Senior Lecturers who experienced increased work demands and a deteriorating balance between work and private life.

“Research shows that groups that have many social contacts can find it most stressful when they work remotely. Teachers are a professional group that seems to have experienced the greatest increase in labour, even outside of academia. They may need more support,” said Christer Theandersson.

At the same time, support staff, most of all, experienced increased autonomy when working remotely. Common among all occupational groups is that they have experienced greater difficulties in keeping work and private life separate; there is a greater tendency to work outside normal office hours.

Teachers were interviewed about the organisation and management

During a lunch seminar on 27 January, Christina Mauléon, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Business Administration and Textile Management, will present the report When the Pandemic Came to the Bureaucracy: From campus to distance learning in 1 day (Lidholm, Mauléon, Müllern and Solli, O&S 2021: 1)

In the article, the authors highlight the tensions between bureaucratic management of the organisation and professional management. In the spring of 2020, teachers from two Swedish universities were interviewed about how they experienced their specific organisation and management during the crisis.

A clear lesson from the study, the authors write, is that it was the teachers who had the capacity to handle the situation – not university management.

It has often been up to teachers themselves to find solutions to the didactic and technical, as well as the organisational, problems that arose during the crisis. As with other parts of welfare society, no plans or concrete administrative support to handle the digital transition were in place. But the lack of needs-based support cannot only be interpreted as an expression of a lack of governance; rather, it has also led to increased professional autonomy and collegial leadership.

Read more

Lunch seminar 27 January: The transition to digital education – a case of deficits in leadership or increased trust?

When the pandemic came to the bureaucracy

Heaven or hell?: University and college employees' experiences of work and private life during the first wave of COVID-19

Christer Theandersson 
Christina Mauléon