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The purpose of the study was to better understand the relationships among stress, work-related burnout, and remote working brought on by social distancing efforts and stay at home orders put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors developed a questionnaire incorporating valid and reliable self-report stress and burnout measures (Perceived Stress Scale & Copenhagen Burnout Inventory), demographic, and work-related questions. The questions were used primarily to determine workers’ levels of stress before and during the pandemic, to assess potential burnout, and to establish the extent of their previous experience with remote work/telecommuting. The questionnaire was open from March 23rd to May 19th 2020 and distributed through a survey link on social media and by Qualtrics research services. Results from the analyses suggest that perceived stress did increase during the COVID-19 restrictions, especially for people that had limited experience working from home and were female. Individuals who worked from home before COVID-19 had higher levels of work-related burnout but did not differ based on gender or part-time work status. The results suggest that working from home may create more stress and result in more burnout, which challenges the current moves by some employers to make working from home a permanent arrangement. The authors believe that having research based on valid and reliable instruments will help employers and schools make better decisions about how to support those who can remain at home to avoid the potential for secondary outbreaks.
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STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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“I’m not Working from Home, I’m Living at Work”: Perceived Stress and Work-Related Burnout before
and during COVID-19
Sherrill W. Hayes, Jennifer L. Priestley, Namazbai Iishmakhametov, and Herman E. Ray
Analytics and Data Science Institute
Kennesaw State University
Author Note
Sherrill W. Hayes https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9219-6159
Jennifer Priestley https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2322-9567
Herman G. Ray https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3444-098X
Namazbai Iishmakhametov is a PhD student in Analytics and Data Science at Kennesaw State
University
We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.
Correspondence concerning this article should be should be addressed to Sherrill W. Hayes,
Analytics & Data Science Institute, College of Computing and Software Engineering, Kennesaw State
University, 3391 Town Point Dr NW, Room 2400, MD 9104, Kennesaw, GA 30144 email:
shayes32@kennesaw.edu
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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Abstract
The purpose of the study was to better understand the relationships among stress, work-related
burnout, and remote working brought on by social distancing efforts and stay at home orders put in
place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors developed a questionnaire incorporating valid and
reliable self-report stress and burnout measures (Perceived Stress Scale & Copenhagen Burnout
Inventory), demographic, and work-related questions. The questions were used primarily to determine
workers’ levels of stress before and during the pandemic, to assess potential burnout, and to establish
the extent of their previous experience with remote work/telecommuting. The questionnaire was open
from March 23rd to May 19th 2020 and distributed through a survey link on social media and by Qualtrics
research services. Results from the analyses suggest that perceived stress did increase during the
COVID-19 restrictions, especially for people that had limited experience working from home and were
female. Individuals who worked from home before COVID-19 had higher levels of work-related burnout
but did not differ based on gender or part-time work status. The results suggest that working from home
may create more stress and result in more burnout, which challenges the current moves by some
employers to make working from home a permanent arrangement. The authors believe that having
research based on valid and reliable instruments will help employers and schools make better decisions
about how to support those who can remain at home to avoid the potential for secondary outbreaks.
Keywords: Remote Working. Perceived Stress, Work-Related Burnout, COVID-19
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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While social and traditional media discussed work-related stress and burnout during COVID-19
pandemic, there was little empirical research to examine the phenomena except a few high level
surveys (CVS Health, 2020; Center for National Health Statistics, 2020; Petterson, Westfall, & Miller,
2020). As business leaders discussed reopening the economy, there was also a trend towards
considering making working from home a more permanent arrangement for some employees (Lavelle,
2020). The purpose of the study was to better understand the relationships among stress, work-related
burnout, and forced remote working brought on by social distancing efforts and stay at home orders put
in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors developed a questionnaire incorporating valid and
reliable self-report stress and burnout measures (Perceived Stress Scale, Copenhagen Burnout
Inventory), demographic, and work-related questions. The questions were used primarily to determine
people's levels of stress before and during the pandemic, to assess potential burnout, and to establish
the extent of previous experience with remote work. The authors believed that having research based
on valid and reliable instruments will help employers and schools make better decisions about how to
support those who can remain at home to avoid the potential for secondary outbreaks and provide
insights on the future in light of the swift global transition to remote working.
Literature Review
The COVID-19 Pandemic Context
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, began spreading throughout the work
in December 2019 and it was officially named by the World Health Organization (WHO) in February 2020
after being first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 2020). This disease is characterized by a range of symptoms from mild fever, dry cough, and
sore throat to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and an increasing list of related conditions
like inflammatory illnesses in children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The virus is
easily transmitted from person to person and most individuals who have it may be unaware. By July
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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2020 the virus had caused more than 10 million infections, over 500,000 deaths globally (Center for
Systems Science and Engineering, 2020). At the time of writing, there was neither a vaccine nor proven
effective treatment for COVID-19.
On March 11, 2020. the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and in response many countries
began recommending social distancing measures, imposing “lockdowns” (i.e. including restrictions on
non-essential travel, closing schools and non-essential businesses), and issuing “stay-at-home” orders
forced on all people (infected or not) into a sort of quarantine (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 2020). The pandemic resulted in the highest number of simultaneous global
shutdowns/lockdowns in history. By early April, 2020, the restrictions impacted 3.9 billion people,
including 90% of the population of the United States (Secon & Woodward, 2020), and more than 50% of
the global population (Sandford, 2020).
As the lockdown restriction measures continued, a theme of concern about mental health began
to emerge in the media. Some high-level surveys focused on general levels of stress (CVS Health, 2020),
another focused on increased levels of anxiety and depression (Center for National Health Statistics,
2020), and one was concerned about the potential for increased self-harm and suicide based on
analyses of unemployment during previous economic downturns (Petterson, Westfall, & Miller, 2020).
Many of the studies taking place during the pandemic had one overarching conclusionAmericans’
mental health was a risk due to “perfect storm” of pandemic anxiety, social isolation due to lockdowns,
job loss or fear of job loss, and role stress. One area that many of the studies neglected was the impact
that the sudden shift to working remotely and working from home had on individuals who had little or
no previous experience with this way of working. Despite this lack of information, corporate leaders
were already discussing the possibility of making remote work a permanent fixture for employees
(Lavelle, 2020) A popular meme during this time seemed to reflect the mood, it stated, “I’m not working
at home, I’m living at work”.
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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Remote Working
One of the most immediate and significant impacts for most individuals was that those who
were able were required to begin working from home. While some essential workers (e.g. healthcare,
grocery, postal/delivery, and sanitation) and those whose job required being physically present (e.g.
manufacturing, service) were never able to fully move to remote work, many workers were able to
transition some or all of their job to their home (Rigotti, De Cuyper, & Sekiguchi, 2020). The seemingly
swift transition to working from home during COVID-19 must be viewed in the context of a gradual
historical shift, aided by technology, that has allowed many workers to complete significant portions of
their work without entering a shared office space (Bell, 2012; Olson, 1983).
Remote working, working from home, and flexible working arrangements have become
increasingly more common and sought after over the past 40 years (Chiru, 2017; McAlpine, 2018). The
concept of “telecommuting” took hold in the 1970s and 1980s with increased access to personal
computers and home networking (Olson, 1983) and expanded over the next 40 years as home
computers, internet connectivity, smartphones, and a multitude of internet-based platforms that allow
for team collaboration through document sharing and video conferencing have become ubiquitous
(Chiru, 2017; Gray & Suri, 2019). During this time individuals and organizations have looked for ways
that this flexibility can provide to improve the quality of life for their employees, increase work
productivity, and lower overhead costs for organizations (Chiru, 2017; Olson, 1983). While most of the
impetus behind remote working has been to allow employees flexibility with their time, improve work-
life satisfaction, and reduce some of the overhead costs for organizations (Bell, 2012; Chiru, 2017),
research has demonstrated both f benefits and challenges to remote work for individuals and
companies. Some benefits include: reduced commute; increased productivity and motivation; less stress
from co-workers; allowing for more flexibility to manage family care responsibilities; reduced overhead
costs; retaining talented workers; and accessing workers who live too far to commute. Some challenges
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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include: reduction in the quality of communication among employees and management; difficulties in
managing remote workers; reduction in creative idea generation among team members; and the long-
term relationship of the employee to the organization (Bell, 2012; Chiru, 2017; Degbey & Einola, 2019;
McAlpine, 2018).
Although most jobs have all benefitted from the increasing the flexibility that technology has
brought to work (Chiru, 2017; Gray & Suri, 2019), many professional roles still require a high degree of
on-site work and work-related travel. The global COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations and
companies who had little experience with significant number of employees working from home to move
quickly to develop or expand remote working arrangements for employees who otherwise would not
have had this flexibility.
Work-Related Stress and Burnout
The sudden onset of the COVID-19 restrictions enacted across the world meant significant shifts
occurred to people’s ordinary working and home life (Rigotti, De Cuyper, & Sekiguchi, 2020). The
negative impact of chronic workplace stress and resulting burnout on both employees and their
organizations is well-documented especially in helping professions, like nursing, psychology, teaching,
social work, and even librarianship (Gray & Muramatsu, 2011; Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen, &
Christensen, 2005; Maslach & Jackson, 1984; Maslach & Leiter, 2016; Shirom, Nirel, & Vinokur, 2010;
Wood, Guimaraes, Holm, Hayes, & Brooks, 2020).
Previous research into the relationship between remote work and work-life stress provided
some insights into potential issues for those who moved quickly to remote work including: role stress
and role overload from balancing work and family issues (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington,
1989; Duxbury, Stevenson, & Higgins, 2018); lack of perceived organizational support (Stamper & Johlke,
2003); impact of the physical environment on job performance (Vischer, 2007); and the impact of
subjective experiences of time on work stress (Eldor, et al., 2017). Each of these areas of research build
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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on and support theories that suggest stress is likely the result of “role overload” (Duxbury, Stevenson, &
Higgins, 2018) and “spillover” from home to work and work to home (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, &
Wethington, 1989), which creates or exacerbates work-family conflicts (Lim & Kim, 2014; Fan, Lam, &
Moen, 2019), although some research suggests that work events can have a positive impact on family
(Ilies, Keeney, & Goh, 2015). Entrenched gendered expectations around work and family often lead
women and lower-class men to be most vulnerable to stress proliferation across work and home life
(Fan, Lam, & Moen, 2019). Unsurprisingly, the quantitative, emotional, and mental demands that lead to
work stress are consistent with sources of work-related burnout (Peeters, Montgomery, Bakker, &
Schaufeli, 2005).
Burnout is a psychological syndrome that is the result of long-term, job-specific, physical and
emotional exhaustion from interpersonal stress that results in detachment, cynicism, reduced feelings of
efficacy and accomplishment and may have significant impacts on job performance and satisfaction
(Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen, & Christensen, 2005; Maslach & Leiter, 2016). Burnout has been studied
extensively in health care and human service occupations, since these tend to require both significant
professional skill and high degrees of interaction with people (Gray & Muramatsu, 2011; Kristensen,
Borritz, Villadsen, & Christensen, 2005; Maslach & Jackson, 1984; Maslach & Leiter, 2016; Wood,
Guimaraes, Holm, Hayes, & Brooks, 2020). Sora and colleagues (2013) suggested that individual feelings
of job insecurity can become contagious within an organization, especially one with a strong
organizational culture, impede employee interactions and may lead to employee withdrawal, both of
which are also symptoms of burnout.
An important element in both stress and burnout in work-home stress and burnout research is
gender (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington, 1989; Duxbury, Stevenson, & Higgins, 2018; Fan, Lam,
& Moen, 2019; Karkoulian, Srour, & Sinan, 2016). Pre-pandemic studies consistently showed higher
stress and burnout levels for women due to role overload (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington,
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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1989; Duxbury, Stevenson, & Higgins, 2018), lack of support from work and spouses/partners (Peeters,
Montgomery, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2005), and more work-family conflicts (Karkoulian, Srour, & Sinan,
2016) especially for women in precarious (part-time) jobs and from lower socio-economic classes (Fan,
Lam, & Moen, 2019; Flesia, Fietta, Colicino, Segatto, & Monaro, 2020). A survey conducted by
LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey in early April 2020 found that women being disproportionately impacted
by work-family stress during the COVID-19 restrictions in ways that were consistent with the extant
research and other emerging COVID-19 findings (Flesia, et al., 2020). For example, women were more
likely than men to be experiencing symptoms of stress and burnout, women working full time with a
partner and children reported doing 20 more hours a week of housework and caregiving for children
and relatives on average than men, with women of color and single mothers reporting higher levels
(LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey, 2020). The research also demonstrated limited support from
workplaces with people working from home reporting that only 52 percent of their employers had
changed policies to allow more flexibility and 34 percent of managers having made any
accommodations.
Present Study
Research Questions and Hypotheses
What emerged from the literature was a complex picture of pre-existing stress and burnout risks
in working from home due to the decreased ability to compartmentalize the roles salient to work and
home domains, especially for women and those in part-time work. The COVID-19 restrictions created an
additional source of stress and burnout and forced more professionals into remote working. Thus, the
crisis provided a natural social experiment to better understand issues related to stress, burnout, and
technology-facilitated working from home.
The overall research question was: “How have the COVID-19 restrictions impacted perceived
stress and work-related burnout for people who are now working from home?” The hypotheses were:
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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H1: The overall Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) scores will be higher for all participants in the sample since
COVID-19 restrictions began.
H2: Overall PSS and Total Work-Related Burnout (TWRB) scores will be higher for those who have jobs
that do not typically provide opportunities to work from home.
H3: The COVID-19 work from home restrictions will have a more significant impact on females than
males Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Total Work-Related Burnout (TWRB) scores.
H4: Part-time workers those who work less than 30 hours per week will have higher overall PSS and
TWRB scores than full-time workers.
Methodology and Sample
In order to assess the prevalence of stress and burnout among individuals who were working
from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the authors administered a cross-sectional web-based
Qualtrics questionnaire and distributed it via social media (LinkedIn, Twitter), and utilized Qualtrics
Research Services to recruit additional participants. The survey was launched on March 24th and closed
on May 19th 2020. To participate in the study, participants had to be 18 years of age and older and
currently working from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Responses were monitored to help
control the number of people in the sample whose job required them to work from home before COVID-
19 and to ensure gender representation. A total of 370 questionnaires were started and 326 were
completed. Some respondentsanswers may not be reflected in some analyses because they did not
complete certain sections of the questionnaire. The analyses were carried out by various members of
the research team using SAS, R, and SPSS. All statistics for which significance were relevant, the p-value
was set at .05. The questionnaire included four demographic and seven work-related questions (see
Tables 1 and 2 and Figure 1) designed to better understand the participants. The full questionnaire is
available upon request.
INSERT TABLE 1 HERE
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The sample was relatively balanced among three age groups (18-34, 35-54, and 55-older) and
reflectively of the general population in terms of gender identity. The group was well-educated with
over 40 percent of the sample having a graduate degree or higher. Most of the sample self-identified as
either a manager/supervisor (32%), Educator (13%), Professional (12%), or other (17%). In the other
category, “Manager”, “teacher” and “director” were the most frequent responses.
INSERT FIGURE 1 HERE
Forty per cent of the participants (n = 133) worked exclusively remotely prior to the pandemic
(see Table 2). Sixty percent (n =193) of the participants who had non-remote job and 60 percent of
those individuals (n = 110) did not have the flexibility to work remotely prior to the pandemic. Prior to
the pandemic 65 percent (n = 140) of the group who had flexibility to work from home prior to the
pandemic did so for less than 15 hours per week.
INSERT TABLE 2 HERE
Instruments
Stress Inventory
The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is one of the most widely used, valid, and reliable stress
measures (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983; Cohen & Williamson, 1988; Lee, 2012; Taylor, 2015).
Although originally developed nearly 30 years ago, it remains a popular choice for researchers and
practitioners to understand how different situations affect perceived stress to both internal and external
events. The questions in the scale focus on feelings and thoughts during the last month and ask
respondents to indicate how often they felt or thought a certain way. Each question in the PSS is scored
0-4 and all items are totaled to provide a total PSS scores ranging from 0-40. The 10-item version has
been found to be as valid and reliable as versions with more items (Lee, 2012; Taylor, 2015).
Because the researchers were interested in changes to stress levels as a result of the
restrictions, the 10-item PSS was slightly modified in order to be repeated in the questionnaire. The first
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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asked about participants feelings and thoughts during the last month before the COVID-19 restrictions
(pre-COVID) and then the 10 questions were repeated again asking participants to answer about their
thoughts and feelings “since the COVID-19 restrictions began” (during-COVID). The Chronbach’s alpha
for the 7-item PSS scale for pre-COVID-19 in this study was 0.74 (n = 332) and for during COVID-19 the
PSS scale was 0.76 (n = 332). This is in line with other studies using the 10 question scale (Cohen &
Williamson, 1988; Lee, 2012; Taylor, 2015).
Burnout Inventory
Although burnout in professions was traditionally measured using the Maslach Burnout
Inventory (MBI) (Maslach & Jackson, 1984), the applicability of the MBI to some professions has been
questioned since it was designed to measure burnout in and validated on human services and helping
professionals (Kristensen, Borritz, Villadsen, & Christensen, 2005). Kristensen and colleagues (2005)
developed the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) in order to provide a conceptually more consistent
and statistically more valid and reliable measure of burnout that could be applied to a broader range of
professions. Analyses of the CBI have demonstrated it to be a highly validated instrument with
applications to a wide-range of professions (Ilić, Arandjelović, Jovanović, & Nešić, 2017; Kristensen, et
al., 2005; Sestili, et al., 2018; Wood, Guimaraes, Holm, Hayes, & Brooks, 2020). The CBI breaks the
concept of burnout down into 3 components: personal burnout (6 questions); work-related burnout (7
questions); and client-related burnout (6 questions). All questions had 5 possible answers and each of
the answer was assigned a certain number of points: 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100. The value of the burnout
level was calculated as mean value; therefore, every scale has value 0100.
This questionnaire used only the 7 question “work-related burnout” subscale of the CBI. Work-
related burnout refers to symptoms of exhaustion which are perceived as related to the person’s work,
while patient related burnout involves exhaustion which is perceived as related to the person’s work
with patients (Ilić, et al., 2017; Kristensen, et al., 2005). The mean value of the scale indicates the
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
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presence of burnout as low if it amounts to fewer than 50 points (< 50) and as high if it is above 50
points (> 50). Consistent with similar studies, the authors and calculated a “total work-related burnout
score” (TWRBS), which is reported as the average of the scores on the items (n = 326,
𝑥
̅= 47.90, sd =
23.06) was calculated and used to test hypotheses. The Chronbach’s alpha for the 7-item work-related
subscale in this study was 0.85 (n = 326), which was similar to results from two other studies that used
the inventory on professional groups, including Kristensen et al. (2005) of 0.87 (n= 1910) and the Sestili
et al. (2018) study of .868 (n = 91). This result demonstrated that the sub scale had an acceptable
measure of reliability.
Results
Hypothesis 1 stated,The overall Perceived Stress Scores (PSS) will be higher for all participants
in the sample since COVID-19 restrictions began.The total “pre-COVID” PSS (n = 326, M= 16.27, min =
0, max = 34) and “post-COVID” PSS (n = 326, M = 19.63 min = 0, max = 37) scores were calculated and
used to test hypotheses. A two-sample t-test confirmed that there was a statistically significant
difference in overall PSS for the pre-COVID and post-COVID scales (t = 9.50, SD = 5.99, p < .0001). This
hypothesis was supported by the analyses.
Hypothesis 2 stated, “Overall PSS and Total Work-Related Burnout (TWRB) scores will be higher
for those who have jobs that do not typically provide opportunities to work from home.” The analyses
for this hypothesis took several steps. First, in looking at those whose job provided them flexibility to
work from home before the COVID-19 restrictions had higher overall pre-COVID PSS scores (n = 133, M =
18.84, SD = 5.48) than those who did not (n = 199, M= 14.55, SD = 6.26). A two-sample t-test confirmed
that this difference for pre-COVID PSS was statistically significant (t (307) = -6.61, p < .0001). Similar
results were found for post-COVID PSS scores for those who could work from home (n = 125, M = 21.45,
SD = 4.46) than those who could not (n = 175, M = 18.13, SD = 7.55) and a two-sample t-test confirmed
that the difference was statistically significant (t(288) = -4.48, p < .0001). Comparing the two scores with
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
14
one another, average change for people who did not work from home was higher (n = 175, M = 3.91, SD
= 6.35) than for those who did work from home (n = 125, M = 2.41, SD = 5.33) and that difference was
statistically significant (t (290) = 2.23, p. = .03). This means that all participants on average experienced
more perceived stress; however, the change was greater for those who did not work from him before
COVID-19. Concerning TWRB scores and flexibility to work from home, individuals whose jobs did not
allow flexibility to work from home before COVID-19 had lower TWRB scores (n = 193, M= 41.02, SD =
21.57) than individuals who previously had flexibility to work from home (n = 133, M = 57.87, SD =
21.52) before the pandemic and these differences were significant (t (284)= -16.84, p < .0001), although
not in the expected direction. In this case, the hypothesis was rejected since TWRB scores were higher
for individuals who had flexibility to work from home before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hypothesis 3 stated, “COVID-19 will have a more significant impact on females than males
Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Total Work-Related Burnout (TWRB) scores.” In relation to stress and
gender, females had lower overall pre-COVID PSS scores (n = 170, M= 15.01, SD = 5.87) than males (n =
153, M = 17.46, SD = 6.56). A two-sample t-test confirmed that this gender difference for pre-COVID PSS
was statistically significant (t (306)= -3.53, p = .0005), although not in the expected direction. Similar
results were found for during-COVID PSS scores with females (n = 156, M = 19.16,, SD = 6.58) having
lower average PSS scores than males (n = 141, M = 20.19, SD = 6.69) and a two-sample t-test found it to
be statistically significant (t (289)= -4.13, p < .0001) for during COVID-19 PSS based on gender. In
comparing the pre- and during COVID-19 scores, average change for females was higher (n = 156, M =
4.20, SD = 6.03) than for males (n = 141, M = 2.41, SD = 5.79) and that difference was statistically
significant (t (294) = 2.59, p. = .01). This result means that although males still have overall higher PSS
scores, COVID-19 had a greater impact on female participants in the sample. Concerning burnout and
gender, women had lower TWRB scores (n = 170, M = 43.30, SD = 20.76) than men (n = 153, M = 53.03,
SD = 24.63) and these differences were significant (t (299) = -.3.82, p < .0002), although not in the
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
15
direction hypothesized. The portion of the hypothesis related to PSS scores was accepted and the part of
the hypothesis was rejected since women had a more significant change in PSS scores but men had
higher TWRB scores than women.
Hypothesis 4 stated, “Part-time workers those who work less than 30 hours per week will
have higher overall PSS and TWRB scores than full-time workers.” In order to test this hypothesis, it was
necessary to recode the original five categories for “number of hours worked for pay” (less than 20; 21-
30; 31-40; 41-50; More than 50) into two categories (Less than 30; More than 30). Individuals who were
part-time had slightly higher overall pre-COVID PSS scores (n = 52, M = 16.88, SD =65.23) than those who
were full-time (n = 280, M = 16.15, SD = 6.23), but this difference was not statistically significant (t (68)=
-0.73, p =.47). The results were reversed for post-COVID PSS scores with part-time workers having lower
PSS scores (n = 48, M = 18.83, SD =5.47) than those who were full-time (n = 252, M = 19.78, SD = 6.81);
however, a two-sample t-test did not find the difference between these two groups statistically
significant (t (78)= 1.06, p = .29). Comparing the pre-and during-COVID scores, the average PSS score
change for workers who were full-time was greater (n = 252, M = 3.43, SD = 6.06) than for those who
were part-time (n = 48, M = 2.52, SD = 5.57), but that difference was not statistically significant (t (70) =
1.02, p. = .30). These results demonstrate that COVID-19 restrictions have likely had a greater impact on
the perceived stress levels of full-time workers than part-time workers; however, the changes were not
large enough to be statistically significant.
Concerning burnout and part-time work, those individuals who were part-time as defined by
working less than 30 hours (n = 51, M = 47.27, SD = 24.50) had lower overall TWRB scores than those
who were full-time (n = 275, M = 48.01, SD = 22.83); however, these differences were not statistically
significant (t (67) = 0.20, p = .84).
INSERT TABLE 3 HERE
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The researchers conducted an additional ANOVA analysis utilizing the original five categories for
“number of hours worked for pay” (less than 20; 21-30; 31-40; 41-50; More than 50) and this did find a
statistically significant differences (F (4)= 5.24, p = .0004) but not in the expected directions and some
interesting trends emerged among the groups. Of special note (See Table 3), groups who worked “less
than 20” hours (n = 23, M = 42.39, SD = 20.63) had the lowest TWRB scores and those who worked
“More than 50” hours had the highest TWRB scores (n = 26, M = 66.76, SD = 21.96). This hypothesis was
rejected since neither part could be supported and it appeared that the inverse was more likely to be
accurate.
Challenges of working from home
In order to get a better understanding of the issues that may be contributing to the stress and
burnout levels of workers, the survey also offered participants an opportunity to provide more detail
about the parts of working remotely that were most challenging during COVID-19 (see Table 4). A
question asked participants to “select all that apply” from a list of issues that emerged from the
literature.
INSERT TABLE 4 HERE
“Maintaining appropriate levels of communication with my team/colleagues” (21.36%),
“Managing technology/communication tools” (19.20%), and “Managing my time/Avoiding distractions”
(18.42%) were the most frequently selected from the list. It was noteworthy that only 15 percent of the
participants chose “Balancing personal/family responsibilities with workload” since the literature
suggested that this would be a likely challenge and thus as source of stress and burnout. These choices
suggest that work-related issues were slightly more challenging than family-related issues for these
participants.
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
17
Discussion
These results provided some important insights related to perceived stress, work-related
burnout, and the challenges of working from home during the first few months of COVID-19 pandemic
restrictions in 2020. in this sample of primarily well-educated professionals, the researchers found that
males, full-time employees, and individuals who worked from home before the COVID-19 restrictions
had higher levels of perceived stress and work-related burnout before the pandemic. During the
pandemic, average perceived stress increased for all participants, but significantly increased for workers
who did not have the flexibility to work from home before the pandemic and females. While we did not
have a measure of work-related burnout pre-pandemic, total work-related burnout (TWRB) scores were
an issue for workers who had flexibility to work from home before the pandemic compared to those
who did not, men had higher total work-related burnout (TWRB) scores than women, but there were no
differences between full-time and part-time workers. The most significant challenges that faced these
professionals were primarily related to communication and collaboration with work colleagues via
technology and time management, rather than work-family balancing. These findings seem to support
the popular crossing social media during the pandemic “I’m not working from home, I’m living at work”.
The unique nature of methodology used in study and the COVID-19 situation raises some
important questions and contribute to the validation of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and
Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI). Because the researchers were interested in changes to stress
levels as a result of the restrictions, the 10-item PSS was slightly modified in order to be repeated in the
questionnaire. Given the nature of the pandemic, it would have been difficult to collect true “pre-test”
PSS or CBI data, thus the researchers provided a “pre-“ and “during” option for the PSS that allowed
participants to reflect on stress in two time frames. The retrospective, post-then-pre style approach has
been used to program evaluation to minimize response shift bias (Rockwell & Kohn, 1989) (Pratt,
McGuigan, & Katzev, 2000) and consistently provides similar results to traditional pre-post-test (Hill &
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
18
Betz, 2005). Although it had not been used with the PSS in previous studies, the researchers believed
this was the most appropriate method. It is possible that they over or underestimated their stress levels
beforehand and, on reflection, the researchers should have also repeated the total work-related
burnout (TWRB) scale of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) for comparison. In addition, although
the survey opened in March, the majority of the useable responses were not recorded until early May,
when the restrictions had been in place for nearly 2 months in many places. This means that the
respondents likely had a reliable sense of the impact of the restrictions, but may have had more
difficulty accurately appraising their pre-pandemic stress levels. In either case, this was the first instance
that the authors could find of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) being used in a modified post then pre-
test/repeated measure format and fortunately it maintained a high internal consistency. The work-
related burnout subscale of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) also maintained a high internal
consistency. This finding is noteworthy since this measure was used on a more heterogenous group of
professionals than in most previous studies, which tended to focus on single groups of professionals.
Despite some limitations, the results of this research contribute to the literatures on working
from home, work-life stress and work-related burnout among professionals and the validation of both
the PSS and CBI. The results build on and support theories that suggest stress is likely the result of
“spillover” and “role overload”, which in this context are taking place in the same environment (Bolger,
DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington, 1989; Duxbury, Stevenson, & Higgins, 2018). While the survey did not
specifically ask questions about work-family conflicts, previous and current research suggests that these
may be increasing during the COVID-19 enforced work from home period especially for women (Fan,
Lam, & Moen, 2019; Flesia, et al., 2020; Lim & Kim, 2014; LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey, 2020).
The research also suggested that potential there are potential personal mental health, time, and
communication management for teams who are primarily interacting through technology that are worth
considering before companies rush to move their employees remotely. The finding that working from
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
19
home, pre-pandemic or as the result of pandemic, resulted in higher stress and burnout scores is slightly
inconsistent with some received wisdom that has touted the benefits of remote and flexible work. While
some of the results in this study may be accounted for by the restrictions and context, the results were
consistent with emerging studies on technology-facilitated and “ghost work” (Gray & Suri, 2019;
Rosenblat, 2018) that suggest that remote work has a unique (and potentially more potent) set of
associated stress and burnout factors. The authors suggest that more research is needed to establish if
there are baseline differences in the stress and burnout levels among at-home, flexible, and office-based
workers.
These considerations are especially important for organizations in relation to women, salaried
employees working long hours, or other contextual factors that may make work-life balance precarious
(LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey, 2020). In the context of COVID-19, companies would do well to
consider this research in the context of the cautionary tales from the literature on “Uberization”
(Rosenblat, 2018), “ghost work” (Gray & Suri, 2019), and McDonaldization (Ritzer, 2018) especially for
those considering moving significant numbers of employees to working remotely on a more permanent
basis.
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
20
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27
Table 1
Demographics of the Sample (n = 326)
Demographics
Choices
Percentage
Age
18-34
30.67
35-54
38.34
55-older
30.98
Gender
Male
46.93
Female
52.15
Non-binary/ third
gender/ Prefer not to
say
0.92
Education
Less than 4-year degree
25.46
4-year degree
33.43
Professional degree /
Doctorate
41.10
Current Job Title
Administrator
6.75
Director
4.60
Educator
12.88
Executive
7.36
Manager/Supervisor
32.21
Professional (Lawyer,
Doctor, Nurse,
Accountant, etc.)
12.27
Researcher
3.68
Student
3.37
Other
16.87
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
28
Figure 1
Word Cloud of Self-Reported Job Titles
Table 2
Remote Working Arrangements of the Sample
Demographics
Choices
Number
Percentage
Before COVID-19 did you only work remotely?
Yes
133
40.80
No
193
59.20
Before COVID-19 did your job allow you flexibility to
work remotely?
Yes
83
43.01
No
110
59.99
If you had flexibility, how many hours/week did you
work remotely?
0-5
98
50.78
6-15
42
21.76
16-30
24
12.44
31 or more
29
15.03
STRESS AND WORK-RELATED BURNOUT DURING COVID-19
29
Table 3
Number of Hours Worked and Total Work-Related Burnout Score
Number of Hours Worked for Pay
N
Total Work-Related Burnout Score
Mean
Std Dev
Less than 20
23
42.39
20.64
21-30
51
47.27
24.50
31-40
151
46.97
22.77
41-50
75
45.33
21.11
More than 50
26
66.76
21.96
Table 4
The most challenging aspects of working remotely are…(check all that apply)
Responses
N
Percentage
Maintaining appropriate levels of communication with my team/colleagues
138
21.36
Managing technology/communication tools
124
19.20
Managing my time/Avoiding distractions
119
18.42
Balancing personal/family responsibilities with workload
100
15.48
Maintaining Productivity
89
13.78
Receiving clear communication from supervisors/managers
58
8.98
Other
18
2.79
Total
646
100
Note: Participants could select as few or as many options as they felt appropriate.
... The first is composed of those who need to keep commuting to work and, therefore, exposing themselves to the virus, either to fight the pandemic as the healthcare professionals or just for maintaining their income, as, for instance, couriers and app drivers (Hossain, 2021). The second group includes those who could start working from home, but in this case, they had to fight against another kind of challenge (Hayes et al., 2020). ...
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... The burnout phenomenon has been conceptualized as a psychological response to prolonged work-related stress that affects one's health and emotional balance (10). The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the social connections of all people, generating new challenges at home and at work (10). ...
... The burnout phenomenon has been conceptualized as a psychological response to prolonged work-related stress that affects one's health and emotional balance (10). The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the social connections of all people, generating new challenges at home and at work (10). In this regard, the socio-contextual burnout proposed by Pietarinen et al. (11) highlights a more social side of teacher burnout and describes three distinct symptoms: (i) exhaustion characterized by a lack of emotional energy and a feeling of being overwhelmed and tired at work; (ii) cynicism represented by detachment from the job in general, as well as from the teaching community and (iii) inadequacy in teacher-pupil interaction. ...
... As it is already recognized in JD-R model (29) that the lack of resources compared to demands would result in stress, which might eventually lead to TB and attrition (28) and that the perceived imbalance of effort and reward is associated with a high risk of developing burnout symptoms (57), it seems that for teachers with this profile the lack of gratification increased their burnout symptoms. This increase in the need for professional recognition could be due to the fact, as previous studies conducted during the pandemic have shown (10,37,58), that new teaching conditions produced new stressors for teachers and forced them to put extra effort into the teaching process (59), and thus the need for reward increased. Furthermore, despite that fact that stressors such as students' misbehavior and workload were present among teachers with the High-risk burnout profile, they did not make a significantly higher contribution for this profile membership compared to both previous ones. ...
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... To minimise disruptions caused by the pandemic such as mobility restrictions and social distancing, working on virtual platforms has been the only available method so far for business survival. As a result, private companies, public organisations, schools, and universities have adopted offsite working, requesting their employees too to start performing their job roles staying at home or working from home (WFH) [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]. In the new normal condition, the WFH concept is a widely debated topic in various and diverse sectors. ...
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... Millennials account for about one-third of the population of the country and constitute about 50% of the workforce and by 2025 this number is expected to go up to 75% [59]. Given their importance to the Indian economy and larger ecosystem, it is critical to understand their expectations from the workplace and their experience with work from home. ...
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... Higher education teachers' motivation came from factors that were missing during remote teaching: the perceived relationship with the students and the impact of their instruction on academic development (Han and Yin, 2016;Moorhouse and Kohnke, 2021). In terms of gender, previous studies have tended to indicate higher levels of stress and anxiety in women (Casimiro-Urcos et al., 2020;Hayes et al., 2020;Taylor et al., 2020), which might be connected to their time-consuming activities such as childcare and unpaid domestic labor, among others (Jelińska and Paradowski, 2021). ...
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Economist Guy Standing explains how millions of people are in the precariat, and in defining this emerging class, points to the dangerous political and social consequences as well as the exciting progressive revival that this class could produce.
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