Ieva Urbanaviciute, PhD, University of Lausanne; Fabian Gander, PhD, University of Zurich; Koorosh Massoudi, PhD, University of Lausanne

The current study was devoted to better understanding work-related changes and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications they may have on the well-being of a heterogeneous sample of Swiss workers.

To address the above-mentioned issues, we particularly sought to unravel the following:
1. To what extent were people affected by the COVID-19 crisis regarding their workload, income, working conditions, and work-home balance?
2. How do changes in the above-mentioned aspects relate to changes in the overall perceived quality of the working life?
3. Do socio-demographic factors (such as gender, financial status, skill level) and work-based support (from employer, direct supervisor, and colleagues) make a difference to one’s work situation being (un)affected by the pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought substantial changes to the world of work, touching upon aspects of work organization, income, and work-home balance, to name just a few. Not as transient as initially thought, these changes may pose significant risks to the quality of working lives of the entire working population, especially affecting employees in less advantageous situations (e.g., Mikolai et al., 2020). Yet, empirical evidence about how the COVID-19 crisis has been experienced and managed from a psychosocial point of view is still fragmented and would benefit from more research and action in this field (e.g., Kniffin et al., 2021; Rudolph et al., 2021). To this end, it is extremely important to identify underlying vulnerabilities that increase the risk of precarity as well as potential protective factors that may help employees gain more resilience in these turbulent times.

The study was carried out within the framework of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES that is directed towards understanding the dynamics of work-related vulnerabilities and well-being. The data were collected in a subsample (N = 418; 50% female, mean age = 50, SD = 7.70) taken from a representative pool of employed participants from the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. Participants completed a composite questionnaire, which had a block of questions specifically dedicated to the COVID-19 situation. Data collection took place online from November 2020 to April 2021. This presentation offers a first look into the findings, based on correlation analyses and multinomial logistic regression.

Over 70% of people experienced at least one change in work-related aspects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the most frequently reported were changes in workload (57.2%) and decreased quality of working conditions (34.4%). Changes at work were predictive of perceived overall quality of working life: changes in workload, decreased income, and challenges in work-home balance were the key factors in experiencing a decline (versus no change) in the quality of working life, whereas retaining favourable working conditions was an important predictor of improved (versus deteriorated) quality of working life during the pandemic. Furthermore, those who received more support either from their employer, immediate supervisor, or colleagues experienced fewer negative changes; however, it is notable that such support was more accessible to privileged groups of employees (i.e., those who held higher-skilled jobs and had higher financial status). The results also showed that work-home balancing challenges affected not only those working from home with minor children, but they were also more salient among employees with lower income.

The main contribution of the current study is that it offers a detailed account of changes in the quality of the working life as perceived by a varied sample of employed adults in Switzerland. In doing so, we contribute to the collective effort of occupational researchers worldwide to build an empirical knowledge base about the psychosocial effects of the pandemic. On the one hand, the implications from our findings are comparable to those obtained in other parts of the world (e.g., Mikolai et al. 2020; Perry et al., 2021), suggesting that underlying socio-economic inequalities may partly explain the deleterious effects of the pandemic experienced by employees. On the other hand, we step beyond these explanations providing an insight into how sources of social support at work may be useful in preserving the quality of the working life.

Our study sheds light on how and for whom different aspects of working lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From a practical and policy perspective, it suggests the potential protective effects of work-based sources of social support, particularly drawing attention to their necessity for more vulnerable workers.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Basic research, Comprehensive Approaches to Healthy Work Design and Well-Being, COVID-19, Emerging Issues, Empirical study, Psychological and Biological Effects of Job Stress, Work Organization and Stress, Workplace Stress; Outcomes; and Recovery