UNT professors publish COVID-19 research in top journal

Two studies conducted by UNT professors, both analyzing differing effects of COVID-19 on employee well-being, have been accepted into The Journal of Applied Psychology, a Financial Times top-50 publication.

Dr. Hoda Vaziri, assistant professor of management at the G. Brint Ryan College of Business, evaluated data from full-time employed adults to uncover how COVID-19 impacted how employees manage their work and family, and the consequences of such a change. Her research, titled “Changes to the work–family interface during the COVID-19 pandemic: Examining predictors and implications using latent transition analysis,” was co-authored by Wendy Casper of University of Texas Arlington, Julie Wayne of Wake Forest University and Russell Matthews of University of Alabama.

From Vaziri’s findings, she and her team were able to develop “best practices” for organizations to adopt, in order to better serve their employees and increase job satisfaction and work-life balance.

“We found that those who experienced technostress (feeling overwhelmed by new technology), found it particularly difficult to manage their work during the pandemic. On the other hand, those who had a compassionate supervisor during the initial stages of the pandemic were better able to manage their work and family roles. In addition, while we found employees’ experience in managing their work and family was relatively stable, those who were better in managing their work and family before the pandemic were able to avert significant distress during the pandemic. This means that by proactively supporting work-family needs, employers can better position employees to navigate work and family roles effectively before and during disruptive events like COVID-19, which might lead to increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment as well.,” explained Vaziri.

Research conducted by Dr. Danielle Cooper, associate professor in the department of Management, and co-authored with UNT former doctoral student, Kathryn Ostermeier (Bryant University), and Miguel Caldes (University of Texas - Tyler), took a more specific approach to evaluating employee welfare—diving into work meaningfulness and resource depletion in healthcare workers during the pandemic. Her paper, titled, “When helping hurts: COVID-19 critical incident involvement and resource depletion in health care workers," analyzed the level of involvement of healthcare workers and how said involvement affected personal resources, as well as susceptibility to depression.

“We developed a measure of intensity of involvement in the COVID-19 crisis for healthcare workers.  We measured involvement in COVID-19 through a number of experiences, including threat of infection, actual infection, the number of COVID cases they see in a day, and other potentially traumatic COVID-related experiences… We also wanted to understand factors that may potentially intensify these effects or possibly mitigate them,” said Cooper.  

As anticipated, Cooper’s research found that the more a worker was involved in the COVID-19 crisis, the more exhausted they became—an outcome that was intensified for those who were defined as prosocial individuals, or those who were motivated to work so that they could help others. Risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus was also found to correlate with higher instances of depression among healthcare workers.
In both Cooper and Vaziri’s studies, their research began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately led to a shift in their analysis to accommodate the inevitable effects of the virus.
“Once the pandemic intensified in the US, we realized that we had an opportunity to understand the experience of healthcare workers and the psychological toll of their involvement, and we asked our original participants to complete an additional survey,” explained Cooper.
Ultimately, both research studies and their findings have significant implications for how COVID-19, and other potentially life-altering crisis situations, can impact employee welfare. In understanding such findings, organizations can work to mitigate these negative responses to improve employee satisfaction.

The Journal of Applied Psychology is on the Financial Times' top 50 journals list, and qualifies Professors Cooper and Vaziri to each receive a $1,000 award for their work.