Abstract: Effects of COVID-19 Related Stress on Non-Teaching University Support Staff (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Effects of COVID-19 Related Stress on Non-Teaching University Support Staff

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Oluwayomi Paseda, MSW, Research Assistant/PhD Student, Univeristy of Georgia, Athens, GA
Jay D. O'Shields, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Caroline Sharkey, MSW, PhD Candidate / Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Christopher Strickland, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Georgia, Atlanta, GA
Elyssa Schroeder, MSSW, Pre-doctoral Fellow, Center on Human Trafficking Research and Outreach, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background: Recent studies suggest that university staff, who are on the frontlines of academic institutions’ confrontation with the pandemic, often lack the resources and support to maintain their own well-being while striving to safeguard others. This study seeks to understand the experience and concerns of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on non-teaching staff of a southern, public University while investigating the relationship between job demands, resources, and well-being outcomes within the greater context of a national emergency.

Methods: Researchers used a mixed-methods study approach to collect data through a Qualtrics online survey distributed through email and campus flyers. The survey questions included validated scales and open-ended questions focused on staff’s physical, psychological, and socioeconomic needs as well as their perception of the University’s Covid-related responses. The scales included were: The Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21); The COVID Stress Scale (CSS); The APR Financial Stress Scale (APR-FSS); and The Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey 6-item.

Four ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models were constructed with the (DASS-21) total scale serving as a dependent variable. Open-ended responses were manually coded thematically, guided by the Collective Trauma Theory and Job Demands Resources model principles.

Results: A final sample of participants (N= 171) completed the survey. Univariate analyses of the sample revealed that the sample was predominately female (n= 138), non-Hispanic White identifying (n= 135), and between the ages of 35 and 54. On the individual level, significant relationships between DASS-21 and COVID stress (p<0.001), and DASS-21 and economic stress (p<0.001) were detected. The final model explained 45% of the variance (adj. r2) in participants’ depression, anxiety, and stress.

According to qualitative thematic content analysis, three key themes emerged relating to the ways respondents navigated job demands and resources amidst the pandemic. First, survey respondents spoke to the need for organizational connection between University Administrative Leadership and staff. Second, respondents relayed the lack of consistent communication and expectations resulted in organizational disintegration operating as an impact on job demand. Last, participants stressed the role of self-efficacy in addressing stressors, psychological impact, and job demands.

Conclusion and Implications: This study shows that participants’ stresses related to COVID-19 and the economic climate increased stress, anxiety, and depression among non-teaching University staff. Results support a need for focused University policies and resources for non-teaching staff to reduce overall psychological impacts caused by job demands and personal stressors resulting from a national emergency. Data analysis reveals how organizational disintegration negatively impacts staff’s ability to manage personal stressors. Findings suggest a need for University Administrative Leadership to facilitate organizational connection by constructing and maintaining productive circuits of service accessibility to include accommodative services and disseminating public health protocols. These results will inform University leadership on the supports and information needed by staff to facilitate compassion satisfaction and job productivity that will positively improve self-efficacy amidst a national crisis. The process and lessons learned about data collection during a time of social distancing will also be discussed.