New study shows intense workload demands during pandemic affected employees mental and physical health

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

A collaborative study: Working during the pandemic affected employees mental and physical health (Credit: Getty/Phynart Studio)
A collaborative study: Working during the pandemic affected employees mental and physical health (Credit: Getty/Phynart Studio)

Related tags coronavirus Social responsibility mental health Multi-site pub operators

Intense workload demands, unpaid work and concerns about catching Covid impacted the mental health of hospitality employees working through the pandemic, a new collaborative study by Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield University and the University of Exeter academics has found.

The aim of the project was to recognise the work done by hospitality workers and encourage better working conditions and higher pay in the future, they also hoped to explore the relationship between public health, cleaning labour, and the availability and accessibility of toilets.

One anonymous worker referred to as “Ben” said: “Hygiene is my primary concern with going back.

“I’m the only member of staff who would have to use public transport regularly to go to and from work, which is something I was very uncomfortable with before returning to lockdown and has only become more of a concern now. 

Risk of introducing Coronavirus into the workplace

“I definitely feel as if I raise the risk of introducing Covid to the workplace quite significantly. I was very strict with my conduct regarding my own hygiene on public transport and throughout work, and yet in the run-up to the November lockdown I still contracted Covid. 

“Thankfully, my co-workers had tested negative and were okay, but it was a big hit to my psyche to live in fear for so long of contracting this illness and introducing it to home and having that become my reality.”

The year-long research project, funded by the University of Exeter, has cumulated in a podcast, ‘Beers, Burgers + Bleach’, which recounts the experiences of 21 hospitality workers across the UK who were interviewed and completed a work diary between December 2020 and April 2021.

The podcast mini-series comprised of three episodes, struggles, solidarities, and sanitation.

Bill, who’s in his 60’s and has worked in the hospitality sector for 50 years, told researchers about the difficulties faced with customers who were unwilling to comply with regulations.

A different world

Bill said:​ “When we’ve been asking them to do things, ‘Can you put a mask on?’ ‘Can you sanitise your hands?’ ‘Will you fill a track and trace in?’, it’s as if they’ve been in a different world because they might go to a supermarket and they’ll put a mask on, but when they come to where I work it’s a different world, ‘Why do we have to do it here?’.

“It’s as if Covid’s stopped at the door and doesn’t affect the inside, people’s attitudes have been absolutely horrible; we’ve been sworn at and abused and everything else.” 

The project was part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science and was based on research funded by the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (WCCEH), led by Dr Charlotte Jones from the University of Exeter, Dr Jen Slater and Dr Jill Pluquailec from Sheffield Hallam University and Dr Lauren White from the University of Sheffield in close collaboration with hospitality workers, trade unions and local campaigns.

To find out more information about the project and to listen to the podcast click here​.

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