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At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, the remote modality required a rapid reorganization of the work-family relationship. Research on the subject carried out at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) was awarded in a national competition for scientific articles promoted by the Coordination for the Advancement of Personnel in Higher Education (Capes).
The research that led to the winning article is part of the doctoral project of Marcela Alves Andrada, a postgraduate student of physiotherapy at UFSCar and a FAPESP scholarship holder, under the guidance of Tatiana Sato, a professor at the Department of Physiotherapy.
Andrade participated in the Capes Scientific Articles Contest on the topic “Strengthening family ties during a pandemic”. She was second in the category “Balance strategies between work and family in the context of social isolation”.
The paper shows that experts in the education sector were the ones who faced the most difficulties in the work-family relationship at the beginning of the pandemic. And at the other extreme are people over 60 years old.
The research, which started in 2020, is part of the study “Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on psychosocial aspects and work capacity in Brazilian workers – a longitudinal study (IMPPAC)”. The main goal is to assess the psychosocial aspects and ability to work of experts from different economic sectors, with longitudinal monitoring over 12 months.
Online questionnaires were administered to 1698 workers, including the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ II-Br), developed in Denmark, translated and adapted to Brazilian Portuguese by a group led by Professor Sato.
The instrument covers a number of aspects, among which is the conflict between work and family, the subject of a competition for scientific work. “From the article, we were able to investigate this aspect more deeply,” explains Sato.
“We had to change the way we work and our attitude towards work and family at home. Everything was very sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. Therefore, this topic is very relevant and interesting”, the professor points out.
In this context, the study found that conflict is lower among people over 60 years old, “which we attribute to greater experience in dealing with work and family, as well as the fact that older workers may have had a reduction in workload during the pandemic because they are part of a risk group.”
Other important points highlighted in the research relate to work in the education sector and the fear of contamination at work. These factors, according to the research consultant, were related to the conflict between work and family: “We know that teachers have been greatly affected by distance learning, which has created an increase in work demands and the possibility of conflict with family life”.
Regarding the fear of infection, the teacher states that at the beginning of the pandemic there was a great fear that family members could be infected and, as a result of this uncertainty, many experts reported during the survey that their family members wanted to leave their professions, especially those in health care , or change jobs, even if only temporarily, in order to minimize the risk. “Therefore, the emotional and psychological stress due to the fear of contamination could have caused conflicts between different family members,” emphasizes the researcher.
The professor points out that some initial hypotheses of the study have not been confirmed. One of them is related to parenting, that is, to the assumption that the presence of children would be related to work-family conflict. “We talked about this aspect, realizing that children create demands, but they may also have contributed to improving work-family relations, since workers with children had more moments of family distraction and were therefore better able to manage the attrition caused by confinement,” Sato explains.
Another expectation of the study was that women had a higher chance of conflict between work and family, due to the demands of housework and family care, which was also not confirmed.
The study also showed that social interaction is important for individual and collective well-being and that not all workers can positively balance the demands of work and family. “Returning to face-to-face activities and support networks can help in this process. It is essential that families pay attention to changes in behavior, try to separate work activities from family activities and devote more time to free time inside and outside the family environment”, recommends Sato.
FAPESP Agency (31.08.2022)
* With information from the UFSCar coordination of social communications.