Mount Allison professor part of research team looking at how employers respond during disease outbreaks
4/20/2020 9:51:41 AM

JaneMullen_CommerceMount Allison University Commerce professor, Dr. Jane Mullen, is a member of a research team studying how organizations are responding to COVID-19 and how their actions affect their workers. The researchers hope to identify the best practices organizations can implement during times of crisis.

The project, entitled ‘Organizational Response to Disease Outbreak,’ is led by Saint Mary’s University professor Kevin Kelloway, and funded by a $333,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The researchers also received $82,000 from the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and funding from Research Nova Scotia for a more in-depth look at the situations in these provinces.

According to Mullen, the research is unfolding and expanding daily as the crisis progresses. The study consists of a large national survey and several sub-studies, which consider specific groups of workers and how they are affected by this pandemic. They also consider the role of leaders in managing this crisis.

“We are administering a national survey where we are looking at the role organizations play in promoting healthy and safe behaviour of their employees and how the organizations communicate during the early stages of this crisis.  We are studying how the response taken by employers impact the health and safety of their employees,” says Mullen.

The sub-groups include workers who are on the frontlines, offering essential services, people suffering massive layoffs, and people working from home.

The researchers are also studying workers’ psychological well-being. According to Mullen, the importance of employee mental health during the pandemic must not be underestimated. 

“This pandemic is hard for people. The isolation, the uncertainty, the fear, the insecurity, the added demands. Each group of workers is impacted differently.”

Mullen says it is especially hard for those suffering layoffs and essential workers who must work and worry about getting sick, but even people who are still working in other areas may be feeling stress due to fear of being laid off.

“Each group have a whole unique set of issues and we want to find out what these are and what organizations can do to help employees cope.”

The researchers have a website (ohpdata.com) with information for employers and employees, which will be updated as the results of the study come in. If you are interested in taking part in the study or learning more about the research, you can also find information on this site.

Mullen researches occupational health and safety, leadership and health and well-being in the workplace. The other researchers in the study are Dr. Kevin Kelloway (Saint Mary’s University) Dr. Stephanie Gilbert (Cape Breton University) and Dr. Jennifer Dimoff (University of Ottawa) and Saint Mary’s PhD students Tabatha Thibault, Rachael Jones Chick and Vanessa Myers.