The Influence of Covid-19 on Employers’, Managers’ and Workers’ Perception of Flexible Work Arrangements


Master's Thesis, 2020

76 Pages, Grade: 1,7

Anonymous


Excerpt

Table of contents

Table of contents

List of figures

Table index

List of abbreviations

Abstract

1 COVID-19 as a transformational trigger for the future of flexible work arrangements

2 Theory and Status Quo
2.1 Well-being in companies
2.1.1 Employee well-being and job satisfaction
2.1.2 Effects on the company and the workforce
2.1.3 Affective-Events Theory
2.2 Perception of flexible work arrangements
2.2.1 Forms of flexible work arrangements
2.2.2 Perception of flexible work arrangements before COVID-19
2.2.3 Perception of flexible work arrangements during COVID-19

3 Methodology
3.1 Research Design: Mixed-Method
3.1.1 Qualitative Study
3.1.2 Quantitative Study
3.2 Interviews
3.2.1 Selection criteria
3.2.2 Realisation of the interviews
3.3 Qualitative Content Analysis
3.3.1 Mayring's QCA (2014)
3.3.2 Adaptation and procedure in the study

4 Empirical Analysis
4.1 QCA of the Interviews
4.1.1 Flexibility
4.1.2 Concentration and distraction
4.1.3 Communication
4.1.4 Cooperation
4.1.5 Personal relations
4.1.6 Technical equipment
4.1.7 Emotional stability
4.1.8 Job performance
4.1.9 Work time
4.2 Quantitative questionnaire findings
4.2.1 Results divided by hierarchy groups
4.2.2 Results divided by other factors
4.3 Consolidation, summary and interpretation

5 Discussion
5.1 Implications for theory
5.2 Implications for practice
5.3 Limitations and directions for future research

6 Conclusion and Outlook
6.1 Assessment of the research question and hypotheses
6.2 Reflexion
6.3 The new normal of flexible work arrangements in Germany

Bibliography

Appendix
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3

List of figures

List of figures

Figure 1: Affective Events Theory (derived from Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996, 6f.)

Figure 2: Workflow chart of the parallel mixed-method design (based on Kuckartz, 2014: 73-74)

Figure 3: Inductive category assignment (Mayring, 2014: 80)

Table index

Table 1: Overview Questionnaire (Own representation)

Table 2: Overview Interviewees (Own representation)

Table 3: Subjective job performance in remote work (Own representation)

Table 4: Preferred working hours in the future: distribution of the workplace during the week (Own representation)

Table 5: General resume of the COVID-19 main phase of the interviewees (Own representation)

List of abbreviations

AET - Affective Events Theory

CEO - Chief Executive Officer

IAB - Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung

IW - Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft

JS - Job satisfaction

OC - Organisational Commitment

OCB - Organisational Citizenship Behaviour

OW - Office Work

RW - Remote Work

SWB - Subjective well-being

QCA - Qualitative Content Analysis

ZEW - Leibniz-Zentrum für europäische Wirtschaftsforschung Mannheim GmbH

Abstract

Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the characteristics of flexible work arrangements changed from mainly voluntary to compulsory. Previous studies have mainly focused on quantitative surveys. However, no research has been conducted to date into whether and to what extent the perception and the effects on subjective well­being differ between the levels of hierarchy.

Methods: To investigate the influence of the changed conditions, twelve professionals were interviewed. As the questioning is aimed in particular at differences with regard to the hierarchical level, four persons without leadership responsibility, four persons with leadership responsibility and four CEOs were included in the study. Within the framework of a mixed-method research design, semi-structured interviews were conducted and a accompanying quantitative questionnaires evaluated. The qualitative interview data analysis was based on the qualitative content analysis proposed by Mayring (2014).

Results: Managers had a more negative perception compared to the workers. CEOs had the most negative development of job satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous situation. Children are a major negative factor regardless of hierarchy due to the lack of external childcare. In strong contrast to their previous work situation, 75% of all respondents prefer at least one, in 50% of the cases two or more days remote work per week.

Conclusion: Companies should offer a mixed model of individual flexible work arrangements to meet the rapidly changed demands and needs of the workforce. Particular attention should be paid to ensure that the perception of decision makers and the perception of the reality of employees do not differ substantially.

Keywords: Remote work, Subjective well-being, Perception of flexible work, COVID-19, Job satisfaction

1 COVID-19 as a transformational trigger for the future of flexible work arrangements

The respiratory disease COVID-19, discovered in 2019, developed into a global pan­demic in the first quarter of 2020. The pandemic was declared a very high risk for the population by the Robert Koch Institute on 26 March 2020. (RKI, 2020: 1) As a result, a law to protect the population of Germany in the event of an epidemic situation of national importance came into force. On this basis, far-reaching changes were intro­duced for public life such as contact restrictions and distance rules. There were consid­erable burdens on families due to the closure of schools and childcare facilities. (Bujard et al., 2020: 4)

In addition, the pandemic triggered far-reaching changes in businesses and the pub­lic sector through sudden widespread teleworking. (Grunau et al., 2020: 1) In spring 2020, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis already had a strong observable impact on companies and their handling of flexible work arrangements (YouGov, 2020). Previ­ously, flexible work from home has been voluntary and offered only by some employ­ers. But circumstances have changed completely and remote work was mandatory for a large part of the workforce in Germany. According to a study by the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation, which surveyed around 1,600 employees in Ger­many at the end of March, 43 percent of those in employment with Internet access cur­rently work in their home office at least occasionally. Before the COVID-19 crisis, only 35 percent of those surveyed did so. The highest proportion of home office employees (59 percent) is in the information and communications industry. In energy supply (54 percent) and education (48 percent), the proportion of employees working from home is also comparatively high, according to the Data Science research team at the Univer­sity of Mannheim (Hornsteiner, 2020: 1 ff). This situation might have changed due to the mandatory regulations during COVID-19.

In practice, however, many companies have switched to remote work whenever pos­sible: According to a survey on 27 March 2020 with 1065 employees, 22 percent worked remotely and 44 percent of them stated that this remote work would be mandatory. 36 percent indicated that working from home was voluntary. 17 percent work partly from home. The survey examined both negative aspects (for example, mixing work and pri­vate life: 31%) and positive perceptions (for example, no commute to work 76%) (YouGov, 2020).

Scientific research suggests that the greater degree of control over work time posi­tively affects employees' well-being (Wright et al., 2007: 94). That is, flexible work arrangements might decrease employee's perceived occupational stress and increase satisfaction with the workplace (Engelen et al., 2019: 3 ff.; Mache et al.,2020: 4 ff.; Moen et al., 2016: 204 ff.). However, all these studies assume that flexible work ar­rangements are voluntary and demanded by employees because they are perceived as positive to increase work-life balance. The possibly increased negative perception of the topic creates new problems for employers. Due to the different tasks in terms of general responsibility and management responsibility, different members of the hierarchy levels are expected to have different views and needs for remote work and collaboration within a company, which is why this study differentiates between hierarchy levels. In this mas­ter thesis the "COVID-19 main phase" is often mentioned. In Germany, this refers to the period between 1st April 2020 and 30th June 2020. In this context, the following research questions have emerged:

1. How do employers, managers and workers perceive flexible work time arrange­ments during the COVID-19 pandemic and how does this perception differ from the status quo of previous research?
2. Which factors are mainly responsible for the well-being of the members of the different hierarchical level during the COVID-19 main phase?

For the above reasons, the following hypotheses arise:

1. CEOs, managers and workers have different perceptions of the changed situation during the COVID-19 main phase. This could also have different effects on the subjective well-being of these groups.
2. The different perceptions and effects of the groups result on the one hand from the individual situation, divided into different topics (such as more demanding childcare) and on the other hand from the nature and purpose of their position (such as leadership responsibility).
3. Solid technical equipment in terms of hardware and software is a basic require­ment for satisfactory and productive cooperation at work from home, as work and communication are mainly digital.
4. A mixed model of remote work and office work could help to combine the ad­vantages of both forms of work and compensate for the disadvantages.

In order to be able to answer these research questions and test the hypotheses, an empirical study was conducted. The study focuses on qualitative semi-structured inter­views and an accompanying quantitative questionnaire. For this mixed-method ap­proach, workers, managers and CEOs were in equal parts asked about their perception of remote work during the COVID-19. The interviews were then analyzed and evaluated using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring (2014).

For companies, employee motivation and satisfaction are of great importance in or­der to remain competitive even in crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Matzler & Renzl, 2007: 595 ff.; Harter et al., 2002: 2 ff.; Spinelli & Canavos 2000: 31 ff.). The research results of this master thesis could be used as a basis for futures crises, such as pandemics, and to be better prepared for mandatory remote work situations and to im­prove the understanding its effects on the well-being of the workforce. This is crucial because a sufficient level of well-being among the workforce is essential for employee satisfaction and performance. Increased performance can lead to higher sales, increased satisfaction can reduce staff fluctuation and avoid expensive terminations of employ­ment (Wagner & Illies, 2008: 85). Compared to the financial crisis in 2008/2009, the COVID-19 pandemic generated unprecedented levels of compulsory remote work, as in 2008/2009 jobs were cut rather than work being done from home. The answers to the research questions are also highly relevant for employers because, depending on the research results, they can and should adapt their measures for leadership and the man­agement of their employees and executives. Depending on the individual situation of each employee, decision-makers in companies thus have the opportunity to better align their management with the needs of their employees and thus benefit the company as described.

For research purposes, the explorative character of the interviews can be of a pre­paratory status, in the subject areas studied around the topic of remote work, to delve deeper into the individual views and needs of the hierarchical levels and thus achieve more precise results.

The structure of this master's thesis is divided into several chapters, which will be briefly presented in the following. Chapter 2 describes the Affective-Events-Theory, which is the theoretical guideline of this thesis. Subsequently, it is explained why a high level of subjective well-being of employees is of great importance for a company and has consequences. Thereafter, for the current perception of the employees, flexible work arrangements and the various factors that contribute to this should be used, due to their topicality, to draw on studies shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic (2018 - 2019). In contrast to this, up-to-date studies on perception were presented and evaluated. Chapter 3 „Methodology“ presents the research concept based on a mixed-method approach and describes the analysis's own approach using the qualitative content analysis by Mayring (2014). In addition, this section will introduce the selection criteria and the sample of interview participants. In the fourth chapter, the nine content categories found and their results will then be presented and evaluated. In addition, the quantitative results of the questionnaires from the sample will be evaluated. Finally, the findings are merged and jointly evaluated and interpreted. Chapter 5 describes the implications for theory and practice and describes the limitations and directions for future research. The conclu­sions drawn on the knowledge gained in this study are then presented and compared with the status quo of the studies in Chapter 2. Finally, the study is reflected on the scientific principles and an outlook on the future and current developments is given.

2 Theory and Status Quo

This chapter lays the theoretical foundation for the present work. As the study aims at the well-being of employees, the terms are defined. Subsequently, the affective-events- theory according to Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) will be presented, on which the study is based.

2.1 Well-being in companies

2.1.1 Employee well-being and job satisfaction

In the literature employee well-being is described in different terms like "quality of work life", "work quality of life" and "work well-being". There are many concepts and defi­nitions of employee well-being (Sirgy, 2012: 35).

It is not a new finding that employees' mental and physical health is strongly influ­enced by the experiences they have at work (Levy et al.; 2012: 134). Well-being is often not explicitly addressed as a topic, but rather explored through strongly related concepts and terms (e.g. satisfaction with pay, job satisfaction) (Danna & Griffin, 1999: 357­384). Danna and Griffin also noted that well-being can be examined and described from different perspectives.

Job satisfaction (JS) is a central aspect and one of the most frequently investigated concepts in industrial and organisational psychology, which is used to describe and ex­plain experience and behaviour in organisations (Büssing et al., 2006: 136). It should be noted that although there is a wide range of definitions, despite a large amount of re­search, there is no single definition of "job satisfaction". There is, however, agreement on the fact that the JS is a multi-dimensional reaction to the evaluation of an job as well as to the affective experiences during this job or individual facets of it (e.g. work task, colleagues, pay, working conditions) of this work (Felfe & Six, 2006: 40). Paul E. Spec­tor (1997: 2) defined job satisfaction as:

“[...] simply how people feel about their jobs and different aspects of their jobs. It is the extent to which people like satisfaction) or dislike (dissatisfaction) their jobs. As it is generally assessed, job satisfaction is an attitudinal variable. “

This definition shows that the term job satisfaction does not exclusively refer to positive meaning, it is rather a bipolar dimension. Accordingly, Comelli and von Rosen- stiel (2003: 37) understand JS as an attitude towards various aspects of the work situa­tion, which can be positive or negative. In the long term, it is related to the satisfaction of needs. As a result, JS arises when the assessment of the fit between individual needs (outcome objectives, skills, etc.) and given working conditions (characteristics of the work and its consequences) is positive (Siemund, 2013: 107). It should be noted that although there is no clear definition of "job satisfaction" to date, the literature suggests that there is a wide range of agreement on the concept of JS. For example, it is repeatedly made clear that the JS is an individual's attitude towards his or her work in general and various sub-areas of work in particular. This attitude is usually described with the ad­jectives "satisfied" or "dissatisfied" (Kirchler et al.; 2004: 100). Besides the possible consequences for the organisation, JS is associated with consequences for the well-being of the employee. Argyle (1989: 221) assumes in this context that "...job satisfaction is one of the three most important predictors of overall well-being besides marriage and family satisfaction".

2.1.2 Effects on the company and the workforce

The relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is the subject of numer­ous studies and controversial discussions and has thus been called the "Holy Grail" in work psychology and organisational psychology (Liebig, 2006: 36).

Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB) describes the extent to which employ­ees are committed to the company beyond their work activities and thus make a signif­icant contribution to the success of the company (Gebhardt et al., 2011: 43). Organ and Ryan were able to prove in 1995, with the help of their study, that JS significantly cor­relate with categories of OCB. Accordingly, the categories "altruism" and "compliance" and JS correlate with r = .24 and r = .22 respectively (Organ & Ryan, 1995: 786 f). Furthermore, Randall et al. (1999) substantiated a correlation between JS and the two OCB categories listed with the values r = .15 and r = .17 (Randall et al., 1999: 165). The interpretation of these results would lead to the assumption that satisfied employees voluntarily participate more often and more strongly in the company and thus increase success.

The extent to which employees can identify with the organisation is referred to in the literature as Organisational Commitment (OC). This identification is based on the acceptance and internalisation of the goals and values of the organisation (Lieber, 2007: 13). At this point it should be noted that a strong correlation between both concepts, OC and JS, has been proven, but the direction of action cannot be explained with absolute certainty. Mathieu & Zajac (1990: 179 ff) proved a correlation between general JS and OC of r = .53.

A low level of job satisfaction can, in principle, lead to intentions to fluctuate and actual dismissals of employees. In the literature this connection is considered confirmed. Studies by Spector (1985: 698 f.), Tett and Meyer (1993: 276 f.) and Gebert und Rosen­stiel (2002: 91 f.) on the ratio of JS and the intention to fluctuate showed an r between - .40 and -.58, the correlation between JS to actual fluctuation showed an r between -.20 and -.25. Another consequence of dissatisfaction in the workplace can be a high level of absenteeism of employees in the workplace. There are concrete studies that prove a (low) correlation between JS and absenteeism. Thus Spector (1985: 699) determined a correlation of the two variables of r = -.12. In 1989, Six and Kleinbeck (1989: 360 f.) was also only able to achieve a r = -.09, so there is reason to believe that there are other factors besides JS that are mainly responsible for the extent of absenteeism, especially since it is known that a large number of indicators (including illness and accidents) are used to measure absenteeism rates. It should be noted that both fluctuation and absen­teeism are often associated with JS and examined accordingly. However, results show­ing a clear correlation have not yet been obtained, as both consequences are influenced by a multitude of other conditions.

2.1.3 Affective-Events Theory

The Affective-Events-Theory (AET) was developed by the organizational psychologist Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano and published in 1996. Weiss and Cro- panzano focus on affective events in the work context. In this context the role of moods and emotions and their influence on the behaviour and job satisfaction of employees. The two authors make it clear that, in addition to the traditionally used stress and satis­faction measures, emotions and moods at the workplace should also be considered, since both are independent phenomena with different causes and consequences (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996: 2 ff). The central statement of the AET is that affective events at work can have different effects and consequences. In the following, the AET is de­scribed using a model (Fig. 1) that illustrates the complex interplay of workplace char­acteristics, personality, affective events and measures of job satisfaction. Those are de­scribed and explained in more detail.

Figure 1: Affective Events Theory (derived from Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996, 6f.)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Affects are defined as "the way in which one is affected or disposed" (Warr, 2007: 49). Russell (2003: 148) described affects as an elementary feeling as "primal, universal and irreducible on the mental plane". In this context, Weiss and Cropanzano point out that JS can also be influenced by personality dispositions in that they can effect the perception and evaluation of events. Personality can have a direct effect on affects, since people differ in their basic mood (affectivity) and thus, independent of certain situations, are more likely to be in a good (positive affectivity) or bad mood (negative affectivity). Furthermore, the authors assume that personality traits determine the extent to which events influence affects, for example, how sensitive people are to stressful situations (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996: 10ff.)

To complete the model, Weiss and Cropanzano distinguish two categories of behav­iour that occur: Affect-based and cognitive-based behaviour. Affect-based behaviour follows directly from affective experiences at work and is therefore based more on spon­taneous reactions. Cognitive-based behaviour, by contrast, is based on the long-term assessment of work and is the result of conscious decisions (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996: 65 f). In summary, the "Affective Events Theory" by Weiss and Cropanzano is a general theory which addresses the causes and consequences of affective events at work and illustrates their effects on job satisfaction.

2.2 Perception of flexible work arrangements

2.2.1 Forms of flexible work arrangements

There are two main forms of work organisation flexibility: The flexibility of the work­place and the flexibility of work time. The discussion about flexibility of the work time is dominated by the concepts of flexitime or variable work time, trust-based working hours and Job-Sharing (Stock-Homburg, 2013: 750-751). Within the framework of flex­itime models, employees can determine the start and end of work time themselves within agreed time periods (Linnenkohl & Rauschenberg 1996: 92) Variable working hours represent a further effect of flexitime. The special features of this working time model compared with flexitime are the abolition of core hours and the extension of compensa­tory periods (Stock-Homburg, 2013: 750; Kiesche 2001: 285). Variable working time requires the existence of working groups. These groups decide on the location and du­ration of individual working hours and breaks. As a rule, specifications exist regarding operating hours or opening hours, functional hours, minimum staffing levels and ex­pected results (Kiesche 2001: 285). Trust-based working time represents a further ex­tension of flexitime models. This involves a considerable extension of the framework working hours, the abolition of core working hours and the responsibility of employees for compensatory time (Stock-Homburg, 2013: 750). Other options for working time flexibilization include flexible annual working hours, sabbaticals, part-time work and job-sharing concepts. As these models are not relevant for the following study, these forms will not be discussed further.

The second facet of flexibilization of work organisation relates to the place of work. This is the field in which teleworking has experienced the greatest application (Bauer et al., 2004: 34).

Work-related tasks, mainly office work and administrative work, are carried out out­side the company. The external workplace is usually connected to the company's server network by means of information and communication technologies. Telework enables both families with children and other employees to do some or all their work from home. Telework is characterised by three features (Stock-Homburg, 2013: 754-755):

- The employer and employees work in separate locations
- The workplace is connected to the company by electronic communication media
- Work equipment is provided that is comparable to the equipment in the com­pany

The major change during the COVID-19 main phase was, as described above, the place where the work was performed, in this case working from home, in this context called remote work (RW).

2.2.2 Perception of flexible work arrangements before COVID-19

According to a study by the ZEW (Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung in Mannheim) in June 2019, every fourth company in Germany offered the possibility of mobile work, in most cases both remote work from home and mobile work. The use of remote work has slowly increased: In 2013, 19% of private sector companies worked from home, rising to 22% in 2017. The flexibility gained was seen both positively and negatively. On the one hand, the better reconciliation of work and private life was seen as an advantage, but many also reported problems in clearly separating the two spheres. Whole remote workdays were rare. 63 percent of employees using this form of flexible work arrangement work exclusively on an hourly basis. Two out of three employees who had not previously done remote work also rejected this possibility in principle. In contrast, one in nine employees had an unfulfilled need for remote work, although they subjectively felt they had a suitable job for it. Employees with an unfulfilled desire for flexible work arrangements were more dissatisfied than those who at least occasionally worked from home during working hours (Grunau et al., 2019: 3).

Regarding the compatibility of work and family obligations in particular, a study by the "Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft" (IW) was published in December 2019. (IW, 2019: 4) The study revealed ambivalent connections between flexible working and the compatibility of work and private life. Nine out of ten employees report that their work­ing hours are well or very well compatible with family life and social obligations outside the workplace. Especially mobile workers are often satisfied. They also often fear dis­advantages in the distribution of interesting tasks, if they make greater use of family­friendly services. They consider it crucial for their careers to be accessible to companies for all their needs, even outside working hours. A family-friendly corporate culture can start here: It dampens the negative and strengthens the positive effects of more flexible forms of work organisation for employees. An advanced degree of entrepreneurial dig­italisation and a perceived family-friendly corporate culture often goes hand in hand. Using personnel policy instruments, such as result-oriented management, companies can make a family-friendly design of flexible work arrangements (IW, 2019: 3).

In terms of job performance, productivity and distractions of working from home, professor Bloom of Stanford University highlighted the benefits of remote work in a two-year study. In the study, the employees of a travel company in Shanghai were ob­served over a period of nine months. Except for one day a week, one group worked exclusively at home, the comparison group only in the office. Bloom found a strong increase in productivity of 13% among the employees in the almost exclusive remote work status. In addition, the group of home workers was more likely to work the entire working day, as they were not stuck in rush hour traffic or did not eat long lunches with their colleagues. It was also found that homeworkers were much more likely to be able to concentrate on their work, as the offices were often noisy. The study also found that resignations dropped by 50% when workers were allowed to work from home. This has advantages for the employees as well as for the company and their managers, as less money has to be spent on advertisement, hiring, training and promotion. The company investigated also found an increase of $2000 profit per person among the homeworkers (Lynch, 2020). Bloom said:

“For employees, they're much more productive and happier. For managers, you don't have to spend so much time recruiting and training people. For firms, you make far more profit. For society, there's a huge saving of reducing congestion, driving times and, ultimately, pollution. There's not much to lose, and there's a lot to gain.”

2.2.3 Perception of flexible work arrangements during COVID-19

Fraunhofer FIT research institute launched a survey for remote working in April. After interim results in April, the results were presented in July. After 2000 completed ques­tionnaires, a meaningful picture emerged. According to the study, satisfaction increased over the weeks in the main COVID-19 phase in Germany (01.04.2020 - 01.07.2020) from an mean value of 4,375 to a value of over 4.875 (Likert scale, 1 = very unsatisfied, 5 = very satisfied). The study also considered the satisfaction depending on the industry studied. It was found that the IT, telecommunications and media industries had the high­est level of satisfaction. Here more than 70% were "satisfied" or "very satisfied". The most dissatisfied were the service sector (57%) and the health and social services (56%). During the study it was found that the satisfaction of team members and managers con­tinued to increase and now reaches 90%. The individual performance was subjectively assessed as higher. The team performance was also rated higher, although this increased less. Decisive factors were the accessibility of colleagues and problems with the tech­nical equipment. However, these obstacles seem to have been largely overcome. In re­sponse to the question "What do you miss in the while working from home?” the nega­tive aspects most frequently cited were the lack of social contacts (85%) and profes­sional exchange (66%). Then the missing coffee breaks and lunches (65%) and joint creative sessions (60%) were mentioned. Surprisingly, the missing commute to work (20%) was also mentioned as missing.

The conclusion of the study was nevertheless much more positive than negative. In order to meet the requirements and needs of employees, flexible concepts must be de­veloped in the future. (Frauenhofer Institut für angewandte Informationstechnik, 2020)

The IGES and Forsa institutes conducted a survey on behalf of the DAK health in­surance company. For this purpose, a survey of 7000 employees was conducted in De­cember 2019, which was repeated in April 2020. Almost 6000 of the same participants took part in the second survey. Before the pandemic, only about every third employees perceived the increasing digitalisation as a relief for their own work. During the pan­demic it is almost every second person - an increase of 39 percent. The group of those who see digitisation as a burden, however, shrinks by 80 percent. The stress experienced daily decreased by 29 percent. In December 2019 more than a fifth of respondents were stressed out most or all the time in April it is only 15 percent. Most respondents (57%) did not feel at any time during the COVID-19 crisis or only occasionally under pressure. Employees who regularly work in their home office for the first time show a high level of job satisfaction and report a pleasing work-life balance - with good productivity. The majority (59%) said that they work more productively or are more likely to have a higher productivity than at their normal workplace. What workers value most of all is the time saved by not having to travel to work (68%). Work can also be better distributed throughout the day (65%) and is more pleasant than at the workplace (54%). Many em­ployees can also use the home office to combine work and family life more compatible with each other. For those with children under 12 years, this advantage is particularly relevant (77%).

Three-quarters of those surveyed are critical of the fact that there is little direct con­tact with colleagues in the home office. Many also miss the opportunity to discuss mat­ters with the boss at short notice (48 percent) or lack sufficient access to files or other working documents (41 percent). Young employees in particular often find it difficult to draw a line. Only every second person under 30 succeeds in making a clear distinction between work and private life. Nevertheless, many of those affected no longer want to do without the home office: 77 percent of employees who have only been working reg­ularly in their own homes since the COVID-19 crisis would like to retain this form of work in the future - at least in part (DAK, 2020).

However, the above-mentioned studies, both before and after 1 April 2020, have all been quantitatively surveyed and are therefore not able to provide in-depth information on the motivations and experiences of the workforce. Furthermore, no CEOs or employ­ers were asked how they perceive the changed situation of COVID-19 and what they think about it. The different areas of responsibility of the hierarchical groups were also only examined to a limited extent by the Fraunhofer Institute's study. Only satisfaction was differentiated according to "leadership", "team", "assistance" and "other", but the various hierarchical levels in combination with the reasons for individual categories were not examined in depth. This depth can predominantly only be achieved with qual­itatively evaluated interviews.

3 Methodology

In the context of 12 semi-structured interviews with the three different groups of em­ployers, managers and employees, the effects of COVID-19 on flexible working ar­rangements will be empirically analyzed. Semi-structured interviews ensure that all rel­evant insights and results can be obtained. In addition, open questions could lead to new insights of the respondents. In the following, it will be compared to what extent the results of the empirical survey differ from the previous status quo. Finally, a conclusion is to be developed that summarizes and criticizes the research results.

3.1 Research Design: Mixed-Method

A mixed-method approach was envisaged for this study. This combines the approaches of qualitative and quantitative research. The application of quantitative methods usually aims to test previously established hypotheses expressed in numbers and generalisations to achieve results (Hussy et al. 2013: 52). Qualitative research designs require interpre­tative data such as interviews and other linguistic utterances or visual information. (Hussy et al. 2013: 190). This method is often used to explore new fields of research and draw theories and hypotheses from the material obtained (Peters & Dörfler 2014: 39). To obtain a more comprehensive answer to the research questions and to combine the advantages of both research approaches, the desire for the mixed-method approach emerged. In the literature, triangulation is often mentioned in this context, i.e. taking different perspectives on the same research topic (Hussy et al. 2013: 288). This means that the data from the study are combined with at least two different methods. The aim of triangulation is to compare and validate the findings of the data sets. This produces more meaningful results that allow a deeper interpretation and a more comprehensive understanding (Kuckartz 2014: 58). However, it should be noted that more methods do not necessarily lead to better results. Only a choice of research methods tailored to the research topic can contribute to this (Hussy et al. 2013: 289). In this study, a parallel mixed-method design was selected, which has a clear focus on the qualitative part. Fig­ure 2 shows the exemplary approach of such a parallel mixed-method design, which was therefore also used in this empirical study:

Figure 2: Workflow chart of the parallel mixed-method design (based on Kuckartz, 2014: 73-74)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The study consists of a larger, qualitatively researched interview part with semi-struc­tured interviews and a quantitative part consisting of a questionnaire. For the research design a mixed-method approach was chosen, consisting of a questionnaire to directly compare the pre COVID-19 state and the situation during the main phase. Since the perceptions of the interviewees are mainly subjective, Likert-scales were used in the questionnaire for better comparability.

3.1.1 Qualitative Study

Semi-structured interviews are conducted to obtain the participants' descriptions of the respective situations and to possibly gain new insights and perspectives in the open questions. The qualitative survey of the interviews was carried out using an interview questionnaire with 14 to 15 questions depending on the hierarchical group surveyed. The exact procedure and realisation are described in chapter 3.2.

3.1.2 Quantitative Study

The quantitative study consists of 18 questions, which can be divided into the categories "Individual well-being", "Superior cooperation", "Employee cooperation", "Affects" and "Productivity". These 18 questions are repeated twice, once as the interviewees' assessment of the situation before COVID-19 and once during the COVID-19 main phase. A total of 36 questions were answered and the assessment was given on a 5 - Likert scale (5 = strongly agree; 4 = agree; 3 = neutral; 2 = disagree; 1 = strongly disa­gree). With six direct questions on and around job satisfaction, the questionnaire focuses more on a quantitatively measurable comparison of the subjective well-being of the re­spondents than the interviews. The questionnaires were collected, anonymised and an­alysed in IBM SPSS Statistics.

Table 1: Overview Questionnaire (Own representation)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3.2 Interviews

3.2.1 Selection criteria

The selection of the interview partners was based on certain criteria. The underlying goal is a comparability between the status quo of the situation in Germany before COVID-19 (before 15.02.2020) and the situation during the main phase (01.04. - 30.06.2020).

For this purpose, all interviewed persons fulfil the following criteria. The first crite­rion is that all participants working a full-time position so that a comparable situation among them can be ensured. Working students and trainees were not included in the study, as they also have to spend time at university or vocational school and therefore cannot be compared with the normal full-time workforce, whose main focus is on work. The second criterion is that the interview partners have held their position for at least one year before 15.02.2020 to have a basis for a sufficient comparison. Furthermore, all interviewees should have worked in remote work for a maximum of one day a week before 15 February 2020 and should have worked from home for at least two months 4 or more days a week between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2020. This requirement ensures for all participants, there is a significant difference between the status quo before the Corona pandemic and the main phase of COVID-19. The participants were divided into 3 different categories in the research design:

"worker" - employees without leadership responsibility

"manager" - employee with leadership responsibility

"CEO" - Chief Executive Officer, highest-ranking executive in a company

The reasons for this division are the expected different perceptions and effects on the well-being of the three different groups of the workforce. For example, aspects of leadership and responsibility might have different effects on the variables mentioned above.

3.2.2 Realisation of the interviews

The interview partners were gathered from the interviewer's extended circle of acquaint­ances and former colleagues. The interviews were then conducted in August 2020. Table 2 displays an overview of the interviewees:

Table 2: Overview Interviewees (Own representation)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Attention was paid to getting an equal number of interview partners from each level of the hierarchy to be able to answer the research question about the differences between the groups satisfactorily. Therefore, four persons from each group were interviewed.

Four of the twelve interviewees were women, eight were men. The age range was from 24 to 62 years. The length of service in the company ranged from 1.5 years to 36 years. On average, the interviewees had been employed in their company for 10.33 years. Therefore, four persons from each group were interviewed. The average age was 42.3 years, the median was 41.5 years. The average age of workers was 30.5 years, managers 44.5 years and CEOs 51.75 years. Three of the interviewees had minors in their own household, the others did not. Six of the people interviewed were single, five were married and one was divorced.

Various options were used to make the survey as pleasant as possible for the inter­viewees, such as interviewing via Microsoft Teams or interviewing by telephone as well as in person. Four of the interviews were conducted in person in accordance with the COVID-19 distance rules and eight of the interviews were conducted by telephone or Microsoft Teams.

Before the interview, the interviewees were presented with an information sheet containing all important information on the study. Almost all of the interviews were conducted in a relaxed and open atmosphere. Many interviewees insisted on being on first name terms and were interested in the results of the study. The duration of the interviews ranged from 13 to 47 minutes and were conducted in German, as the mother tongue of 11 out of 12 interviewees as well as the interviewer. One interviewee had a German language level C1.

In preparation for the semi-structured interviews an interview guide was created. The questions were based on the Affective-Events-Theory and the expected main fac­tors for the well-being at work. A mixture of detailed questions about these factors and more open questions was used to ensure that there was room for unexpected answers. The interview guide was compiled according to the instructions and guidelines of Kruse and Schmieder (2014: 222) and Hopf and Weingarten (2006: 271 ff).

[...]

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Details

Title
The Influence of Covid-19 on Employers’, Managers’ and Workers’ Perception of Flexible Work Arrangements
College
University of Bamberg
Grade
1,7
Year
2020
Pages
76
Catalog Number
V1030385
ISBN (eBook)
9783346433114
ISBN (Book)
9783346433121
Language
English
Tags
Homeoffice, Corona, COVID-19, flexible work arrangements, Mobiles Arbeiten, mobile work, Corona-Pandemie, Corona Pandemic, Human Resource Management, Personalmanagement, Telearbeit, Arbeiten von Zuhause, obligatorisches Homeoffice, Mayring, Remote work, job satisfaction, subjective well-being, Perception, Perception of flexible work, COVID-19 pandemic, HRM
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2020, The Influence of Covid-19 on Employers’, Managers’ and Workers’ Perception of Flexible Work Arrangements, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1030385

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