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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Academics & Research

Energy workers hesitant to return to workplace, UH study finds


As states begin loosening stay-at-home orders, over 70 percent of energy workers prefer to continue working from home as access to coronavirus testing remains a concern, UH researchers found. 

The study conducted by the University’s energy initiative was a collaboration with Robert Gordon University and Texas A&M University to analyze how the coronavirus and the shift to working from home has impacted energy workers.

The research’s data indicates 20 percent of energy workers would rather take an unpaid furlough than return to a shared workspace, and 5 percent would potentially quit to avoid returning to the office. 

When considering their willingness to return back to work, researchers found factors such as preexisting health issues did not make employees more hesitant to return to work compared to their less at risk coworkers.

However, energy workers in families with a wider age range were less likely to feel comfortable going back to work.

“Those who live in multi-generation households were more wary about returning to work,” said psychology professor and co-author on the study Christiane Spitzmueller.

A larger contributor to how comfortable employees surveyed were to the idea of going back to the office was the extent of sanitary measures their companies planned on taking.

“Workers who expected good sanitation and cleaning protocols as well as solid supplies of masks, sanitizer and supervisors who they feel are committed to eliminating workplace transmission of COVID-19 felt more comfortable,” said University chief energy officer and study co-author Ramanan Krishnamoorti.

While diving in deeper on how the coronavirus and working from home was impacting energy workers, the research showed a decline in the employees mental health, unrelated to physical health issues.

From those surveyed, 28 percent of workers had six or more poor mental health days in the span of a month. 

Some increased stresses and worries can be linked back to the fear of potential spread COVID-19 to children and loved ones. Employees who had been laid off also felt concerned, with the trend of workplace related mental health issues expected to continue.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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