Younger generation experienced most workplace stress during COVID-19 pandemic, study finds

A study undertaken by management experts at Kingston University’s Business School and Maynooth University in Ireland has shown people in the early stages of their careers were more likely to be impacted by workplace stress during the Covid-19 pandemic than senior colleagues.

The pandemic had been widely reported to impact negatively on the mental health of whole populations, particularly younger people, researcher Dr Christina Butler, an associate professor from Kingston Business School, said. In response, the study aimed to understand how individuals at different stages of their lives and careers were affected and what resources had a positive impact on their wellbeing.

The research focused on people at five career stages — from early on when they were finding themselves vocationally to pre-retirement, when there was less emphasis on career advancement. They found differences in how those groups reacted to the continued pandemic-related disruptions of 2020 and adjusted over time.

The researchers first surveyed people in 30 different countries in April 2020, shortly after the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic, then at fortnightly intervals for eight weeks.

The resulting paper, Covid-19 Pandemic Disruptions to Working Lives: A Multi-level Examination of Impacts across Career Stages, which has been published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, revealed that people at the start of their careers were most likely to feel stressed, Dr Butler said.

“Work and personal lives underwent enormous disruption during the pandemic, with people working from home experiencing increased loneliness and a range of mental health issues. Under normal circumstances, the younger generations of workers need additional support from their managers and that was exacerbated during the pandemic, when we saw that relative newcomers to the workforce did not cope as well under the pressures of remote working,” Dr Butler said.

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