Work From Home and Stress in the Slovak Academic Environment

Work From Home and Stress in the Slovak Academic Environment

Ivana Pondelíková, Tatiana Tökölyová
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3937-1.ch012
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Before Covid-19 pandemic Slovak academic environment lacked any experience with “home-office teaching” and distance learning mainly concerned specialized courses or e-learning courses. Chapter introduces results of the original research in the academic environment in Slovakia experiencing online teaching since the outbreak of pandemic. Authors identify WAH (work at home) as an emergency mode in teaching as well as WAH effects on the physical and mental health of teachers. The presented research was carried out using a questionnaire. The research sample consisted of 75 Slovak university teachers. Chapter is divided into three main parts. The first identifies main attributes and experience of the corporate home office, including the identification of adverse impacts on employee health. This part is followed by a presentation of the results of the authors' research at universities and the aim is to examine the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on online work performance, personality and digital identity of university teachers and to find out the if this new situation causes burnout by academics as one of the most serious impacts of home office.
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Past two academic years were challenging for Slovak universities. The academic year 2019/2020 started in September on time and in the normal face-to-face mode. It went smoothly despite the fact that the Public Health Office of the Slovak Republic was informed for the first time about the occurrence of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuchan in China (UVZ SR, 20). Until the suspension of full-time courses in mid-March 2020 due to the rapid spread of Covid-19, the relevant institutions addressed this issue and prepared for a possible deterioration. The gravity of the situation was confirmed by the WHO’s declaration of a state of global emergency (, 2020). Nevertheless, a full-time examination period was conducted properly at Slovak universities and a face-to-face new semester was planned, which runs until March 6, 2020, when the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the Slovak Republic. Already on March 10, the Central Crisis Staff of Slovakia banned the organization of sports, cultural and public events for 14 days and two days later Slovakia faced a situation not experienced since revolution in 1989, namely the Crisis Staff took the first strict measures regarding the closure of schools, leisure facilities, transport and the introduction of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all returnees, border controls, the abolition of planned health care and the closure of all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and universities. Originally, they were to be closed for only 14 days and students were to return to school on March 30 (, 2020). Due to the suspension, the universities decided that temporarily, later throughout the summer semester, the courses would be taught entirely online. Because the courses were designed for full face-to-face teaching, this meant that the teachers had to adapt them to be suitable for online teaching, and this survey is also examining this change. From that moment on, the Slovak university sector was hit hard by Covid-19 from the spring of 2020, as it never expected a total shift to “out-of-school” education in its future, i.e. to such a massive extent. Ultimately, the universities were not well prepared for this challenge, neither in terms of staff, methodologically nor technically. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, in teaching as well as everyday life, a number of rules and regulations were adopted in an effort to protect the country from high rates of infections and deaths. All non-essential services were closed temporarily, until March 30, and universities and schools, classified as non-essential services, were closed throughout the country. Employees were busy in preparing lectures for the temporary online mode. The exams finally took place in due time online in May and June 2020.

In Slovakia (as globally) in a state of total national lockdown and due to school closures, teaching had had to shift from the face-to-face lessons to an entirely virtual mode and has been left by the moment of finishing this article (January 2022). Teachers and academic staff have been going through an extremely uncertain period never experienced in their professional work before. The rapid transition to online methods focused on how to keep students involved while trying to use methods more verified as a supplementary methods or methods used in a short-term course. This has, naturally, led to a significant increase in workload of academic teachers as they needed unexpectedly to move their teaching content and materials to an online space lacking any previous preparation and continuous mentoring or counselling. Teachers, as generally PC skilled employees, now required advanced IT skills not only to use necessary software and equipment but also to shift the communication with the students to online mode during the courses and mostly during the exams/tests. All actors of the teaching sector, i.e. students and their teachers, faced to an uneven impacts, as risen burden and need for more balance found between the workload and private sphere in a sudden and unexpected manner. The emergency mood has been still lasting. At the beginning, the employees were asked to prepare all content online for the first period only. Only after the WHO officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 12 it was clear to universities that it was necessary to make the transition to online mode using various platforms, such as Zoom, MS Teams or Google Meet. Use of the platforms was unified in the following winter term. University students were informed that they would no longer be able to attend “face-to-face” classes, and all non-administrative staff were transferred to the home-office, which many experienced for the first time.

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