IWH researchers adapting research for the COVID-19 context

How Institute for Work & Health scientists are adapting studies already underway to respond to questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic

Published: May 28, 2020

It will likely take time for researchers, workplace parties and policy-makers to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the intersection between work and health. In addition to submitting new grant proposals to study the impact of COVID-19, Institute for Work & Health (IWH) scientists are also responding to the pandemic by adapting studies already underway. Here are some examples.

A study exploring how Canadian baby boomers decide whether or not to communicate their job accommodation needs, led by IWH Senior Scientist Dr. Monique Gignac, is incorporating questions to learn if workers’ pandemic experiences are a factor in their decision-making. For example, are workers now more willing to communicate their needs if they see their employers have been more understanding and supportive of accommodations during the pandemic? says Gignac. Or, conversely, are workers less willing than ever to communicate their needs?

IWH Scientist Dr. Arif Jetha is examining the transitional work experiences of young adults with rheumatic conditions, and he and his research team had already surveyed a group of millennials twice over the two years before the pandemic hit. Now, these millennials will be asked about the impact of COVID-19. We want to learn if they were working at jobs where they could be exposed to COVID-19, their perceptions of COVID-19 risk on their health, the organizational support offered to them during the pandemic, and the impact of COVID-19 on the availability, need and use of accommodations, says Jetha.

Another research project led by Jetha is examining the signals of change that will characterize the future of work for people living with disabilities. The pandemic arrived after Jetha and his team had already conducted interviews with young people with disabilities about their perceptions of the future of work. The team decided to conduct additional interviews to capture emerging themes related to COVID-19, such as worry about job losses and work accommodation.

A project looking at return to work (RTW) in policing, led by Scientist Dr. Dwayne Van Eerd, has added COVID-19 questions to learn if RTW procedures have changed as a result of the pandemic. A study led by Associate Scientist Dr. Nancy Carnide on Canadian workers’ use of, and perceptions about, cannabis at work is adding survey questions to learn if COVID-19 (and related changes in work arrangements) have influenced workers’ use of cannabis at work and/or their perceptions of that use.

In addition, IWH Mustard Fellow Dr. Faraz Vahid Shahidi is part of a team at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health examining the social determinants and social impacts of the pandemic in Canada. The project aims to understand patterns of health behaviour and labour market impact across different social and economic groups. We’re particularly interested in looking at inequalities according to income, sector, occupation, gender, race and immigrant status, says Shahidi.