Working and studying from home creates pressure and stress among staff and students of Erasmus University

Late April, Erasmus University Rotterdam surveyed nearly 5,000 students and 1,300 members of staff to find out how they are coping with studying and working from home. Although they already experienced high pressure and stress before the corona crisis, pressure and stress now seem to be even higher than before, with position and the home situation being contributory to this.

Although pressure is high for everyone, members of staff seem to be able to cope better than students. Differences were detected between the position and the home situation. Lecturers, for instance, experience significantly more work-related pressure and stress than other members of staff. This also applies to members of staff and students with care duties. Across the line, single persons experience more loneliness. The home situation of students hardly makes a difference when it comes to experiencing study-related pressure and stress but students who live alone do have more mental complaints. PhD students experience significantly more negative emotions such as loneliness, worrying and anxiety than other groups of staff. On the plus side, both students and members of staff are often satisfied with communications from the university.

Students

30% of students say they are coping (very) well with studying from home. However, 40% say they do not cope well. 73% of students say that being distracted by housemates, motivation and concentration issues make studying from home hard. Dutch students cope better with studying from home compared to international students.

One striking result is that students who live alone suffer more from anxiety and loneliness and they worry more. Students with care duties and/or who have children living at home experience more study-related pressure and stress. Out of the interviewed students, 38% say they could do with a little help from the university, mentioning ‘coaching’, ‘clear communications’ and ‘reducing pressure’.

"We’re proud of the resilience shown by our members of staff and students"

Rutger Engels
Rector magnificus

Members of staff

Just over half of members of staff say they cope (very) well with working from home, compared to 16% who say they do not cope well. In the case of members of staff too, Dutch staff rate working from home higher than international members of staff. Matters that hamper working from home include the work area, childcare and concentration issues.

Members of staff with an academic position experience more work-related pressure and stress compared to support staff. This particularly applies to lecturers. PhD students experience more negative emotions than any other members of staff. Lastly, 41% of members of staff say they could do with a bit of help from the organisation, mostly mentioning ‘communication’, ‘understanding’ and ‘advice’.

Responding to a request for help

“We’re proud of the resilience shown by our members of staff and students”, says Engels, rector of Erasmus University Rotterdam. “We’ve experienced this before and the survey confirms it. Still, various groups find it hard to study and work from home. We take all kinds of measures in response to that.” Examples include an intensification of contact, learning to cope with stress and uncertainty, offering a support platform like Are you ok out there? for students and Open Up for members of staff and supporting student initiatives such as Stay Rotterdam.

Engels continues: “In particular, we want to find out what we can learn from students and members of staff who deal with working and studying from home resiliently and how we can use that knowledge and their commitment to helping those who cope less well. We will repeat this survey to gain a good insight into how our students and members of staff are doing and to be able to make targeted improvements. The reason for this is that this survey shows that in this crisis, some people in our society are more vulnerable than others. There is a genuine risk of that vulnerability turning into illness, which is something we want to prevent at all cost.”

About the survey

The aim of the survey was to find out how members of staff and students experience the information facilities of Erasmus University Rotterdam and how they are coping with working and studying from home. A total of 1,384 members of staff, 1,079 of whom from the Netherlands and 305 from abroad, completed the survey. A staggering 4,823 students took part, 3,451 of whom from the Netherlands and 1,372 from abroad.

The results of this survey are similar to other surveys conducted at home and abroad, like the one carried out by the University of Amsterdam.

We will discuss the results in Erasmus TV next Tuesday at nine o’clock.