In response to the global pandemic in 2020/2021, many businesses and organisations were faced with making significant changes to the way they worked, not only to location, but also to the very nature of how work would be carried out in the future. The Applying Psychology at Work hub was designed to provide access to insights needed by individuals and their organisations.
In August 2020, a team of Open University Applied Psychologists and the authors of this hub carried out a study looking at the psychological impact of these changes on business and organisations, and their perceived expectations and preparedness for the next 2 years. We developed a survey to assess businesses capability in areas that have strong psychological connections to provide insight into the type of support said businesses need. We found that there were between 25% and 30% of businesses that had less than good capability in dealing with the psychological impacts of COVID-19. While this suggests most businesses in our sample reported having the capability to combat negative impacts it also highlighted the difficulty a smaller proportion of businesses had. In 2020 there were 6 million businesses in the private sector. If the figures from our survey hold this would mean between 1.5 and 1.8 million businesses with inadequate capability to address psychological impacts.
Following this research, we considered what we could do to help address the gaps in knowledge and skills that our research highlighted. For example, many Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs) in our sample reported being less equipped to deal with impacts of COVID-19 on employees than larger organisations. This is likely to be due to differences in structure (many SMEs do not have dedicated HR support) and access to resources, such as employee assistance schemes and other services that can help in improving impacts such as mental health, wellbeing or communications problems impacted by COVID-19. A review of material already available on OpenLearn highlighted plenty of resources that could help address the considerable workplace changes, plus mental and emotional consequences, from the cataclysmic experience of a sequence of pandemic lockdowns.
What can Applied Psychology contribute?
There are a growing number of resources on COVID-19 and the resulting chaos, but these address business issues rather than psychological issues that emerge simultaneously. This is where our hub steps in to plug the gap in the current availability of psychological resources and tools for use by organisations and staff within them. We acknowledge that the pandemic will eventually be managed without need of lockdowns. Therefore, this hub has a wider remit to provide supportive resources for beyond current dilemmas such as economic disruptions caused by trade problems and conflicts, climate change, or social and political upheavals, all of which could psychologically impact organisations and the people working in them in the short to medium term. This is the rationale for naming our hub Applying Psychology at Work hub (rather than COVID-19 Psychology at work hub).
You, the audience
We created this hub for YOU, an audience of individuals, businesses and organisations working in supporting others who want to use insights of Applied Psychology in helping to create more resilient organisations and improving people’s ability to manage change arising from uncertainty and disruption.
We hope you find the hub and its resources useful and would love to hear about your experience. All emails will be kept confidential and will be used for evaluation or further research purposes.
We would invite you to share with us any insights you gained that helped you personally or your organisation to address challenging psychological impacts from the pandemic or any other disruptive change. Please let us know by emailing: FeedbackAPH@open.ac.uk