Forty days into lockdown: Business School resource gives 40 insights into the realities of working during Covid-19

Researchers from the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow have created a new resource of stories recording working life during Covid-19. Kathleen Riach, explains how it gives the School community an insight into the current challenges being negotiated in the world of work, and how business leaders, managers and employees are navigating these

’40@40’ marked the 40th day of the UK’s lockdown through sharing 40 stories from the UK and across the world about people’s everyday working experiences during this time.

Drawing on the voices of a variety of workers – including zookeepers, employees of L’Oreal, Innis and Gunn, Celtic Football Club and even Jermain Jackman from The Voice – the project provides first-hand accounts of what current working life is like, including challenges faced. 

It also gives an insight into how quickly businesses have had to evolve to overcome restrictions put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the creative and innovative spirit that has enabled this to happen.

The project is underpinned by academic research about working in times of rapid change, including a focus on moving to a digital work environment, teamworking, health and wellness, and issues of ethics and sustainability. 

The resource also explores how people think Covid-19 might influence workplaces of the future and reflects on how we might prepare for the ‘post-Covid-19 world’.  

40@40 emerged from a PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education) initiative within the Business School called ‘DigiGallus’ that was created to prepare and support those Adam Smith Business School’s students entering the world of work for the first time during the pandemic.  

I think we are all in danger of being burnt out by the combination of constant information about Covid-19 while navigating work in a very different set of circumstances. 

As we live through this historic moment, it is inspiring to see how businesses, managers and employees across a range of industries, sectors and jobs have reacted so quickly to change, and are also very sensitive to the challenges faced now and in the future. 

We hope 40@40 helps people who are keen to know how Covid-19 is affecting – and will affect in the future - how we experience the world of work.

In many ways it’s part of our effort as academics at the Adam Smith Business School to try and support people during this time by putting our research skills to good use to connect people. We’re sharing authentic stories and asking people to pause for a moment to connect with these, to remind ourselves that even though we might not be together, we are still in it together.

 To continue the legacy of Adam Smith, the Business School aims to create engaging, enterprising and enlightened graduates and we wanted to think about how we might practically support students as they negotiate the circumstances surrounding studying during Covid-19. We also want to ensure that when they enter the world of work, we have prepared them to live these values in an ethically responsible and sustainable way, especially in times of crisis and seismic changes in the economic and social world.  

As researchers and educators we know that learning and adapting is about connection. One of our driving motivations in setting up the rapid response website DigiGallus, was to ensure we give Business School students and staff the best opportunity to reflect on their own experiences of working and studying through Covid-19 through engaging with other people’s experiences.   

School staff and students have exclusive access to forums and exercises on the site to support their studies and develop an understanding of current workplace dynamics surrounding becoming a digital workplace, team working, health and wellness and ethics and sustainability.

It will help students feel ready and part of this new world of work.  

The School is a new advanced signatory of the UN initiative PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education). We believe we’re one of the first Business Schools globally to give students a way of thinking through what is currently happening in the workplace during COVID-19 through the PRME principles.”  

The DigiGallus insights are available to view at  www.gla.ac.uk/schools/business/aboutus/digigallus

You can also view a selection of the first-hand video insights about working life during Covid-19 on YouTube

Kathleen Riach is Professor and Responsible and Sustainable Management Lead at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow.

Kathleen’s research focuses on the experience of discrimination, inequality and well-being in and around the labour market, particularly in relation to ageing and gender. Her work has been published in leading academic journals and presented in arenas such as the United Nations, UK government and British, US and Australian media.

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