MCom for Staff Member

Work-life balance experiences during COVID-19: A Case of Academics at a South African University was the title of UKZN staff member and Master of Commerce in Human Resources Management graduate, Ms Lucia Jali’s research.

The study was supervised by Professor Sybert Mutereko.

‘The study revealed that working from home during the lockdown was extremely challenging for mothers who are academics and their families,’ explained Jali.

‘Participants said they felt frustrated, fatigued, burnt out, distressed, and overwhelmed. Academics who are mothers are experiencing intense inter-role conflict during the pandemic, which negatively affects their well-being, career trajectories, performance in both roles, and ultimately their work-life balance,’ she said.

The findings suggest that the productivity and contribution of academics who are mothers are limited by gendered, societal, cultural, and family norms. Further research is thus required to explore how household conditions and gendered realities impact the work-life relationship.

‘South African universities (including UKZN) should assess the conduciveness (or compatibility) of remote work and their academics’ working conditions during the COVID-19 lockdown. This will provide a comprehensive understanding of socio-economic status, digitalisation, and gendered perspectives relative to work and family,’ said Jali.

She added that specific consideration should be given to the needs of academics with poor social support, especially mothers.

‘Future research could also include academics from other universities to compare their experiences and perceptions. This would enable institutions to cater for the needs of their employees.’

Jali will use the knowledge and skills she acquired in the managerial positions she is appointed in within the University.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Abhi Indarajan