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The Wellbeing of Health and Care Informatics Professionals In A Time of Pandemic

The Federation for Informatics Professionals (FEDIP) and its member bodies agreed to jointly produce a learning and impact report to look at the changes that have occurred and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are still formulating our conclusions on the data we gathered. However, in support of Mental Health Awareness Week, we thought you might find it useful to read about some of our preliminary findings on the wellbeing of those in the health and care informatics profession.

Whilst many surveys and reports have been produced on the effect of pandemic working, we feel this report is of importance as it focuses particularly on responses from health and care informatics professionals. It is FEDIPs mission to ensure that informatics professionals are fairly represented, especially when considering the health and wellbeing of the community.

A summary of initial findings on health and care professional's wellbeing

The pandemic has impacted various areas of staff wellbeing.

86% of responders indicated that the pandemic had affected at least one area of wellbeing. Fitness was the area affected by the largest respondents, but this may be an area that has improved for some but declined for others.

A percentage of respondents noted a lack of social interaction with friends and family, lack of social activities and outings. However, there were also positives reported as a result of working from home.

These included more natural light and more flexibility due to time recovered as a result of not commuting. However, whilst this has resulted in a better work-life balance for some, this has been counterbalanced by the increased COVID-related workload and an absence of face-to-face contact, which has put pressure on working relationships.

Increased feelings of isolation and pressure on working relationships might indicate approval of returning to the office when safe to do so. However, it should be carefully examined whether many of the negative effects perceived while working from home are due to the increased pressure of the pandemic, combined with a lack of support systems, rather than a by-product of not being in the office.

For example, respondents noted that while basic MS Teams training was available, there was little beyond this. One respondent noted that IT support was stressed and equipment was supplied without guidance or direction.

This is combined with an increase in workload, with 54% of respondents answering that their workload had increased. Almost a third (30%) felt their workload was the same but it is unknown whether this could be explained by there being no change to their way of working or if they could not increase workload further.

Wellbeing Recommendations

Whilst we are still analysing the data, from our preliminary findings, we would encourage the formulation of relevant policies to improve and sustain remote working. This would ensure that the UK health and care informatics workforce has the required flexibility and permissions to work partly onsite and partly remotely.

There are both benefits and negatives of working from home, in terms of staff’s wellbeing, and we believe this can be balanced out by encouraging a more flexible working arrangement, on the condition that work from home is better supported.

For example, sufficient IT infrastructure and services will need to be provided to support work remotely and onsite. We have found that the current equipment specifications are not suitable for the type of work required, such as heavy analytical work.

In terms of wellbeing, more innovative and effective communication tools are needed to support staff wellbeing. It will be important to continue to analyse staff workload and its impact on wellbeing to ensure that the health and care informatics workforce is adequat