Unforeseen emotional labour: a collaborative autoethnography exploring researcher experiences of studying Long COVID in health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Emma MacIver*, Nicholas Norman Adams, Nicola Torrance, Flora Douglas, Catriona Kennedy, Diane Skatun, Virginia Hernandez Santiago, Aileen Grant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Emotional labour or emotion management describes regulation of feelings to fulfil specific job roles, discussed extensively around commercial and caring professions and more recently qualitative researchers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was heightened due to changes in the socio-political context affecting individual circumstances and research practice, yet accounts pertaining to qualitative researchers are lacking. This paper presents a collaborative autoethnographic account of the emotional labour experiences of researchers working on a longitudinal, mixed methods study on the lived experiences of healthcare workers with Long COVID in Scotland during the pandemic. The types, intensity and impacts of the emotional labour was unforeseen at the outset, rooted in a culmination of unique factors that transpired over time: circumstances pertaining to the socio-political context; the novelty, unpredictability and devastating nature and impacts of Long COVID illness; the levels of participant distress and their unfulfilled support needs. In response, researchers engaged in a range of types of emotion management - Strategic emotion work; Emotional reflexivity; Emotion work to cope with emotive dissonance and Managing relationships. This was additionally challenging given the already difficult homeworking and lockdown climate balancing workplace and personal responsibilities, and by the necessary use of remote methods for both data-gathering and interacting with colleagues, which impeded our ability to provide and receive support. Critically, emotional labour needs to be recognised, acknowledged and formal plans put in place to support researchers across individual, research team and institutional levels, with consideration of socio-political influences at the time of study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100390
JournalSSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Volume5
Early online date7 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Emotional labour
  • Emotion management
  • Goffman's dramaturgy
  • Qualitative research
  • Long COVID
  • Collaborative autoethnography

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