HALIFAX -- Researchers at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax have been awarded a $333,000 grant to study how employers and employees respond during disease outbreaks.

Lead researcher Kevin Kelloway says the two-year study will move quickly in order to acquire data on how people are reacting and adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have this pandemic and all these states of emergency and these are having a dramatic effect on the workplace,” says Kelloway.

“We have lots of people working from home, we have people who are working in essential industries who are worried about their own health, what we are interested in looking at is how organizations are responding and then how is that affecting employees.”

Kelloway says the team at Saint Mary’s is using market research firms to help them get data quickly, through large-scale surveys. The group will also create more focused studies, including looking at people who are currently working from home.

Kelloway’s team will soon be recruiting people to participate in those studies through their website www.ohpdata.com. They are looking for people who are willing to share their experience and how they are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The studies will focus on physical health, whether people are following the procedures recommended to maintain their own health, as well as psychological well-being.

“We know that even something simple like working from home, everybody thinks, ‘Oh, won’t that be great,’” says Kelloway. “Not so great when you have tasks to complete and kids are there and they need your attention and you’re trying to juggle all those things at once and that’s really putting the load of burden on people.”

Kelloway hopes the data they collect will identify best practices, what is working for organizations and what isn’t.

“Unfortunately, what’s always the case, is that when you’re in the middle of it, research is not much help because you are trying to get the data now to inform our efforts next time,” says Kelloway.

Three other universities are collaborating with Saint Mary's -- Mount Allison University, Cape Breton University and the University of Ottawa.