Project 2: Learning from Workers: Resilience in the Time of Pandemic

The purpose of this Robert Wood Johnson-funded project (2020-2021) is to explore how frontline workers responded to pandemic-related workplace disruptions, and to examine sources of worker and organizational resilience, innovation, and agency during times of crisis. 

We conducted a qualitative longitudinal study that builds on data collected as part of Project 1. We had conducted over 60 semi-structured interviews with frontline workers and managers in health care, warehouses, and retail in 2019, before the pandemic. In the winter and spring of 2021, as the COVID-19 crisis continued, we conducted 56 follow-up interviews (84% with the original participants).

This study tracks the organizational changes initiated in response to the pandemic and the impact of the crisis on worker well-being. More specifically, we are examining how frontline workers have coped with workplace disruption and uncertainty, and what kinds of voice and power they have been able to exercise to advocate for their needs. The pre-crisis interview data allows us to explore how work conditions in place as of 2019 affected workers’ resilience and ability to cope during the pandemic, and to identify how these conditions set up organizations to meet workers’ needs more or less effectively in a time of crisis.

This project will provide important insight into how workplaces might successfully protect the well-being of our most at-risk workers during a time of crisis and beyond. Study results will be shared in a variety of venues including peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and “lessons learned” briefs and additions to the employer toolkit featured on this website.