issue Summer 2021

Disconnected or Connected? Tracking the Effects of Working Remotely

By Margaret Smith
Drs. Elskenidy (far left) and Hagopian (far right) join students who assisted with their study on the effects of working remotely.
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, when physical health became the country’s cardinal focus, there were those who were also concerned with the other aspects of health.

One of those groups resides at Rosalind Franklin University, spearheaded by Kavork Hagopian, PT, DPT, MBA, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy.

Dr. Hagopian formed a team that included faculty member Naglaa Elskenidy, DSc, PT, MS ’96, and first-year physical therapy students Ashley Duer, Justirini Corpus, Kevin Hershberger, Joseph Wittmann, Katherine Harris and Megha Parikh. He said their work began “in earnest” in August 2020, compiling what would later become “A Survey of the Effects of Working Remotely on Health and Wellness of Faculty and Staff of a Health Professions University During the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.” The survey was distributed in November 2020 to all employed by RFU who had been working at home since the onset of the pandemic, resulting in 192 responses.

The way we frame virtually every question was, While working remotely, I did something or I experienced something

Content for the survey was selected categorically from the seven pillars of wellness: emotional, social, physical, environmental, spiritual, intellectual and occupational. “The way we framed virtually every question was, ‘While working remotely, I did something or I experienced something,’” Dr. Hagopian said.

Though the raw data from the project is still being assessed, Dr. Hagopian said there are definite plans for it. “We will compile the data, try to make some good decisions from it or glean some good opinions from it, and then we’ll present them,” he said. The application of the data to the university will be a longer rollout and more nuanced.

“We’re still trying to get our arms around, ‘What were the struggles?’” Dr. Hagopian said. “There’s a lot of empirical information out there. I’m sure every supervisor has their hands on the pulses of their coworkers and people that they are responsible for. But we were trying to look at things as an aggregate.”

The overwhelming takeaway from the survey, for Dr. Hagopian, was that employees at RFU feel supported by the institution.

“And that to me just fits with the culture of Rosalind Franklin,” he said. “We had a public health crisis, and leadership from the Board of Trustees to our president to our deans was supportive and really put the health, well-being and wellness of their community first. So now, let’s quantify really how positive that was on the seven aspects of wellness.”