Australian study examines impact of pandemic on scientists
Academics who are tempted to remain in pajamas during the working day should think again, says an Australian study that has linked the practice to a deterioration in mental health.
With many scholars facing another lengthy period of working from home, a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia has warned that those who stay in bedroom attire are twice as likely to report a worsened state of mental health.
According to the study, which drew on a survey of medical researchers in Sydney during the first COVID-19 lockdown from late April to mid-May last year, some 60 percent of scientists admitted wearing pajamas on at least one occasion in lockdown, with 14 percent saying they typically wore pajamas during Zoom calls with colleagues.
Some 28 percent of scientists said they wore pajamas at least once a week -- a cohort who were twice as likely to report worsened levels of mental health than those who dressed normally each day, according the study, by David Chapman and Cindy Thamrin, from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, which is affiliated with the University of Sydney.
Thamrin told Times Higher Education that the finding was consistent with evidence supporting “blue pajama syndrome,” in which hospital patients who remained in bedwear during longer stays were assessed as being more depressed than those who changed into day clothes. However, those who wore pajamas did not report lower levels of productivity, she added.
“To those who choose to continue working from home at least some part of the week, we would hope to reassure them that the occasional day in pajamas won’t affect their productivity, but perhaps they should consider changing out of them as a matter of routine for the sake of their mental health,” said Thamrin.
The study, which drew on 163 responses from staff at five medical institutes in Sydney, also delved into the reality of working at home for researchers. The most frequently cited workplace area was the kitchen or dining table, mentioned by 44 percent of scientists, while 28 percent worked from their own office and 22 percent shared an office.
Surprisingly, 3 percent of respondents reportedly worked from the bathroom during lockdown. “Someone suggested that, perhaps, the bathroom had the best wireless internet connection,” said Thamrin.
The study also looked at other problems caused by working from home. Some 42 percent said calls had been disrupted by colleagues’ children, and one respondent was interrupted by a sleepwalker, “although it is unclear whether this was during a daytime nap or a night meeting,” the paper says.