Original Research

The COVID-19 pandemic: Perspectives on work engagement and work-from-home in a higher education institution

Doret Botha, Gerda van Dijk, Amori Marais
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 21 | a2131 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v21i0.2131 | © 2023 Doret Botha, Gerda van Dijk, Amori Marais | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 October 2022 | Published: 14 April 2023

About the author(s)

Doret Botha, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Gerda van Dijk, School of Public Management and Administration, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, City of Tshwane, South Africa
Amori Marais, Research Pscyhologist, Research Consultant, Utrecht, Netherlands


Orientation: Globally, the repercussions of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic infiltrated many areas within societies. Like all other institutions, higher education institutions (HEIs) had to migrate to online and blended activities, and work-from-home (WFH) became characteristic of the ‘new normal’.

Research purpose: The main purpose of the study was to determine the perspectives on work engagement and WFH among employees of an HEI in South Africa during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Motivation for the study: There is limited published research reporting on WFH and work engagement in HEIs.

Research approach/design and method: The study employed a quantitative-based cross-sectional design. The target population of this study included all employees an HEI in South Africa who worked from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. A web-based survey was used to collect the data. In total, 399 respondents participated in the research.

Main results: The results of the study revealed that the employees were to a great extent engaged in their work because of the organisational support received from the institution. It was also evident that some employees experienced difficulties with establishing a work routine, a lack of sufficient equipment and resources to function at home, work–home interference, increased workload and working hours, isolation and work–life balance issues.

Practical/managerial implications: The results of the study are important to inform business decisions regarding the WFH model as an alternative working arrangement to be considered in HEIs.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the body of knowledge regarding work engagement and WFH in HEIs in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.


COVID-19 pandemic; employee engagement; higher education; South Africa; work engagement; work-from-home

JEL Codes

D23: Organizational Behavior • Transaction Costs • Property Rights; I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions; M12: Personnel Management • Executives; Executive Compensation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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Crossref Citations

1. Employee engagement at a private higher education institution during the COVID-19 pandemic
Nadeem Cassim, Christoffel J. Botha, Doret Botha, Christo Bisschoff
SA Journal of Human Resource Management  vol: 22  year: 2024  
doi: 10.4102/sajhrm.v22i0.2300