Emotional labour or emotion management describes regulation of feelings to fulfil specific job roles, discussed extensively around commercial and caring professions and more recently qualitative researchers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was heightened due to changes in the socio-political context affecting individual circumstances and research practice, yet accounts pertaining to qualitative researchers are lacking.

This paper presents a collaborative autoethnographic account of the emotional labour experiences of researchers working on a longitudinal, mixed methods study on the lived experiences of healthcare workers with Long COVID in Scotland during the pandemic. The types, intensity and impacts of the emotional labour was unforeseen at the outset, rooted in a culmination of unique factors that transpired over time: circumstances pertaining to the socio-political context; the novelty, unpredictability and devastating nature and impacts of Long COVID illness; the levels of participant distress and their unfulfilled support needs. In response, researchers engaged in a range of types of emotion management - Strategic emotion work; Emotional reflexivity; Emotion work to cope with emotive dissonance and Managing relationships. This was additionally challenging given the already difficult homeworking and lockdown climate balancing workplace and personal responsibilities, and by the necessary use of remote methods for both data-gathering and interacting with colleagues, which impeded our ability to provide and receive support. Critically, emotional labour needs to be recognised, acknowledged and formal plans put in place to support researchers across individual, research team and institutional levels, with consideration of socio-political influences at the time of study.


    This accepted author manuscript has been made open access under the University of Aberdeen Rights Retention Policy. It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Final published version available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmqr.2023.100390

    Cite as

    MacIver, E., Adams, N., Torrance, N., Douglas, F., Kennedy, C., Skatun, D., Hernandez Santiago, V. & Grant, A. 2023, 'Unforeseen emotional labour: A collaborative autoethnography exploring researcher experiences of studying Long COVID in health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic', SSM - Qualitative Research in Health, 5, article no: 100390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmqr.2023.100390

    Downloadable citations

    Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
    Last updated: 19 January 2024
    Was this page helpful?