Performing emotional labour while teaching online

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Educational Research




Taylor and Francis


School of Business and Law / School of Education




Nyanjom, J., & Naylor, D. (2021). Performing emotional labour while teaching online. Educational Research, 63(2), 147-163. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2020.1836989


© 2020 NFER. Background: The recent growth in online teaching and learning has increased the prevalence of educators using technology as the medium for teaching. Research on physical face-to-face teaching has demonstrated that educators engage in emotional labour as part of their job. However, there is limited understanding of how emotional labour presents when educators interact with students in online learning environments. Purpose: This study sought to explore how educators experience, manage and regulate their emotions when teaching online. Method: Semi-structured interviews with a sample of 20 educators from a higher education institution in Australia were held. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was applied to explore participants’ experiences of emotional labour. Findings: The analysis indicated that educators performed emotional labour by creating socioemotional presence through professionalism–demonstrated through emotions such as empathy, concern and friendliness; suppressing their emotions during text-based interpersonal communication; and expressing their emotions through word tone and vocal cues. Findings also identified that challenges encountered by educators in efforts at managing and regulating emotions may create tensions that have negative impacts on educator wellbeing. Conclusions: This exploratory study extends understanding of how emotional labour is performed in an online learning environment. It highlights three important implications: first, emotional labour and its potential impacts should be considered within institutional structures and inform decisions about how to offer targeted support to online educators; second, staff development interventions should acknowledge that online learning environments involve emotional labour that may differ in nuanced ways from physical face-to-face teaching and ensure that appropriate coping strategies are discussed and shared; third, there is a need for emotional labour to be regarded as a purposeful strategy in online learning design.



Access Rights