Original Research

Keeping nurses engaged during COVID-19: An i-deal perspective

Precious Ngobeni, Nelesh Dhanpat
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 48 | a1971 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v48i0.1971 | © 2022 Precious Ngobeni, Nelesh Dhanpat | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 November 2021 | Published: 28 October 2022

About the author(s)

Precious Ngobeni, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nelesh Dhanpat, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted all job sectors. Arguably, the hardest hit were healthcare institutions. Nurses are at the front line, and it is known that the pandemic added pressure to the way nurses performed their duties. Their working schedules became more complex, including longer hours, as nurses dealt with high rates of COVID-19 cases while still dealing with other healthcare issues.

Research purpose: The study aimed to establish the relationship between idiosyncratic deals (i-deals) and work engagement of nurses. The study focused on these three types of i-deals - task, flexibility and career. It investigated which i-deals best predict work engagement among nurses.

Motivation for the study: There is a need to understand the work arrangements of nurses during the pandemic through i-deals. Although research on idiosyncratic deals has become popular in international research, there is scant research within the South African context.

Research approach/design and method: The sample consisted of 220 nurses working in three private hospitals in Gauteng, South Africa. Inferential statistics and regression analysis were used to achieve the research objectives.

Main findings: The study’s findings revealed a correlation between the three types of i-deals and work engagement. However, only task and flexibility i-deals predicted work engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic added pressure to the healthcare industry and to nurses’ challenges. The pandemic highlighted the importance of having an engaged nursing workforce. Thus, recommendations and suggestions for nurses, nursing managers and human resource managers are provided.

Practical/managerial implications: The concept of i-deals is a reasonably new phenomenon within HR practices, and there is no empirical research within the South African context.

Contribution/value-add: The study adds value by providing insight into customised work arrangements, from an i-deal perspective, during a much appropriate time and urgently needed for nurses.


COVID-19; nurses; i-deals; work engagement; customised work arrangements; private hospitals


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Crossref Citations

1. Updating Factors Influencing Nurse Work Engagement in the Hospital Settings: A Systematic Review
Yupin Aungsuroch, Joko Gunawan, I Gede Juanamasta, Jed Montayre
Journal of Healthcare Leadership  vol: Volume 16  first page: 157  year: 2024  
doi: 10.2147/JHL.S451056