Catalina Alvarez is Conducting the First Occupational Psychology Study on Autonomous Motivation and Burnout in the WordPress Community

photo credit: WDnet Studio

While attending WordCamp Europe I met Catalina Alvarez, a Master’s degree student at Paris 8 University, who is studying Occupational Psychology and Human Resources. She is in the process of writing her thesis about WordPress community health, with a focus on “autonomous motivation as a moderator in the Demands-Burnout relationship.”

Alvarez is conducting a survey as part of her research and is inviting anyone in the WordPress community who has contributed, whether to code or community projects, to participate. One of the theories she is testing is that burnout is not the consequence of the demands of one’s work but rather the consequence of long periods of stress. She is also testing to see if autonomous motivation (when you do things because you are passionate about them) can reduce burnout and if external motivation contributes to burnout.

The survey takes approximately 5-10 minutes and will close on July 5, 2017. Alvarez plans to share her results with the community and will need at least 250 respondents to make any meaningful conclusions.

Check out our video interview below to find out more details and background on the study.

11 Comments


  1. I did the survey, Sarah. Without your post, I wouldn’t have found it. It’s nice to see someone (Catalina) who is not trying to profit from the WP community’s mental health issues but trying to explore them more deeply and formally.

    For those considering taking the survey, the questions are quite interesting. It takes literally five minutes or less if you work quickly.

    I hope the results will be posted at WP Tavern when they are ready.

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    1. Hi Alec,

      Thank you for having answered the survey and giving your opinion!

      When I have everything ready in a few months, I will inform the WordPress Community and find the best way to publish the results :)

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      1. Wonderful, Catalina. WP Tavern is a great path to reach a wide WordPress audience as there is much less promotional content than most other WordPress news sites.

        Even without seeing the results, the questions are a great way for someone to measure his or her own relationship to WordPress and the community and his/her work. It turns out I’m more committed to open source and WordPress (as a tool to democratise publishing and build a better world rather than for direct commercial gain) than I thought.

        Overall I’m not as morose about my work as it sometimes feels in the dark moments.

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      2. Thank you, Alec! That is nice to hear :)

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  2. Took the survey but notice a surprising flaw: you assume people work in an office and go home after work. I’ll wager the majority of those invovled with WP work at home or perhaps in a so-called “third-place” such as a co-working facility, coffee shop, etc.

    If you could modify your questionairre with that in mind and parse your results between office workers and remote workers, employees vs the self-employed it would be VERY valuable.

    If it’s not too late, we’d be happy to help your efforts, or perhaps we could help you field another survey for just that purpose.

    The null hypothesis is that there is no difference between people who work from home and than those who work in an office.

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    1. Interesting point, Tom. I had to answer as an employee as there was no option for head of agency or proprietor (I don’t the the CEO term is suitable for companies with less than a hundred and fifty employees).

      Unlike many WordPress companies (Automattic, Human Made), FV is not distributed. We work mainly in a single location and really appreciate the camaraderie of a place to be together and create and work. We like seeing each other in person every day. Remote clients is enough virtual time for us. I imagine remote workers might sample quite differently on many of the questions. But differences between remote and in-office workers might be the focus of another study.

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  3. Hello Tom and Alec,

    Yes, you are right, and you highlight a very important point. The explanation of why that part of the survey, which deals with the interference of work and private life is done in such a way, is simply a matter of rigor. In order to carry out scientific research it is necessary to use questionnaires that have previously been scientifically validated and have undergone a rigorous process of permanent construction and evaluation, in order to have high levels of validity and reliability. At this point, this scale is one of the most widely used scales for measuring interference between work and private life (Work Interaction Home Nijmegen (SWING) Geurts et al., 2005).

    The scales used are not my own, because in order to do that, I should have made a first test block inside the WordPress community to validate them and, believe me, very few people would have accepted to do several tests and accept to participate in the study at the end. For example, one of the tweets about the study had an impact of 5,455 people who saw it, but to date I do not have the number of participants needed to start working on the results (minimum 200-250 people) A little discouraging isn’t it?

    On the other hand, what I intend to measure is the personal work-life interaction and its impact on burnout, regardless of whether it is remote work or not (although initially my idea was to work on remote work). Obviously I agree with you that it would have been much more accurate to ask the questions bearing in mind that the majority of the WordPress community works remotely, but it is again the same problem of modifying and having to re-validate the questionnaire for the reliability of a scale. Reliability refers to the stability of the measurement over time.

    For these reasons I decided to use questionnaires that had already been validated under the theoretical framework that I am using. Although not the most accurate for now, the idea is to open the door to research (there are already several researchers interested in the subject).

    I hope I have been able to help. Unfortunately it is impossible for me to change the questions at this point, since it has been very difficult to get people to participate in the study, but I really hope that this small first step will start to improve mental health and well-being in these fields of open source and remote work.

    Thank you so much for your participation and your opinions! It is really helpful! <3

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    1. We certainly agree and understand about the issue of validated questionnaires, and congratulate you on your rigor. We’re astounded by the workplace survey results we see with a population of 35 and questions that were obviously slanted toward a preconceived finding. Our offer stands, in any case; if there’s anything we can do to help, let us know. I’ve racked my brain trying to find a way to encourage your audience to participate but can’t imagine anyone better suited to get the word out than Automattic.

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      1. Oh thank you very much, Tom!
        In fact I was able to speak (very quickly) with Matt Mullenweg at the WCEU after his interview to let him know about my research project. He seemed quite interested and told me to send him the link for the survey.

        Thank you for your understanding, efforts and good wishes!

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  4. Great survey. it was quite a pleasure to participate.
    Hope it will help your own work, as well as all WordPress community.

    Um abraço desde Portugal.

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    1. Thank you so much for participating, Victor!
      Of course, your participation it’s very helpful and valuable! Thank you for your time and willingness to participate in this study!

      Un abrazo desde España :)

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