Project looks at impact of working from home

A project led by Newcastle University is helping to understand how the shift to full-time home-based working is impacting the relationship between work and home life.

Domestic tensions
Led by Professor Abigail Marks, of Newcastle University Business School, the Working@Home project is looking at how working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic varies across socio-economic groups, the role it may play in enforcing negative gender roles, and how domestic tensions fuelled by social distancing and employment insecurities have been heightened.

The research team, which also involves the universities of Edinburgh and Stirling, want to look at whether people have space at home to effectively undertake their job, if the shift to home-based working has impacted on their productivity and wellbeing, and the extent to which people are being supported by their employer while working from home.

Alongside looking at changes in wellbeing, job security, job satisfaction, productivity, and the social aspects of work, the researchers also wish to identify how the increase in home-based working has shifted consumption and shopping habits.

Professor Marks said: “The pandemic has forced organisations to embrace home-based working at breakneck speed, with little opportunity to consider the impact on workers. Much has been made about the positive possibilities offered by working from home but there are also concerns around it, including poor work-life balance, enhanced domestic tensions, and disproportionately negative impacts on lower socio-economic groups.

“This research will identify how this radical shift in working arrangements is affecting the wellbeing and productivity of workers and their households.”

The UK-wide project – funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Economic and Social Research Council – has been running since May 2020. The research team are still keen to hear from anyone who has started to work from home for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have launched a second online survey on the Working@Home website.

The first wave of research carried out as part of the project highlighted that one in three of respondents (34%) share their home working space, more than a third of respondents (37%) said that household conflicts have increased, and nearly one in four reported that they are doing poorly or very poorly in terms of general health.

A further interim set of results of the research are expected in early 2021, and Professor Marks and the team will share their findings and recommendations widely with organisations, businesses, and SME networks across the UK. The team are also working with government to ensure that their research plays an important role in shaping policy on home-based working and will soon submit expert evidence as part of the House of Lords inquiry into how the rapidly increasing reliance on digital technology, accelerated by the pandemic, may have a long-term impact on our social and economic wellbeing.