COVID-19: Study considers the impact of ‘new’ home working arrangements on wellbeing

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The impact of the unprecedented shift towards full-time home-based work (HBW), brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, is the focus of a major new University of Stirling study.

The £275,000 project – funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Economic and Social Research Council – will investigate the bearing of such radical changes in the structure of work on productivity, wellbeing, and the future relationship between the work and domestic spheres.

Led by Professor Abigail Marks, of Stirling Management School, the Working@Home project team will look at a number of factors, including: how the impact of enforced HBW varies across socio-economic groups; the role it may play in enforcing negative gender roles; and heightened domestic tensions fuelled by social distancing and employment insecurities.

Professor Abigail Marks, of Stirling Management School

Professor Abigail Marks, of Stirling Management School, will lead the new research

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 HBW but there are also concerns around it, including poor work-life balance, enhanced domestic tensions, and disproportionately negative impacts on lower socio-economic groups.

“The current situation, which involves the whole household being based at home for unusually prolonged periods, is an unprecedented challenge that may have to be faced for the foreseeable future. This research aims to identify the key challenges which HBW poses for workers and those they live with, and to develop coping strategies.”

The UK-wide Working@Home research project will involve the team interviewing and tracking 60 participants experiencing a new form of HBW, as well as undertaking a large-scale survey. The project has a dedicated website and will share its findings and recommendations widely with organisations, businesses, and SME networks across the country. Initial findings will be shared from the first week in June.

Professor Marks and the team will work closely with government departments and politicians throughout the project, ensuring that their research plays an important role in shaping guidance on home-based working as the effort against COVID-19 continues.