Research

Working from home: good for some but not for others

A comprehensive study on the impact of a COVID-19 lockdown in Europe found that while working from home can lead to improvements to quality of life for some groups, its benefits are not shared by everybody, and it is likely to have a negative impact on productivity.

The study looked at the reported health, wellbeing and productivity of 1,050 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Austria between March and May last year.

The results show that those who worked from home throughout the restriction period were more likely to report an increased quality of life compared with people who were unable to work from home. Working from home for part of the time was also associated with an improved quality of life. However, those working from home were also more likely to report decreased productivity.

The study authors found the ability to work from home was more likely to be available to higher educated males, and the benefits of working from home were not equally distributed among the gender, age and educational attainment cohorts. They found younger and highly educated participants were significantly more likely to report an improved quality of life, as were younger single men and women. However, women taking care of children between six and 16 years old, were more likely have a decreased quality of life compared with women without childcare responsibilities.

The authors say the Austrian results might not be applicable to other populations: "Furthermore, results might not be generalisable to pre- and post-pandemic conditions considering the exceptional characteristics of the first mitigation period in Austria compared to 'normal' times." They say more work will be needed to properly assess the positive and negative repercussions of longer-term working-from-home arrangements, for both employees and employers.

Read more: Jakob Weitzer, et al, Working from home, quality of life, and perceived productivity during the first 50-day COVID-19 mitigation measures in Austria: a cross-sectional study. [Full article] International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, online first April 2021, doi: 10.1007/s00420-021-01692-0. Source: OHS Alert

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