Working from home can increase work-family conflict for women in traditional gender roles

Olivia Miller
Picture by Pexels

New research by Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) has found that working from home can increase feelings that family responsibilities hinder work responsibilities, but only for women in traditional gender roles.

Despite its advantages, such as less commuting and more flexibility, the study published in the journal Community, Work and Family discovered that working from home can increase rather than decrease feelings that work and family demands conflict with one another.

The research was carried out by Professor Heejung Chung (SSPSSR) with Professor Deniz Yucel based at William Paterson University, USA. Professor Chung’s previous work has shown that working from home may result in a more traditional division of labour as women are more likely to increase the time they spend on housework and childcare, while men are likely to increase their working hours.

This new study suggests that it may especially be among women with a more traditional view of gender roles that increase their housework and childcare when working from home, which explains why their homeworking is more likely to result in feeling that family demands conflict with work demands.

The study also shows that working from home can increase the feeling that work conflicts with family life, especially among women with a more egalitarian gender role attitude. On the contrary, working from home was found to reduce work-family conflict for men. The researchers suggest that this could be due to men traditionally sharing less of the housework and family-related activities or due to the differences in their work-family ideals compared to women. The researchers utilised the German Family Panel (pairfam) to reach their conclusions.

Professor Chung said: ‘This study highlights the importance of gender role attitudes in shaping the consequences of working from home, including what it can mean for workers’ work-life balance and gender equality. Future research is needed in this area to better identify the key challenges faced by flexible workers, especially with home working more widespread since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.’

The research paper titled ‘Working from home, work–family conflict, and the role of gender and gender role attitudes’ is published by Community, Work and Family. DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2021.1993138