Research reveals working at home may be more beneficial for husbands than their wives.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in more ways than one and some changes stuck. An American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2022 estimated that the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021. This also means that the dynamic between employer and employee, and even husband and wife ,changed significantly and in unexpected ways. A research study led by Jasmine Hu, a professor of management at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, aiming to explore the changes in the family dynamics between husbands and wives while working from home, found that men and women have vastly differentiated experiences.
The research was carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic in both China and South Korea. The first study included 172 married dual-earner household couples in China’s mainland, with at least one child, and was carried out in April and May of 2020. The second study included 60 married dual-earner household couples in South Korea, with some having children and others without. The research findings were recently published in the Personnel Psychology journal.
Both studies required the participants to complete two surveys daily for a period of 14 consecutive work days. The couples were required to report their work-from-home status and the number of family tasks and at-home duties they carried out and successfully completed. Other measures included work-family conflict, how much guilt, if any, they felt towards their work and families, and their withdrawal from either work or family.
The research explored and found that there were gendered differences in how men and women approached their work and family responsibilities when at home. For instance, when both husband and wife worked from home, wives completed more work tasks when their husbands had flexible schedules. Comparatively, when wives had inflexible work schedules (those offered by working at the office instead of working from home), husbands were able to complete more family tasks while they worked from home.
The study also found that when both husbands and wives worked from home, even with the increased completion of work and family tasks, there was a marked increase in inter-role conflict, feelings of guilt towards work and a psychological withdrawal from work.
Professor Hu suggested, “Managers should form realistic expectations about how much work their remote working employees can effectively handle and show more understanding of the home working situations of dual-earner couples.”
The research results also showed that husbands with flexible work schedules often provided significantly more support for their wives while working from home, enabling them to complete remote job duties. This showed that husbands were better-suited when working from home, in both the completion of their work and their family tasks. Prof. Hu suggested that organizations should offer male employees more flexibility in their work tasks to improve the adaptability of the family to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 forever changes how we work. Remote working is going to become much more of a norm,” noted Prof. Hu. “People have really gotten used to the benefit of working from home and many won’t want to go back to the office full time.”