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Where does work belong anymore? The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on working in the UK

The Covid-19 outbreak has forced companies to embrace home-based working (HBW) at such speed that they have had little opportunity to consider the impact on their workers. It can be argued that the crisis has led to the most significant, intensive social experiment of digital, HBW that has ever occurred. The current situation, which involves the whole household being based at home, is an unprecedented challenge which may be at least an intermittent fixture, for the next eighteen months (BBC Futures, 25/03/20). The press have suggested that this revolution "might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility. Many employees for companies who have sent all staff home are already starting to question why they had to go into the office in the first place" (The Guardian, 13/02/20). These optimistic takes on the current patterns of work focus on HBW's emancipatory potential, offering flexibility, the lubrication of work and family responsibilities and the promise of increased productivity. Yet, this new world order, where the home becomes a multi-occupational, multi-person workplace and school, not only challenges boundaries but also conceptions of the domestic space. The impact of homeworking is likely to present significant variation depending on organisational support, the worker's role, socio-economic status, employment status, as well as household composition and size of living space. There are significant concerns regarding intensified HBW, including poor work-life balance, enhanced domestic tensions and disproportionately negative impacts on those in lower socio-economic groupings. Moreover, HBW increases the proportion of time women (most often) spend on housework and childcare, reproducing and reinforcing gender roles within the new 'work-space' We will examine in-depth this radical shift in working arrangements and how it impacts on the wellbeing and productivity of workers and their households. Using a combination of in-depth interviews with sixty participants, representing the spectrum of this novel group of homeworkers, as well as a large-scale survey, this project (Working@Home) will provide unrivalled insights into the experience of home-working for the UK population and will serve as a permanent record of the lives of citizens in this unprecedented time. The research will be key in understanding the expectations that organisations have placed on workers, as well as the robustness of support systems that have been put in place, taking into account the rapid advancement of home working systems with almost no preparation and only limited existing support structures or expertise. The findings will provide a benchmark for the resilience of both individuals and businesses and demonstrate the potential for the robustness of the infrastructure in the return to a 'new normal' after the crisis. In order to ensure that the findings from the project are accessible to all, we are developing a website ( that will host up to date information on the progress of the project, details of the project team, guidance for participants as well as information regarding our webinar series. The project aims to produce guidance to individuals, organisations and policy makers on how to best manage the ongoing medical emergency from a home-working perspective as well as providing guidance for any future pandemic scenario.

Lead investigator:

Abigail Marks


University of Stirling

Primary topic:

Jobs, work, pay & benefits

Secondary topic:

Inequality & poverty

Region of data collection:


Country of data collection


Status of data collection


Type of data being collected:

Survey (other/unclear)

Unit of real-time data collection