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Blog Aletta's Talent Network: More than a Temporary Measure: Home-based Work and its Positive Impact on us

Datum:30 juli 2021
Shuye Yu
Shuye Yu

Shuye Yu, PhD candidate at the Faculty of Economic and Business, UG.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, home-based work has been a norm for many companies and jobs. Employees from some tech giants, including Facebook and Twitter, are even entitled to working from home permanently after this pandemic. This fact seems to imply that home-based work not only is a temporary measure for the current pandemic but also will be a common working arrangement in the future. Therefore, this working regime is focused on by my PhD research, especially the impact of home-based work on health-related well-being.   

I. Home-based work as a typical form of flexible employment

Nowadays, we are in a transition from the industrial age to the post-industrial age. The typical working-time regime in the industrial era, such as 8 hours per day and 5 days per week, is harmful to work-life balance. The increasing demand for work-life balance thus leads to the emergence of flexible employment that emphasises employees’ autonomy in their working arrangements. Home-based work is one of the typical forms of flexible employment that enables employees to decide their workplace (e.g., working from home).  

Although most of us did not work from home until this pandemic, home-based work has been rising since the 1990s. Some labour market policies, such as a flexible working arrangement, entered into effect in many developed countries, which guarantees employees’ rights to request a change in their workplace. Consequently, employees in these countries actively respond to the policy change. For example, nearly 20% of the employees in Australia have requested flexible employment since the new policy became active.

II. Home-based work in the transition into parenthood

Substantial studies have found parenting leads to a drop in parental life satisfaction because of the increasing time stress and financial difficulties.   Working parents’ well-being is especially vulnerable as they need to reconcile their childcare tasks and paid work.

A recent working paper by Agnieszka Postepska and me examines whether flexible employment can mitigate the decline in parental life satisfaction during the early years of parenthood. We find that fathers working from home show greater life satisfaction in the first two years of children’s life compared to fathers under fixed employment. This result suggests that home-based work is an effective tool to alleviate the decline in fathers’ life satisfaction. Usually, home-based work does not require an employee to reduce weekly working hours. Considering the typical intra-household allocation between a couple, we think home-based work can help fathers maintain relatively long working hours while sharing some domestic works, especially when children are 1-2 years old, corresponding to mothers’ end of parental leave.

III. Home-based work after a Health Shock

Home-based work is also a feasible option for employees who experience a recent health shock, defined as a sudden decline in one’s health (e.g., a severe injury or an acute disease). Such a health shock negatively impacts various labour market outcomes, including labour market participation and working hours. In response, employees take adaptive behaviours in the labour market to mitigate the negative impact of a health shock. One of my PhD projects studies whether home-based work is a feasible adaptive behaviour using data from Australia.

My study shows that a health shock increases female employees’ uptake of home-based work by 3%-5%, which amounts to 20% relative to the average home-based work among female employees in Australia. Furthermore, looking at the outcomes in the next five years after a health shock, I find that women working from home at the occurrence of this shock have a higher employment rate and higher household income compared to those not working from home. These long-term benefits in the labour market can explain why female employees tend to choose home-based work in response to a health shock.

Despite these advantages, flexible jobs allowing home-based work is still considered inferior to ‘normal jobs’ in many societies. I hope the experience of working from home in the COVID-19 crisis can reduce such a biased view. More working opportunities with workplace flexibility should be created to improve employees’ health-related well-being. More people who can benefit from home-based work will request this arrangement without any negative thoughts on home-based jobs.