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Study finds mothers thrive when working from home

October 10, 2020 Business News No Comments Email Email

People generally think of flexible working arrangements in terms of flexible hours, especially part-time work for parents, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed this, and flexibility around the location of work may be as important or more important than flexibility of hours.

That’s according to a study by CQUniversity work and employment researcher Linda Colley in collaboration with Dr Sue Williamson, UNSW Canberra and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) – who surveyed 6000 employees and managers in the Australian Public Service (APS) to understand staff management and employee experiences during COVID-19.

The results showed almost two-thirds of employees believed they were more productive working from home during the pandemic, which Associate Professor Colley acknowledged was a positive outcome for working parents.

“This was particularly the case for women with children aged from 5-17 years old, which is a surprising result and contrary to emerging research.

“Around one-sixth of respondents also told us that working from home enabled them to increase their part-time hours. This may indicate that working from home might lessen the need for women to work part-time just to manage their work and caring responsibilities,” she said.

The researchers also found that women adapted more easily to working from home than their male counterparts.

“More men than women told us they were less able to undertake the relational aspects of their job such as networking, mentoring others, and maintaining professional networks. This might indicate men are not as good at reaching out when working from home,” Assoc Prof Colly explained.

“This is also supported by findings showing female managers were more likely to hold additional meetings (62% women; 57% men) or to hold social meetings (39% women, 30% men) with their teams during the pandemic.”

Dr Williamson said that the pandemic has begun to change the traditional working models and expectations of businesses across Australia.

“The nature of flexible working is changing before our very eyes. For decades, the focus has been primarily on flexible working hours – now it seems location is just as important – if not more so.

“Organisational policies may be lagging behind practices, but managerial resistance has been overcome with some managers were implementing working from home policies that will accommodate families.”

While there is still room for improvement, Associate Professor Colley said the personal benefits, including less commuting time, more time with family and for caring responsibilities were large benefits for families.

“If working from home is going to be the ‘new normal’ for some families better infrastructure, an increased focus on workplace health and safety, particularly regarding long working hours; and an improved focus on maintaining relationships and professional networks is required.

“In our newly published report, we provide a range of tips to help organisations facilitate working from home in areas such as workplace health and safety, working hours, professional development and human resources policies.”

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