Study Finds a Gender Gap in Work Interruptions for Employees Working at Home Due to the Pandemic

A new study by researchers at the University of Washington-Bothell, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Connecticut finds that women employees are facing bigger career challenges than their male colleagues with interruptions to their work-from-home life due to the global pandemic.

The researchers surveyed a large group of employees, across industries, who were working from home in the U.S. The average study participant was 37, worked full-time, had a bachelor’s degree or higher, lived with a spouse or partner, and had children or other dependents at home.

“We found that the burden of interruptions was not shared equally, as women reported higher levels of all types of non-work interruptions, suggesting that women experience more fragmented time than men,’’ said Nora Madjar, an associate professor of management at the University of Connecticut and a co-author of the study. “Even when both partners worked from home, the woman reported more demands related to childcare and household tasks. Women reported more interruptions than men did prior to the pandemic, but this difference has only increased.”

The spike in family-related disruptions while working from home during the pandemic was expected, but women also noted more frequent interruptions from co-workers and supervisors while working from home. The researchers believed this is tied to many women’s willingness to help other colleagues and perhaps a reluctance to set firm boundaries. They recommend corporate executives emphasize emailing, rather than calling, when possible and scheduling project updates, rather than sending random questions throughout the day.

“The shift toward intensive work-from-home has uncovered an important source of gender inequality,’’ Professor Madjar says. “The results of our study provide valuable insights to help understand and improve work experiences not only during the lingering pandemic but also in the future, as remote work becomes the norm long-term for many employees.’’

The full study, “Working From Home During COVID-19: A Study of Interruption Landscape,’’ was published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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