Timely Topic: How Gender, Parental Status Shape Work From Home Experience During the Pandemic



A girl plays in the foreground while their parent works on a computer in the background.

For many, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly blurred the boundaries between work and home life.

A researcher at The University of Texas at Dallas aimed to provide an early window into the challenges and obstacles of working remotely during this unprecedented time.

Dr. Dawn Owens, clinical associate professor of information systems in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, and her colleagues investigated gender differences and parental responsibilities in work-life trade-offs related to home-office conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their research will be presented Dec. 13 at the 1st International Research Workshop on Women IS and Grand Challenges, a virtual event hosted by the Association for Information Systems Women’s Network College.

“The study raises awareness about the challenges of working from home, particularly when there are other family members of various ages also working from home,” said Owens, who studies virtual teams and information technology capabilities. “As we prepare for a new normal going forward, there are several factors organizations should consider as they provide support to remote workers. These include providing sufficient office equipment outside of a computer and offering flexible work time and alternate child care solutions.”

Telecommuting, or teleworking, started as an innovative way to move work to workers instead of workers to work. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses required eligible employees to shift their daily business activities to their homes as a way to control the spread of the disease.

The researchers created a conceptual model using data and comments collected during April and May of 2020 in an online survey of 445 workers required to work remotely.

“As we prepare for a new normal going forward, there are several factors organizations should consider as they provide support to remote workers.”
– Dr. Dawn Owens, clinical associate professor of information systems

Owens said one of the major takeaways of the study is highlighted by this quote from a survey respondent: “It’s not working from home. I can do that. It’s working while at home with kids and my spouse during a pandemic; that’s the problem.”

The findings suggest that females feel they have less control over time compared to their male counterparts, and that gap increases for females with children under the age of 18.

According to the study, females overall experience slightly lower work-from-home conflict than their male counterparts; however, females with children under the age of 18 experience higher work-from-home conflict than their male counterparts.

“The findings tell us that the ability to work from home is influenced by having young children and that there is greater conflict among women,” Owens said. “It is also interesting to learn that many people struggle with having a suitable workspace, something that individuals take for granted at their workplace. The bottom line is that day-to-day routines and responsibilities are altered because workers are forced to work in an environment that is no longer shared with fellow employees, but rather is shared with family members of all ages.”

More research is needed to understand how the physical and conceptual lack of boundaries created by telecommuting affects worker productivity and job performance, Owens said.

Other authors of the study include researchers at Elon University, the University of Potsdam in Germany, and Bentley University.

Owens recently co-wrote another paper that explores how working from home affects academic productivity. It was accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of the journal Communications of the Association for Information Systems.

She currently is working on a third study that examines the differences between management and nonmanagement workers.

–Brittany Magelssen

Note to journalists: Dr. Dawn Owens is available for news media interviews. Contact Brittany Magelssen, 972-883-4357, brittany.hoover@utdallas.edu

Tags: , ,