What is it about?

In this study, we examined working from home in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be seen as a test of the potential for working from home in general conditions, as the pandemic revealed the feasibility ceiling for this form of flexible working. Is it still the case that only highly educated and high-status workers are working from home, as found in pre-pandemic studies? Or have employers responded to the unprecedented care needs in the households by allowing those with increased care responsibilities to work remotely? Our study found that occupational characteristics, particularly the gender composition of an occupation, are important predictors of homeworking. Women in occupations where the majority of workers are female are significantly less likely to work from home. Furthermore, our study confirms findings from previous studies: also during COVID-19, it was mainly the highly educated and those in high-level occupations who were able to work from home. In contrast, family constellations and caring responsibilities had almost no influence on the transition to flexible working. This finding holds true even in the situation of school and daycare closures, and parents' extraordinary increase of care responsibilities.

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Why is it important?

Having reached the endemic stage of COVID-19, it has become clear that work from home is here to stay. Our findings should advise policymakers not to leave the right to decide who can work from home to the discretion of employers alone. Our study show that employees in female-dominated occupations, which by definition are predominantly female, were significantly less likely to be offered the opportunity to work from home, even in the extreme situation of a pandemic. Furthermore, it was not those with caring responsibilities who were able to work flexibly, but rather the highly educated.


The potential for working from home is far from exhausted in many affluent Western societies. Many more people would be able to work from home without further restrictions on the quality of their work if their employers allowed it. However, work from home can hardly be seen as a solution to reconciling work and care – our findings showed that those providing care do not have privileged access to working from home.

Lara Minkus
Europa-Universität Flensburg

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The significance of occupations, family responsibilities, and gender for working from home: Lessons from COVID-19, PLoS ONE, June 2022, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266393.
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