Drop in productivity working from home during lockdowns: study

04 Nov 2021

A recent study carried out by the University of Cambridge has shown that people working from home during the pandemic have been on average half an hour less productive than if they had been working in an office. Researchers at the university polled 766 people to monitor how they spent their working time during the Covid crisis. The survey took into account a month before the initial lockdown, during the first national lockdown that started on 23 March 2020, and once again during the lockdown in England that began on 6 January 2021. 


Time allocation

The survey respondents had to track how long they spent working, undertaking leisure activities, housework and daily behaviours such as eating and sleeping. The results revealed people spent less time working, whilst time allocated to housework increased. In addition, time allotted to hobbies also rose during lockdowns. 


Different for parents

Parents with children under 11 years of age spent the least time on work-related activities at home, on average seven hours 25 minutes per day before the coronavirus pandemic, declining by 43 minutes during the first nationwide lockdown, and by 32 minutes in the second lockdown, says an Evening Standard report. “In comparison, people not living with young children saw an average decrease of 28 minutes during the first lockdown and 22 minutes between pre-pandemic and the third lockdown,” according to the researchers at the University of Cambridge in their study. 


Changes to work trends

Work patterns also altered during lockdowns, with people opting to work earlier in the morning and later at night. The results showed 20% of people worked more during lockdown three before 08:30 and after 17:30 than before the pandemic. Co-author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, Dr Eileen Tipoe, stated: “It is no surprise that having to do more work outside of typical working hours meant that people were substantially unhappier during the third lockdown.” In addition, Dr Ines Lees from the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Economics commented: "The lockdowns resulted in drastic changes to patterns of time use, disrupting routines and blurring the distinction between work and family life. We have hopefully seen the end of lockdowns, but our study holds lessons for hybrid working, as splitting time between home and office becomes more common. Employers should promote better work-life balance in the post-pandemic world. He added: “This could include limits on emails outside working hours, home-working schedules that suit parents, and options for younger workers left isolated by reduced in-person networking.”