Understanding Society COVID-19 Survey briefing note: working at home

Publication type

Research Paper


Understanding Society Briefing Notes


Publication date

June 1, 2021


The COVID-19 survey is an integral part of Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). Understanding Society surveys individuals in a nationally representative sample of UK households (the sample also includes ethnic minority boost samples), and follows them every year. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to understand how people’s lives were impacted by it, sample members who were 16 year old or above by April 2020 and had been part of households that had responded recently were invited to take part in this COVID-19 survey. Researchers can link the data from the COVID-19 survey to the answers respondents have given in previous (and future) waves of the annual Understanding Society survey thus allowing a more in-depth look at the impact of the pandemic. The COVID-19 survey is funded by the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Health Foundation.

Aim: Our core aim is to explore how the patterns of working at home (WAH, hereafter) changed during the pandemic. After working at home became the official recommendation of the UK and devolved governments, millions of people switched to this mode of working. Job characteristics as well as family and home circumstances facilitated or hindered WAH. After this experience of “imposed” WAH some individuals may have realised that they prefer it while others concluded the opposite. This could be influenced by personal, household as well as job related factors. So, we ask the following questions: Among those who are in paid employment: 1) By how much did rates of WAH increase during the pandemic? 2) Did this increase vary by important social and economic characteristics such as job-related ones (industry, type of duties in one’s job), household (net income, children in the household, overcrowding, time travelling to work), geographical (country of residence), and individual (gender, ethnicity, and age)? 3) Among those who were WAH during the pandemic, what is their preference to continue to do so after the pandemic? How does this preference vary by job-related, household, geographical and individual characteristics? Please note: WAH is just one of mainly different forms of modern flexible working practices that employers can offer to their workers. Understanding Society’s mainstage survey measures whether employers offer different forms of flexible working and whether employees use any of these.




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