Remote work – review of international research on work environment and health, work–life balance and productivity before and after the COVID-19 pandemic with particular consideration for conditions for women and men

About the report

The pandemic has changed how we organise working life, perhaps forever. The boundaries between working life and private life, as well as between the workplace and the individual’s private sphere have become more elastic. New forms of work, new approaches to leadership and self-leadership among employees, and to the work environment overall are in the process of emerging. As the third report in a series of literature reviews and analyses of the pandemic’s impact on the work environment in Sweden, the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise has produced a new literature review of the work environment, health, work–life balance and productivity with remote work before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, with particular consideration for the conditions of women and men.

Summary

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in early spring 2020, most countries, including Sweden, chose to recommend or require employees for whom doing so was possible to work remotely from home in order to reduce the spread of infection at workplaces, and during commutes to and from workplaces. Working remotely differs in many respects from working at the
employer’s premises. The overall objective of this three-part review has been to compile and increase research-based knowledge of remote work from home.

This review encompasses research literature in three areas:

  • work environment and health
  • work–life balance
  • productivity.

In the analyses, we have therefore focused in particular on similarities and differences in the conditions for men and women regarding paid work at home. Additional aims were to investigate and draw conclusions about remote work from home during the period before and during the pandemic, respectively.

The first part is a review of research reviews of remote work before the pandemic (published 2005–2021), while the second part is a review of original studies of remote work from home during the pandemic (2020– 2021). Part three comments on and summarises the material presented in parts one and two. The main purpose of the division into before and after is that remote work before the pandemic was primarily voluntary and planned, while remote work from home during the pandemic was unexpected, with minimal planning, and more or less forced.

The review has been limited to remote work from home conducted by employees through an internet connection.

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  • Date

    April 8, 2022