A piece in today’s Times by Oliver Moody, in Berlin:
Working from home was supposed to be the great equaliser in the battle of the sexes, freeing up men and women alike to juggle changing nappies with filling out spreadsheets in their dressing gowns and slippers.
In practice, however, the revolution has backfired, according to a German study that suggests that flexible working practices have actually entrenched old-fashioned gender roles.
Fathers granted the liberty to choose when and where they work turn out to shirk on childcare, but put in between two and four extra hours of work each week, the research found. Mothers, on the other hand, tend to be left with a “double burden”, devoting three more hours to looking after their children when they work from home while also feeling compelled to slave away over their laptops for longer.
The paper, published by the Hans Böckler foundation, a think tank with links to German trade unions, also shows that flexitime and working from home do not leave employees better rested or give them any extra leisure time. In fact, the more freedom people have to balance their jobs with the rest of their lives, the harder they work, possibly because they wish to avoid giving colleagues the impression that they spend their days watching Countdown.
Yvonne Lott, the foundation’s expert on gender and working hours, studied survey data on almost 43,000 German mothers and fathers collected between 2003 and 2016. The amount of time the average German woman spends caring for her children has scarcely fallen, from 22.5 hours a week in 2001 to 21 hours in 2016. Men manage a paltry 8.6 hours a week today, compared with 7.3 in 2001.
“Fathers use working from home and self-determined working hours exclusively to put in markedly more time on the job,” Dr Lott wrote.
“When they work from home they work on average for two extra hours a week. With flexitime they even invest a little less time in looking after their children.”
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