The Intersectional Gendered Impacts of Hybrid Work in the Post COVID‑19 Economy

Kaplan, Sarah | $28,228

Ontario University of Toronto 2021 SSHRC

The Intersectional Gendered Impacts of Hybrid Work in the Post COVID‑19 Economy

Summary of proposal

The COVID‑19 pandemic has changed the way people across Canada work. With the onset of lockdown and quarantining measures, many workplaces were forced to shift to remote or more flexible work models. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 only 4% of employees aged 14-69 worked most of their hours at home; in 2021, this figure had increased to 32%. Recent research suggests that hybrid, remote, and other flexible work models will continue in many sectors even after the pandemic (Brookfield Institute 2021).

The impacts of this shift are not yet fully known, especially in the context of an emerging asocial society where loneliness, isolation, and other mental health issues were prevalent even prior to the pandemic. Because the pandemic has had disproportionate economic and health (including mental health) impacts on groups already facing inequity, such as women and gender-diverse people and racialized, Indigenous, and low-income populations, the impacts of hybrid, remote and flexible work on these groups are particularly important to understand. On the one hand, research suggests that these work models may reduce stress that working caregivers—who tend to be women—face, because they can more easily navigate school schedules, appointments, and other family needs (Chung and van der Horst 2017). On the other hand, hybrid and remote work may exacerbate inequality and poor emotional and physical well-being. Research has found that when women make formal flexible work arrangements, they may face career penalties through reduced access to informal social networks at work and through perceived lower work performance (Reid 2015). Working at home can also cultivate feelings of social isolation and loneliness, and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life that could in fact increase stress, especially for caregivers (Wang et al 2021). Questions then arise as to what organizational leaders and society can do to facilitate more inclusive, equitable and healthy workplaces with the rapid increase in hybrid work.

The proposed project has two objectives. First, we will conduct a systematic literature review of recent academic and policy research on the intersectional gendered impacts of hybrid work, with a focus on 1) worker health and wellbeing and 2) worker career opportunities and economic outcomes. The findings will be synthesized into a publicly available report. Second, we will use the findings from this synthesis to create and disseminate actionable recommendations for public and private sector leaders as Canada moves into a post-COVID economy where hybrid work continues to be widespread. The report will be distributed through the Institute for Gender and the Economy’s (GATE), the Rotman School’s and the University of Toronto’s social media and public communications channels. To facilitate knowledge translation and student involvement, the project team will produce an animated video that will illustrate key concepts of the report and will host a case competition for business students on the topic. The project’s short-term outcomes will be: 1) Enriched public discourse of the intersectional gendered impacts of hybrid work models, 2) Refined insights for current and future organization leaders to improve their policies and strategies for more equitable workplace structures, 3) Augmentation of GATE’s knowledge mobilization activities on gender-equitable policies in the recovery economy, and 4) An evidence-based resource for academics on the

intersectional gendered impacts of hybrid work.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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