The hidden costs of work

Lila Skountridaki, Abigail Marks, Oliver Mallett, Danny Zschomler

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

This paper draws on 79 interviews with people working from home during lockdown across a range of jobs and sectors in the UK, to tease out the lived experience of home-based work and the new perspectives retrospectively gained on working from the office. Our findings highlight the significance of what we call ‘work-related’ activities and expenses, which are part of employees’ non-work time, space and income, and have so far been undermind in work-life balance (WLB) debates. We make a distinction between work-related activities and expenses taking place while working at home vs in the office, to reflect on the novel perspectives gained from our participants’ narratives. Despite the hardships of physical/social distancing and adjusting their home-office, most of our interviewees have enjoyed several aspects of home-based work, some often discussed in the WLB literature (e.g. flexible working hours, less commute, increased productivity). Yet, retrospectively, their reflections highlight the hidden costs of work in the office, including the cost of commuting, work-related clothing, lunch and coffees, alongside the time people spent on commuting and their professional appearance on a weekly basis. These widely normalised work-related costs are of increased importance in the current debates about the future of (home) work. Organisations are increasingly considering a shift to full or partial remote work, implying that the hidden costs of homeworking (e.g. electricity, heating, home refurbishments for home offices) should not remain unacknowledged. As the new working arrangements post COVID begin to be negotiated, there is likely to be significant contestation around rights and responsibilities, including the hidden costs of working at home and the office.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021
EventBSA Annual Conference 2021: Remaking the Future - Online
Duration: 13 Apr 202115 Apr 2021

Conference

ConferenceBSA Annual Conference 2021: Remaking the Future
Period13/04/2115/04/21

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