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Mental health of parents with children in final years of primary school ‘most impaired’ by homeworking during the pandemic

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The mental health of parents with children in the final years of primary school was “most impaired” by homeworking during the pandemic, it has been revealed.

A UCD study to be presented at a conference today finds the effects of homeworking varied across parents with children of different ages.

A graph in the report shows 42pc of those with children between eight and 12 in “late stage primary” reported that their mental health was impaired while working from home.

This compares with 29pc of those with infants between one and three, 33pc of those with children in the early years of primary school and 31pc of parents with children aged 13 to 18.

“In terms of occupational cohorts, those working in professional and associated professional occupations were more likely to report an impairment in their mental health and wellbeing,” says the UCD Working in Ireland Survey by Professor John Geary and Dr Maria Belizón.

“Income tended not to be as important in revealing diverging trends.

“Finally, and interestingly, we identified different effects across parents with children of different ages.

“The mental health and well-being of parents of children attending late stage primary school were most impaired.”

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The report says over 23pc of the workforce worked exclusively from home between March 2020 and March last year.

Another 9.5pc worked mostly at home, 11pc worked between four and eight months, 6pc between one and three months and 4pc less than a month.

The UCD report to be presented at the 10th Annual NERI Labour Market Conference finds working at home is associated with an increase in employees’ productivity.

This is due to workers being able to concentrate better and having more time to work as they did not need to commute.

“It is also the case that these factors were fused with increased effort levels,” it said.

However, it says this “intensification of employees’ effort levels” is associated with an increase in stress, an inability to disconnect from work, and diminished health and well-being.

The report says this intensification of effort levels was particularly pronounced among women workers.

“The effects on women’s health are particularly stark: 43pc reported an impairment in their mental health and well-being, in comparison to almost a third of men, which is also not an inconsiderable proportion,” it said.

“Women were also more likely to report that their physical health had deteriorated as had their relationship with those whom they lived.”

The report says most employees back a hybrid form of working, with little over a third expressing a preference for returning to the workplace all or most of the time.

It says the longer employees remained working at home, the more likely they are to prefer a hybrid approach in the future.

Workers who reported the lowest levels of productivity had the strongest desire to return to the office when restrictions lifted.

“Those workers who indicated a clear and equivocal preference for returning to the workplace on a fulltime basis once all social restrictions were lifted included those who felt obliged to remain always connected to their work outside normal working hours, those who had experienced impaired mental health and wellbeing, and those whose relations with the people they lived with had deteriorated while they were engaged in homeworking,” it said.

It said people living in cities and commuter belts had a stronger preference for a hybrid approach to work than those in rural areas.

The report says remote working is one of the most significant, if not the most significant, challenge confronting employers and is potentially momentous in its consequences for the organisation and management of work.


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