Husbands slack off on chores when their wives are working from home, a study has found.
Women do more of the jobs around the house when both people are working remotely, data show, and men only pick up their work rate when their wife goes to the office.
Scientists found that both partners in a marriage do more household tasks when they have flexible working schedules compared to when they schlep into the office every day.
However, husbands were found to do fewer chores on days when their wife worked from home compared to when she was working in the office.
Women, however, did just as much housework irrespective of where their husband was working on any given day.
‘There are still some gendered differences’
Two studies during the pandemic saw 165 Chinese couples and 57 Korean pairs fill in a daily log of how much household work they had done and what their work day looked like.
“The two studies provide converging results that working from home (vs. office) increased employees’ family task completion for both husbands and wives and that wives working from home (vs. office) decreased husbands’ family task completion,” the scientists write in their study, published in the journal Personnel Psychology.
“We found that men and women don’t have the same experience working from home,” explained Jasmine Hu, lead author of the study and professor of management at The Ohio State University.
“There are still some gendered differences in how they manage their job and family responsibilities.”
The findings also revealed that, when a husband was working from home, wives completed more domestic duties when she was also working from home compared to when she was in the office.
When women were unable to work from home and had to go into work every day it was seen that men then did pick up the slack and did more chores.
‘Husbands could help their remote working wives’
The issue is not an inability of men to do the tasks, but that men inexplicably opted not to do as much work when their wives were also at home with them, leaving the women to shoulder more of the burden.
The study seems to suggest that working from home has further exacerbated the gender divide by increasing the burden on women while making life easier for men.
“These findings suggest that husbands could help remote working wives when they have more flexible work schedules and do more family tasks when their wives have more rigid work schedules,” Prof Hu said.
The study also found signs that when both parts of a matrimonial dyad are cooped up and working from home together it leads to conflict.
Arguments occurred over who was, or was not, pulling their own weight and employees also felt guilty that because they were spending work hours doing chores they were less engaged in their work.
“Managers should form realistic expectations about how much work their remote working employees can effectively handle and show more understanding of the home working situations of dual-earner couples,” Prof Hu said.
The academic said the results suggest husbands with flexibility in scheduling work time can provide more support for their wives.
“Organisations and managers should give their male employees more flexibility when possible so they and their families can better adapt to crises like the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added.
“Covid-19 forever changed how we work. Remote working is going to become much more of a norm. People have really gotten used to the benefit of working from home and many won’t want to go back to the office full time.
“[Hybrid working] will allow employees to have the flexibility they get from working at home, while also having the opportunity to interact more with colleagues at the office, which can increase collaboration and inspire creativity and innovation.”
‘Men don’t see mess in the same way’
A recent study from the University of Cambridge found that women do most of the chores around the home because men do not see mess in the same way.
While men will look at a pile of dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter as a mess, women view it as a job in need of doing and feel an urge to do so, according to philosophers.
They believe this comes from deep-rooted social training which wires the brains of men and women differently from a young age.
Females are instilled with an instinctive urge to tidy if they see clutter, whereas men never get this compulsion and are therefore able to look at a pile of laundry in a messy room without feeling a need to fix it.