Working from home during COVID-19: What does this mean for the ideal worker norm?

Sue Williamson, Helen Taylor, Vindhya Weeratunga

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The ideal worker norm is associated with specific ways of working. The ideal worker is a man who works long hours, is constantly available, and highly productive. Emerging research suggests that the shock of COVID-19, which forced millions of employees to work from home, may have been powerful enough to disrupt the ideal worker norm. We therefore ask: how did working from home during the pandemic impact the ideal worker norm? We apply Acker's ideal worker norm to determine whether different groups of women employees who worked from home during the pandemic worked in ways which aligned to the norm. We conduct this analysis through the lens of two modalities of time: being clock time and (feminine) process time. Our examination of how employees experienced time extends existing, yet limited, research focused on time use during the pandemic. We used a mixed-method design to analyze survey data from almost 5000 Australian employees to show that significant proportions of women, women carers, and disabled women worked in a manner aligned more to the ideal worker norm, compared with pre-COVID times. We therefore conclude that a multidimensional ideal worker is emerging and one which works to both clock time and process time. This is an important finding as we seek to better understand how employees can work in a hybrid environment and what this means for organizations and employees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-471
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number2
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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