Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i News i News 2021 i Gathering around the kitchen table
Gathering around the kitchen table

Gathering around the kitchen table

| Text: Fayme Alm

The huge increase in remote work during the pandemic became a challenge for families where several people needed a workplace or place to study at home. Surprisingly, the length of people’s ordinary commute and the size of their homes are not factors that impact much on their desire to work from home. Something else means much more.

Few were prepared for the new reality of working from home and no longer going into work. It was something new to try out, and it has had different effects depending on people's situations. 

The Nordic Labour Journal spoke to Stefan Tengblad, business economist and professor in human resource management at the Center for Global HRM at the University of Gothenburg. He is one of three authors of the report "Working from home – flexible work is the new normal". It is based on a survey of 506 randomly chosen people – evenly distributed across genders, geography, age and income – who answer questions about their remote work during the first half of 2020.

Stefan Tengblad

Stefan Tengblad. Photo Erika Holm, Stockholm School of Economics.

67% said they enjoyed working from home. But what about the rest of the respondents? 

Stefan Tengblad: The big group was the 19% who answered “neither”. The remaining 14% included those who, to varying degrees, did not enjoy remote work.  

What problems did those who did not enjoy it face?

Stefan Tengblad: Some felt socially isolated, others struggled with the actual place they had to work in. They lacked the necessary technical tools or a dedicated room at home where they could work without being disturbed.  

What is most important for people’s well-being

What happens when more than one family member must work from home?

Stefan Tengblad: One issue that influenced whether people enjoyed remote work was whether they had children at home and whether they had a quiet atmosphere to work in. Those who did enjoyed working from home more. 

We also saw a correlation between those who had a partner who worked from home. If the partner enjoyed remote work, they themselves enjoyed it and vice versa. If the partner did not enjoy working from home, the other did not either.  

Was any group happier to work from home than others?

Stefan Tengblad: Women aged 30 to 39 were most content according to the survey. This could be because at their age they have a big responsibility for the family, and distance work offered more flexibility.  

Does the survey say anything about which personalities prefer remote work?

Stefan Tengblad: Yes, the survey showed that those with an extrovert personality were more positive about remote working. So too were people with very open personalities. The introverts were not more dissatisfied than others in the group, but an extrovert attitude is linked to job satisfaction and well-being. We don’t know exactly why this is, but other surveys have shown that extroverts handle change pretty easily. It could be that they succeed in using digital technology to create social contacts. 

Did anything in the survey data surprise you?

Stefan Tengblad: Yes, the fact that the size of people’s homes mattered so little for how they handled the situation, just like the distance of the commute. It would seem having a ten-minute or two-hour commute does not matter to how much people enjoy working from home. That was surprising.

Different boundaries can create conflict

So what do previous surveys say about remote work and the problems this can create when several people must gather around the kitchen table?

Aleksandre Asatiani

Aleksandre Asatiani, photo: University of Gothenburg.

Aleksandre Asatiani is a senior lecturer at the Department of Applied IT at the University of Gothenburg. He heads a one-year project on remote work as a sustainable working environment, mapping the past 20 years of research covering this subject. The project is financed by Forte – the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

He has not focussed particularly on the causes of conflicts in relation to remote work, but he has noted some connections. He tells the Nordic Labour Journal:

“Women tend to integrate remote work with family life and in particular child care, when there are children in the house. Men tend to separate remote work and things related to the household and family. When they are actively participating in home activities, they consider themselves to be ‘helping out’ more than integrating two different work arenas.”

As a result, men find it somewhat easier to maintain the boundary between work and home, while this border is weaker for women. 

“It varies between different cultures of course, but you find this trend even in places with high levels of gender equality,” says Aleksandre Asatiani. 

There are now good opportunities for future research on how conflicts between household members might arise when they must work together from home, he observes.

“With the considerable increase in remote work, the future will offer a far bigger data set for such surveys,” says Aleksandre Asatiani. 

Filed under:


According to Statistics Sweden, the number of divorces in Sweden rose only marginally during 2020 – there were just 212 more than the year before. 


More cases of partnership violence were reported to police in 2020, but the increase is due to changes in how police register such violence and are not linked to the pandemic, writes NCK, the National Centre for Knowledge on Men's Violence against Women, with reference to a report from Brå, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.



Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment