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New survey explores gender differences in UK HE staff experiences of remote working

25 Feb 2021 | A Aldercotte, E Pugh, N Codiroli Mcmaster, J Kitsell Amanda Aldercotte, Head of Knowledge and Research, introduces our new survey exploring factors related to staff experiences of remote working, and in particular, their experiences of remote working beyond the period of the first national lockdown in the UK

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant shift in how we work and engage with our colleagues, students and stakeholders. In October 2020, Advance HE launched a survey for staff working in UK higher education to explore their experiences of remote working (i.e. working from home, a different household, and when open, public spaces), and whether there were significant differences in the experiences reported amongst different groups of staff (e.g. across individual protected characteristics and their intersections) and across various levels of support from HE institutions.

This report represents an initial investigation of these experiences and how these differ by gender, as well as compared with previous research on the impact of Covid-19 during the first national lockdown in March 2020.

Overall, the survey identified significant changes in the ways that UK HE staff are working with regards to the opportunities presented by remote working, and their overall adaptation and productivity levels since Covid-19 restrictions came into place. Specifically, staff working in UK HE reported that working remotely had helped them engage with their:

  • Administrative work
  • Departmental meetings
  • Internal and external committee meetings
  • Conferences
  • Career development activities

These opportunities varied by gender, with women being more likely than men to say that remote working had allowed them to attend more conferences and take on more career development activities, while men were more likely to report that remote working had helped them engage with their research and teaching.

Beyond these opportunities, although respondents felt that it had been relatively easy to adapt to remote working in general, men found it easier than women on average. This gender difference in men and women’s experiences remained significant even when other factors (such as respondents’ ratings of their institution’s support and effectiveness, and other identity characteristics including childcare responsibilities, age, ethnicity, and disability) were taken into account.

Finally, while there was an initial difference in men and women’s ratings of productivity since the first national lockdown in March 2020 (with women being slightly more likely to say that their productivity had increased since the shift to working remotely), this difference was mitigated by other factors, such as the support and communication received from respondents’ individual institutions and respondents’ access to sufficient workspace. Taken together, these results implicate context (both in respondents’ immediate surroundings and within their institutions) as playing a particularly important role in dictating the impact of remote working.

A total of 1,310 members of UK HE staff responded to the survey. Overall, the sample covered 125 UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). With regards to HEI location, 90.5% of respondents were currently employed at an English HEI (excluding London, which represented 2.2% of the sample). An additional 5.4% and 1.9% of respondents were based in Scotland and Wales, respectively. More detail is available in the full report .

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