Rutgers researchers: Job Satisfaction, Productivity Rise for Working Parents during COVID-19

As dads take on more childcare and chores, both parents do better in their jobs.

Juggling diaper changes and Zoom meetings might be a good combination for some Americans. A new survey by researchers at Rutgers University reveals that working parents are happier with their job, and they are getting more done, than people without children. Researchers attribute the surprising results to a sharp increase in the number of men helping with childcare and housework during the pandemic.

“We found that men’s increased contributions at home have a positive influence on women’s job satisfaction and productivity,” said Kristina Durante, director of research at the Center for Women in Business at Rutgers Business School. “When dads play a bigger role in childcare and doing routine housework, it puts both parents in a better position to succeed at work.”

Rutgers researchers conducted a national online survey of more than 1,500 working adults, including 920 living with a partner of the opposite gender, between April 29 and May 15. They found that both men and women are doing more unpaid labor while working from home.

  • Childcare: Before the pandemic, 15% of men provided active childcare for at least five hours a day. That number nearly doubled to 29% in lockdown.
  • Housework: Only 11% of men used to spend more than five hours a day on household chores. Now, 20% of men are cooking and cleaning regularly.
  • Impact: Though women are still doing more childcare and housework overall, researchers believe men’s increased contributions are making a big difference in both parents’ success at work—particularly for women.
  • Job Satisfaction: Working parents are liking their job more. 24% reported an increase in job satisfaction, compared to 13% of workers without children at home.
  • Job Productivity: 30% of working parents reported an increase in productivity during the pandemic, compared to 21% of workers without children at home.

“The implications of these results are encouraging for the future of work,” said Yana Rodgers, faculty director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. “With more fathers engaged in caring labor, the social norms around an ideal worker may change and de-stigmatize the implicit bias that limits women’s opportunities for career advancement.”

Galvanized by the findings, researchers are hoping to create momentum for change in the workplace with these recommendations:

  • Senior managers should create internal messaging, targeted to employees, that voices their support for family and sick leave programs. Mangers should mention that they, too, have experienced the strain of work-life overlap during the pandemic
  • Managers at the highest levels should act as role models by using leave programs themselves. This can help to end the stigma around family-friendly policies.
  • Firms should encourage employees to take advantage of employee resource groups (ERGs) and business resource groups (BRGs). Men can be part of the conversation and the solution by taking part in women’s groups.
  • Firms should encourage their partners and suppliers to create similar practices to support their workers.
  • The federal government should adopt legislation that values care work.

The survey results appear in a working paper drafted by the Center for Women in Business at Rutgers Business School (RBS) and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR). The working paper is co-authored by Durante (RBS), Rodgers (SMLR), Lisa Kaplowitz (RBS), Elaine Zundl (SMLR), and Sevincgul Ulu (New Jersey City University) and is available upon request.


About the Schools

Rutgers Business School is committed to developing women leaders for tomorrow’s evolving workforce. The Center for Women in Business works in partnership with businesses and organizations to support and fulfill this vision. Through education, opportunities, and thought leadership, the Center removes barriers, builds community, and empowers women to succeed as business leaders.

The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) is the world’s leading source of expertise on managing and representing workers, designing effective organizations, and building strong employment relationships. SMLR’s Center for Women and Work engages in research, education, and programming that promotes economic and social equity for women workers, their families and communities.

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