Digit Debates: Pandemic, Performance and the Pace of Work

9 June 2021



At the point that the UK entered lockdown at the end of March 2020, 42% of the working population began working from home (ONS, 2020).  Very soon after the start of this ‘mass homeworking experiment’, there was a popular discourse arguing that the world of work will never return to pre-pandemic norms. While it is clear that homeworking can be carried out on a large scale – particularly as a result of the rapid advances in the quality and scope of videoconferencing technology and other remote information and communications technology – we should still remain cautious as to the true potential for homeworking.

This talk will report on findings from the Working@Home project (www.workingathome.org.uk) which has followed the experiences of 80 ‘new’ homeworkers throughout the past year. The presentation will also discuss survey data collected from around 1300 participants across the UK on two occasions, again, over the past year. The talk will specifically focus on the impact of homeworking on the pace of work. We argue that now is the time to be looking at new ways of conceptualising work output which not only break away from quantification of activities and time spent working but also from the increasingly dangerous and often false notion of algorithmic accountability.


Abigail Marks is Professor of the Future of Work at Newcastle University Business School. Prior to her appointment at Newcastle Abigail was Professor of Work and Employment and Associate Dean Business Engagement at the University of Stirling. Abigail is currently PI on an ESRC COVID-19 funded project looking at homeworking under pandemic measures.  As well as homeworking, Abigail’s research interests focus on technology, social stratification and work and occupational identity. Abigail has been widely published over her quarter of a century working in universities in journals such as Human Relations, Sociology, Sociological Review and the British Journal of Industrial Relations. Abigail has served on the Expert Advisory Group to the Scottish Government on New Social Security Powers and was an advisor on the 2012 Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy. Over the past year Abigail has provided evidence to the House of Lords and Senedd Cymru on Homeworking.

Related reading

Working@Home project