Weitzer, Jakob; Kyriaki Papantoniou; Stefan Seidel; Gerhard Klosch; Guido Caniglia; Manfred Laubichler; Martin Bertau; Brenda M. Birmann; Carlo C. Jager; Lukas Zenk; Gerald Steiner and Eva Schernhammer

Objectives To explore changes in quality of life and perceived productivity, focusing on the effects of working from home during the first COVID-19 50-day mitigation period in Austria. Methods We conducted an Austrian-representative online survey (N = 1010) of self-reported life- and work-related changes during the first COVID-19 50-day mitigation period (March 16 through May 1 2020) compared to the situation before. We used multinominal logistic regression models to identify correlates of improved/decreased quality of life in the entire sample, and of improved/decreased productivity in a subsample of the working population (N = 686). We also calculated age- and multivariable-adjusted ORs and 95% CIs of an improved/decreased quality of life and an improved/decreased productivity by work from home status. Results During the COVID-19 mitigation period, quality of life improved in 17.5%, but decreased in 20.7% of the general Austrian population; perceived productivity at work increased in 12.7%, but decreased in 30.2% of the working population. Working from home during the mitigation period was associated with an increased quality of life (vs. none, partially: OR 2.07, 95% CI 1.09–3.91; all the time: 3.69, 1.86–7.29). In contrast, perceived productivity seemed to decrease when people worked from home (vs. none, partially: 1.42, 0.86–2.35; all the time: 1.48, 0.85–2.58). Working from home and related benefits were not equally distributed among gender, age, and educational attainment. Conclusions A transition to more flexibility of workplace and working hours for employees could have important positive consequences for family and professional life, for stakeholders, for public health, and ultimately for the environment.