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Is Working from Home during COVID-19 Associated with Increased Sports Participation? Contexts of Sports, Sports Location and Socioeconomic Inequality

By 21 February 2023No Comments


Published: August 2022


Previous research has focused mainly on the association between working from home (WFH) and physical activity, establishing that physical activity diminished among people WFH during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our study, we investigated the association between WFH and specifically sports participation (competitive and non-competitive). We theorized that WFH would offer individuals additional opportunities to practice sports during the pandemic. Governmental restrictions at the time constrained opportunities to participate in organized sports and in sports with others. We, therefore, expected sports participation during the pandemic to be largely restricted to individual participation and participation at home or in the public space. By means of descriptive analyses and adjusted analyses of variance (n = 1506), we found positive associations between WFH and various aspects of sports participation. Lower-educated individuals, in particular, seem to be benefiting from WFH related to their sports participation in the public space, and economically deprived individuals also seem to be benefiting from WFH in regard to their sports participation at home. Our findings extend the literature on physical activity and sports participation among people who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic while offering implications for policies on WFH, sports opportunities in public space and physical activity-friendly environments.


To answer our research questions, we collected data between 7 June and 27 July 2021 within the nationwide Dutch LISS panel (for more information about the LISS panel, see (accessed on 17 August 2021)). This panel consists of a representative random sample of approximately 5000 households drawn from Dutch population registers. These households comprised approximately 7500 individuals aged 16 and older. Panel members were questioned monthly on different topics, with core modules repeated each year. To study the impact of WFH on sports participation, we merged the LISS module in which we elicited elaborate information on sports participation in March, April and May of 2021, with general information from the LISS core module on work (collected in April and May 2021). Higher educated respondents were slightly overrepresented in LISS. We therefore weighted our data on educational level, sex and age group to match the distribution of these characteristics in the Netherlands in 2021.

Key Findings

Our findings indicate a positive association between WFH and sports participation, as the prevalence of sports participation in general, individually, at home and in the public space was higher among those who worked from home compared to those who did not. Our outcomes thus yield implications for both employers and policy makers seeking to promote sports participation. Though we conducted our study during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were mainly interested in the impact of WFH on contexts and locations of sports participation that were significantly affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, our results may nonetheless be relevant after the pandemic.


In 2020, government mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19 forced people to work from home. This study examined the extent to which WFH brought additional opportunities for sports participation during the pandemic (in March, April and May 2021). Controlling for several confounding factors, we found that WFH was positively associated with sports participation: the level of sports participation was relatively high among workers who worked from home compared to those who did not. This positive association of WFH and sports participation was most prominent among higher educated workers. However, lower educated remote workers particularly benefited in regard to their sports participation in the public space; while economically deprived individuals particularly benefited from WFH in regard to their sports participation at home and in the public space. Policy makers might therefore pay special attention to developing flexibility and autonomy among lower SES workers who work from home, creating physical activity-friendly public space, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to actively engage in sports.