Even before the Coronavirus, many parents struggled to coordinate work with childcare. But the pressures of the pandemic made a difficult situation even more difficult.
During lockdown, with schools and nurseries closed, and other childcare options, including grandparents ruled out, parents became full-time caregivers and homeschool teachers.
Many juggling these roles with their 9-5 job, all under the same roof.
In our recent “Should We Ditch the Office?” Survey, many parents stated that childcare during lockdown made it significantly harder to work from home. One respondent commented, “Childcare is seriously impacting the balance. Due to Covid, our nursery isn’t open. We have to work full-time and take care of a toddler.”
Now that children are back to school, the situation has eased off slightly—but the survey results still signal that there’s significant room for improvement when it comes to parental support.
When asked what would significantly improve their working from home experience, 7.5% of all respondents ranked childcare as one of the top three things.
But when we dug deeper into the data, we found that 29.4% of those living with a child under the age of 18 said childcare would significantly improve working from home. And that figure grew to 48.2% amongst those living with a child under the age of 4.
The data shows there is a need for employers to support their employees with childcare and flexible working policies. Below, we explore the impact of childcare on working parents’ WFH experience, and suggest how employers can adapt their workplace strategy to accommodate working parents.
Childcare isn’t a new problem, but it’s one that could get worse
The struggle for parents to balance careers and caregiving was an issue long before the pandemic hit. A survey carried out in 2019 revealed that only around half of local authorities in England (57%) and Wales (43%) had enough childcare for parents working full-time.
And, according to the OECD, the UK has the second-most expensive childcare in the world, behind New Zealand. The lack of affordable childcare is at risk of worsening, as nurseries and daycares are closing down due to the economic hardships caused by Covid. The problem is at risk of getting worse, and the need for childcare is increasing.
The impact of childcare on working parents
The Office for National Statistics carried out a survey of more than 12,000 parents in Great Britain about their remote working experience during the pandemic. Nearly a third of parents with school-aged children said their work had been negatively affected by lockdown.
Interestingly, the ONS survey showed that women carried out on average two-thirds more of the daily childcare duties than men. This is unsurprising given that pre-lockdown, women did 60% more of unpaid work compared to men.
We can also see that a higher percentage of working mothers (34%) stated their wellbeing was negatively affected by homeschooling, compared with one in five working fathers (20%).
This statistic is worrying as many mothers may look to reduce their working hours to cope with the demands of childcare, which in the long run could worsen the gender pay gap. But even disregarding gender differences, this highlights the importance of employers supporting working parents in the future.
The new must-have benefit
Shining a light on the difficulties working parents face is the first step in creating a better future for working parents post-Covid.
Given the economic challenges many companies are facing, offering childcare benefits may not be possible for all employers. But encouraging more openness and understanding within teams can help working parents to communicate their needs honestly. And continuing to offer flexible, remote working as part of standard workplace strategy can benefit both employers and employees.
Beyond fostering an open culture and flexible hours, employers could also look to move to an office with onsite childcare facilities, or implement childcare assistance at home.
Providing parents with care options at home, where a babysitter or nanny watches children while parents work, is perhaps the best solution for right now. Koru Kids is a London-based startup that makes the process of finding and managing childcare seamless. They recruit and give bespoke training to nannies who provide London families with the care they need.
Providing childcare assistance would not only improve employees’ work situation, but it could also help companies when recruiting. Many working parents need help with their childcare (as is evident in the surveys above), but so few employers offer any support. It could be the difference between winning and losing top talent, so it’s not something that should be overlooked.
Find out what your team would value most
As an employer, it’s crucial to understand your employees’ needs—particularly in the case of childcare. Having open and regular lines of communication with your team members makes it much easier to provide them with the help and resources they need to thrive.
To help you do so, we’ve created a free-to-use Workplace Strategy Tool, which will help you find out how your employees want to work in the future. With the tool, you can survey your own team using our curated questionnaire, access the data immediately via your own personalised results dashboard, and get free, professional advice on the best next steps from our team of experts.