Call for ‘human-sized jobs’

A new report highlights the impact of jobs that are too big for the hours workers are contracted to do them in.



Almost half of working parents say the boundaries between home and the workplace have blurred due to the advent of modern communications, with those working outside their contracted hours reporting a negative impact on their families, according to the 2020 Modern Families Index.

The report found that, while over half of parents are working flexibly, substantial numbers aren’t benefiting from work-life balance improvements.

It reveals that 47 per cent of working parents reported that technology has blurred the boundaries between work and home, whilst 25% said that technology has not affected their work-home boundaries. 44% check emails or do other work in the evening; three-quarters of these feel they have no choice in the matter.  Those who felt the boundaries were too blurred reported poorer wellbeing.

The Index, which surveys more than 3,000 parents from across the UK, has been published by work-life balance charity Working Families and Bright Horizons since 2012.

It shows that half of working parents believe their employer cares about their work-life balance, an increase from 42% in 2015. More than half (55%) now enjoy flexible working hours or work from home, with 62% of millennial parents (those aged 35 or under) working flexibly for a variety of reasons.

However, the number of parents working flexibly drops to just over half (51%) amongst those aged between 36 and 55.

Amongst parents who do not work flexibly, more than three quarters (77%) indicated they wanted to. Almost a third (32%) reported it was “not available” where they worked.

Flexibility is also linked to seniority and salary. The Index suggests better paid, white collar workers appear to be getting the best deal: 71% of senior managers or directors reported working flexibly, compared to 48% of parents in junior-level roles. More than two thirds of parents earning over £50,000 reported working flexibly, compared to 42% earning £15-20,000.

Another issue was poorly designed jobs which were difficult to do within contracted hours. Almost half of all parents able to work remotely reported that doing so had probably increased the hours they work. Moreover, 60% of parents working extra hours reported that doing so was the only way to deal with their workload. More than half of these said working extra hours is part of their company’s culture.

Parents in ‘work mode’ outside of their contracted hours more likely to report they feel stressed (72%) and that work impacts negatively on their relationships with partners and children. Some 54% of parents staying in ‘work mode’ said work led to arguments with their children, and 57% said it contributed to arguments with partners.

Thirty-seven per cent of working parents in the Index faked illnesses to meet family obligations, and 38% have lied or bent the truth about family obligations that clashed with their work.

The Index reveals that dads, particularly younger dads, are more likely to share childcare and that work life balance is causing a similar percentage of fathers and mothers to downshift to a less stressful job or reduce their work hours. Millennial parents are almost twice as likely to consider taking a pay cut and working fewer hours than working parents over 35.

Nearly a third of parents share childcare equally – the vast majority doing so by choice. Men now spend 16 hours a week doing unpaid care work (childcare and household chores), compared to 26 hours a week for women.

The Index also shows that women are far more likely to work part time than men: 40% of mothers in the Index work part time, compared to just 4% of fathers. This has an impact on mothers’ earnings: 43% of mothers surveyed earn less than £15,000 a year, compared to 16% of fathers.

Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said: “Flexible working is crucial to supporting parents in balancing their working and caring responsibilities. However, flexibility alone is not enough. Companies should ensure that their staff have ‘human-sized’ roles, with managers who lead by example and keep their own work-life boundaries distinct. In some ways, technology has helped parents get a better work life balance, as it has allowed for more remote working and innovative ways of collaborating. But this needs to be properly managed as work and home boundaries become increasingly blurred.”

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