A new survey shows that lockdown has convinced working parents how much can be achieved remotely, with the vast majority wanting more homeworking in the future, mixed with time in the office.
Just 13% of parents want to go back to working full time in the office after the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from Bright Horizons.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed believe their employers will be more open to remote or flexible working in the future, amid evidence that widespread adoption of Zoom and other online tools has kept many businesses functioning even as physical workplaces were shuttered.
The survey of 1,500 working parents in the UK was conducted during May and June 2020. Nearly all respondents (96%) worked mostly or exclusively in offices or other workplaces prior to the lockdown.
Now, 68% overall are working from home, with higher proportions in the “non-critical” sectors.
The survey was carried out by Bright Horizons, the nursery and work+family employer solutions provider, with the assistance of Workingdads.co.uk, Families Magazine and Dads.info.
Almost half (48%) of pre-Covid fully office-based employees are considering asking for some more remote or agile working. More than half (55%) of all respondents would choose to spend no more than three days at their place of work, with the rest done remotely.
Most parents (79%) believe that a more flexible working life would have a positive impact on them and, by extension, on their employers.
At the same time, there is no strong appetite for fewer working hours overall, with just 21% favouring a reduction. Just over half of respondents (53%) agreed flexibility would increase their productivity, and well over half (58%) agreed that it would increase their loyalty. Only 6% and 5% respectively disagreed.
Despite a general feeling that tech connectivity is working well, reports of the death of the physical office are premature. The majority of workers (78%) miss regular face to face interaction with colleagues.
Feelings of appreciation and loyalty towards line managers and businesses have increased through the crisis. Eighty-one per cent believe that their line manager has been supportive and understanding, with 78% agreeing their employer understands they are juggling work and childcare, and has adjusted expectations appropriately.
Seventy-six per cent of respondents agree that they have been treated fairly and a similar number (75%) agree that their business or organisation has been managed well during the pandemic.
Survey respondents overwhelmingly say that working from home is unsustainable without childcare or school.
The “Pandemic spirit” – of all being in this together, and striving to make it work – has helped parents cope so far, and 54% of all respondents report being “happy and cheerful” all or most of the time, with 52% sleeping well. But the resounding message from the research is that parents are finding it more and more difficult to juggle childcare and work as the crisis goes on.
Some are approaching the challenge with alternating shifts between partners. Other families are clearly on the brink.
When it comes to practical support that parents would like from their employers, 70% want more support/help with long term childcare, 64% expressed interest in back-up care for family care emergencies, and 44% say coaching to enable better planning and management of work and family would help. Equipment such as chairs and improved internet connections were also being demanded.
On sharing childcare, there is some evidence that some women perceive a slight increase in fairness in the division of domestic chores, but there is concern that the burden of childcare is falling most heavily on mothers. The survey reveals growing frustrations in some families about which parent’s work is more important, with 31% of respondents (mostly women) saying that their partner’s work responsibilities unfairly take precedence over their own.