Without denying the life-changing challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic, for many, there have been some positive aspects of lockdown life – and flexible working is one element at the forefront of many parent’s minds.
A survey by the work-life balance charity Working Families found that pre-lockdown just 65% of parents and carers had flexible working opportunities, compared to 84% in lockdown. With a look to the future, nine in 10 parents and carers are calling for their workplaces to continue to offer their flexible culture.
And it makes sense. Striking a good balance between our work and home lives is key for our wellbeing and mental health. Without this balance, many go on to experience stress, anxiety, and depression as a rusult of feeling burntout – with research from Mind reporting that 48% of people have experienced mental health problems in their current role. Though it isn't just physical, a study from UCL found that employees who worked three or more hours longer than they were required to do had a 60% higher risk of developing heart-related problems.
For parents, getting a balance can be even hard, only exaggerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many have had to work early in the morning or late into the night so they can look after – and in many cases, home-school – their children, leaving them stressed and exhausted,” explains Jane van Zyl. “Whilst the kind of flexible working parents have experienced during lockdown is far from ideal, what it has done is prove that flexibility can be unlocked in many more jobs than previously thought.”
“It is vital that the government acts to ensure that the progress made around flexible working during lockdown is extended, not reversed, for all parents, and that employers can harness the increases in productivity, talent attraction, and diversity that flexible working will bring to the UK economy,” Jane continues. “We simply can’t go back to a time where long hours and being the last person in the office are seen as a mark of success.”
Taking a look at the results of the survey, the charity highlights three key areas that parents and carers want to see improved:
As it stands, few can predict what a post-COVID-19 world is going to look like. But for many, there is hope that attitudes towards healthy, productive working will have a real shakeup. And it’s about time.
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