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Flexible working and technology has blurred the lines for working parents

Over half of parents are working flexibly, but badly designed jobs have left many struggling to cope with the competing demands of home and the workplace, new research finds.

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57% of working parents said staying in ‘work mode’ led to arguments with their children
57% of working parents said staying in ‘work mode’ led to arguments with their children

The 2020 Modern Families Index, which surveyed more than 3,000 parents from across the UK, has been published by work-life balance charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, the nursery and backup care provider.

 

The research found that more than half of working parents (55 percent) enjoy flexible working hours or work from home. However, millennial parents (those aged 35 or under) are leading the way, with 62 percent working flexibly – not only because of their childcare responsibilities but also to help manage their wellbeing and to pursue outside interests.

 

The survey also found that flexibility is linked to seniority and salary. Better paid, white collar workers appear to be getting the best deal: 71 percent of senior managers or directors reported working flexibly, compared to 48 percent of parents in junior-level roles.

 

More than two thirds of parents earning over £50,000 reported working flexibly, compared to 42 percent earning £15-20,000.

 

Another finding from the index included: almost half of all parents able to work remotely reported that doing so had probably increased the hours they work. This comes alongside evidence in the index that many parents are putting in extra hours as they attempt to manage unwieldy, poorly designed jobs.

 

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

 

The index also looked at technology blurring the work-home boundary. Research found that technological innovations are making it harder for working parents to maintain boundaries between work and the home - with 47 percent of parents reporting this.

 

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, said: “The research makes clear that jobs need to be ‘human-sized’. Employers who design roles that can be done in their contracted hours and encourage ‘switching off’ will feel the benefit of happier, healthier workers.”

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