Bright Horizons & The Modern Families Index asked how working parents would prefer to work in the future, once out of the current restrictions. 75% want to continue to work from home for at least some of the time, with two-thirds (67%) wanting to work at least 50% from home.
Only 16% would like to work fully in an office or workplace while just 18% would like to work 100% from home. So hybrid or blended working – a mix of remote and onsite working – is the new preference, and is strongly favoured across genders and generational groups in the Modern Families Index.
This tallies with other credible research. In May and June 2020, the Working from Home during COVID-19 lockdown Project, was run by the University of Kent and the University of Birmingham. This study found that 2/3 of non-parents and 52% of parents said it is (very) likely that they will work from home after the COVID-19 lockdown has ended.
The reasons are varied. In the MFI, many simply wanted to avoid the commute. In the Kent and Birmingham project, 76% of all mothers and 73% of fathers surveyed wanted to work flexibly to spend more time with children.
It is also about productivity. 61% of respondents in the MFI were ‘Delighted’ about working more flexibly now, 32% selecting the reason ‘I feel that I can work more effectively with flexible working’ (and the other 29% indicating Delighted because ‘I’d previously wanted the opportunity to work flexibly’).
Consumer research by Accenture from May 2020, showed 54% agreed they could collaborate with colleagues easily while working from home (only 16% Disagreed) and 54% agreed it was actually easier to collaborate across other organisations while working from home (13% Disagreed). The scores had been even higher in March and might have been sustained had many workers not also been shouldering care responsibilities and a pandemic.
The Modern Families Index shows childcare and eldercare are top of mind in career decisions, and earlier than we might imagine. In the 2021 Index, 71% said they would need to carefully consider their childcare options before accepting a promotion or new job. This was true for 73% of women and 69% of men. Strikingly, it was highest among the 16-25 year old working parents in our survey, at 81%.
Three-quarters of those with a caring responsibility would need to consider their eldercare options before progressing their career: (73% of women and 77% of men). This was highest among 35-44 year olds (84%), followed by 26-34 year olds (77%).
We’ve understood, more than ever recently, that childcare and education are key parts of the infrastructure, as are adult care provisions. Working parents have been doubly challenged during lockdowns when lack of care disrupts work and also leaves parents worried about their children’s progress. For some, furlough or other leave has been the answer. However, 40% of our survey participants expressed fear about losing their jobs through the pandemic, so taking leave is often not seen as the best way forward.
The Breathing Space HR team are currently looking at a new ‘hybrid working’ contracts for our clients as we know this is going to be a new way of working for so many employees as we come out of this pandemic and we will also be running a webinar to cover off many of the issues that will arise.