In a survey of 1,500 UK workers by Cartridge People, more than a quarter (27%) named childcare as their top cause of stress while working from home.
With schools and daycare centres closed across the country, parents have had to adapt to looking after children during the day and supervising their education.
Other major sources of stress while working from home included loss of interaction with colleagues (30%), household chore distractions (23%) and not having enough workspace (24%).
Mandy Garner, editor at Working Mums, has also seen the toll of unexpected childcare on working parents firsthand.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said:“Some parents are really struggling at home to work and homeschool or look after very small children. We have heard of parents being threatened with redundancy as a result of not being able to fully focus on their work for their normal hours, even if they have toddlers and small children and are single parents with no other support.
“Many key worker parents are also getting in touch with us. Many of the parents who contact us work late or night shifts and there is no childcare available.”
Jane van Zyl, chief executive at Working Families, said mothers in particular are struggling with the transition.
She said: “Many mothers have been told they aren’t allowed to work from home with children present and have been dismissed or put on unpaid leave. In some cases while their male colleagues have been allowed to work from home unquestioned.
“We have also heard from parents—especially single parents—for whom it is simply impossible to balance work and caring for young children. We are relieved that the government has now made it clear that employers have the ability to furlough parents who are unable to do their job because of childcare responsibilities.”
Yet van Zyl warned against employers furloughing working parents by default due to them having children at home.
She added: “Many parents will be able to balance working from home with caring for their children, but they need their employers to show them flexibility and compassion as they navigate these uncharted waters.”
Beyond urging understanding from employers, she called for government intervention to help ease pressures on struggling parents.
“To further support parents during this difficult time, we are calling for the government to explore options for reduced-hours working as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme,” she said.
“This would enable employers to re-claim monies for the hours parents aren’t able to work due to childcare responsibilities. Not only would this help parents who need to cut their hours, but it would bolster the economy as well.”
The Cartridge World survey also asked workers how they were dealing with work stress, a hot topic this stress awareness month.
Almost a third of respondents (31%) said they were exercising daily and 29% said they were making a point of leaving the house.
Almost one in five (16%) were taking part in leisure activities such as games, reading and crafts and 27% reported taking regular breaks.
A further 16% of respondents said they were coping with stress by sticking to a strict routine and a quarter (25%) of respondents said they were managing their stress by communicating with friends, family and colleagues.
Julie Gimblett, HR manager at Cartridge People, said: “It might sound obvious, but keeping in regular contact is essential to successful homeworking and ensuring near-normal operations.
“For some employees, this may be their first experience of working from home, and without open lines of communication, working remotely can create real anxiety and leave employees feeling directionless.
“It’s important to establish a system of contact, not only between managers and employees but between colleagues too.”