The extra time has been created by new tasks including staggered pick-up and drop-offs at school, more regular washing of uniforms and stepping in due to a lack of wraparound care.
Every week parents are dedicating nearly four more hours to these tasks, which cumulate to the equivalent of over 2 working days each month.
For the effect this may have on the workday Vita Health Group is urging HR leaders to be mindful of the added commitment when considering employees’ work-life balance.
“The emphasis must be on both parties here to make this ‘new normal’ work,” commented Jane Muston, clinical director at the group.
“I think the key advice here for employers, HR and line managers is don’t shy away from conversations with your team. Try to ask them specifically how they are finding working with their children back at school, both practically and in terms of their wellbeing too,” she told HR magazine.
Nearly half (47%) of parents responding to the survey admitted to feeling overwhelmed due to managing new back-to-school routine, and a quarter (25%) said they have no coping strategies in place to support their own mental health.
Speaking to HR magazine Joy Breen, head of HR at Wanstor, said that people should not underestimate the amount of emotional toil that they have been through during the pandemic.
She said: “Government guidance changes daily. We are all doing our best to make adjustments and figure out what works for us, juggling challenges in both personal and professional lives […] Coronavirus has been a continuous test of our relationships and resilience.”
Younger parents aged 18 to 34 were the age group most likely to report feeling ‘very overwhelmed’ due to undertaking added tasks to protect their children when going back to school, with 40% taking this view, compared to compared to 22% of those aged 35-55+.
Almost half (48%) of those aged 25-34 also said they feel more anxious than their children about the start of the new school year.
Breen added: “Many parents have had their families close by, giving 24/7 care, not having a moment to take care of their own wellbeing. This is pretty intense for anyone. Now parents have additional emotions to contend with of letting their child go back into an environment that is out of their control. All the while wondering if they are doing the right thing and making the right decisions to keep their family safe.”
During this time, she said that HR should be considering how to make wellbeing support for employees as accessible as possible.
“This could be a professional helpline or simply arranging groups or pairing people to look out for each other. Some parents may need adjustments to be made to accommodate new challenges, but many will just need an outlet to share their challenges, express their emotions and know they are not alone in how they are feeling and that they are doing a great job.”
Conducted in September 2020, the survey collected the responses of 2,000 UK parents of children aged between four and 16.