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Never ‘switching off’ overwhelms working parents

Evening emails and ‘always on’ work cultures are overwhelming working parents, according to Modern Families Index results

Published annually by Working Families and Bright Horizons, the survey found that 58% of parents are working extra unpaid hours and that 44% feel compelled to dip into work in the evenings.

The Modern Families Index 2020 surveyed more than 3,000 parents across the UK and identified that modern communications have left working parents unable able to ‘switch off’ from work. Almost half (47%) said it has blurred the boundary between work and home.

Similarly, 48% agreed that being able to work from home had probably increased the hours they work and 44% of parents said they check emails or do other work in the evening.

Described in the report as a double-edged sword, family-friendly and flexible working hours seem to have negatively affected parents’ lives as three in five (60%) parents said they work extra hours because it’s the only way to deal with their workload.

Parents who tend to work extra hours were more than twice as likely to think about work issues while they are with their family 'regularly' or 'all the time' (41%) compared to 20% of parents working within their contracted hours.

Jane van Zyl, CEO 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.”

The Index recommended that to support families establishing their respective roles in caring for their children an additional, individual, non-transferable entitlement to 12-week leave and pay should be introduced for fathers and partners.

Employers are also encouraged to better manage technology to ensure it supports, rather than inhibits, work/life balance.

The report suggested this could include introducing robust policies around the use of technology to work flexibly, so that parents know they can and should disconnect without penalty, and senior managers role-modelling ‘switching off’.

Denise Priest, director of client partnerships and communications at nursery group Bright Horizons, said: “The tide is slowly turning in favour of family-friendly workplaces. But many employers could do more to ensure they are retaining talent and minimising attrition.

"Stress and burnout are frequent dangers, especially as technology blurs the boundaries between home and work. Technology can be a wonderful enabler, but when it means employees don’t feel they can switch off in the evenings and weekends inevitably family life suffers.”

Further reading

Fathers denied flexible working

Technology a mixed blessing for work/life balance

Flexible and part-time workers outperform full-time counterparts

Many using commutes as work email time