Last week (12th-16th October 2020), the Government announced tighter lockdown restrictions in the form of the tier systems, owing to rising cases of COVID-19 in the UK.
Over the weekend, the capital city of London was upgraded to a Tier 2 level, meaning people are prohibited from socialising indoors with anyone who is not in their household or support bubble.
However, new research from Theta Global Advisors, a company which specialises in flexible working options, shows that employees with children could be significantly disadvantaged by these new lockdown rules.
Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of British employees believe that parents have been hit hardest by the pandemic as they have had to juggle multiple responsibilities including looking after and teaching their children whilst also completing their work.
Additionally, over a quarter of respondents (27 per cent) fear that their children not returning to school will jeopardise their work as they will have to take care of them whilst also working from home.
Almost three out of 10 respondents (28 per cent) stated that taking care of their child during the COVID-19 period has set them back more than a year in their careers.
Similarly, just under a quarter (23 per cent) responded that their employer had not been sympathetic to their plight of having to juggle childcare around work.
Chris Biggs, Managing Director of Theta Global Advisors, said:
Working from home has its advantages for many businesses across a number of sectors, but it can have a disproportionately detrimental effect on different parts of the population, particularly those with school-aged children. Firms need to appreciate that if they are going to ask their staff to stay at home, they may need greater flexibility to ensure that they are able to complete all their tasks, personal and professional.
The world of work has long presented additional challenges for working parents and lockdown has only made this issue worse for many who have not been given flexible working options or who have had to take over home-schooling and childcare responsibilities.
The return of children to schools this September has created additional concerns that parents will have to change their plans quickly if and when they are forced to shut again or if they feel schools are not safe enough to continue. Business leaders need to match working from home with sentiments of true flexibility to keep their team’s morale high, maintain productivity and keep their families safe during this pandemic.
Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of INvolve and Audeliss, a consultancy firm and global executive search firm, offered the following advice to employers to support their employees:
Working from home can bring a myriad of unique challenges, especially for those with childcare responsibilities due to the knock-on effect of Covid-19 disrupting the ‘traditional’ approach to business.
It can’t be emphasised enough; communication is of paramount importance. Employers should seek to give their employees the flexibility to create a schedule that works for them and around the needs of their children; this is key to unlocking productivity.
As a business leader, you should not make assumptions about who the main carer is within a family, understanding that support can be required for both parents. You should schedule structured check-ins to find out how your employees are doing, organise remote social events for within the working hours of the day and focus on individualising your approach to supporting employees with childcaring responsibilities.
There’s no doubt that a period of isolation can have an impact on productivity and engagement. But utilising the capabilities of technology, adopting a clear stream of two-way communication and maintaining routines can support those with childcare responsibilities, particularly as areas of the country begin to experience tougher restrictions.
*Theta Global Advisors obtained this data by sampling 2076 employees across the UK.
If you want more advice on how employers can support their workers who juggle family around working responsibilities, click here to listen to HRreview’s informative webinar on the topic.