In HRreview’s webinar on Thursday 8th October, experts discussed what employers could do to help support employees juggling work and family during COVID times.

HRreview had the pleasure of being joined by an exert panel including Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, Clare Scott, Head of Employee Benefits at Sky and John Howkins, business advisor and author who specialises in creativity and innovation in culture.

Jennifer Liston-Smith talked of the changing landscape of the workplace due to the rise in remote working and employees who had to manage multiple responsibilities at the same time, including family and work. She expressed her view that this has led to “real conversations” and a feeling amongst companies of “understanding the reality of people’s lives”.

Bright Horizons conducted a survey of 400 working parents in the UK which saw four in 10 respondents feeling that their work and career had been worse affected than colleagues without children. Only 10 per cent expressed the view that their career had not been any more affected than their colleagues that do not have children. 71 per cent of working parents in this survey expressed concern over potential disruption to their work due to their children’s changing school schedule.

In order to combat these problems, Bright Horizons recommended a people-focused approach for supporting working parents including connections (reaching out to networks), coaching and advice, practical care solutions (e.g. an on-site nursery) and flexible/hybrid solutions to working.

Clare Scott discussed the policy in place for working parents at Sky.

Sky have established networks such as ‘Parents at Sky’ which offer coaching sessions, tips, forums and webinars. The company also offers two additional week of COVID-leave for parents who feel worn out and to support families.

They have always offered six funded child care sessions and added an addition 10 sessions to that during COVID-19. Flexible working has been adapted in order to offer hybrid working. Sky has also offered a plethora of mental health support, counselling and an online GP to support their employees’ mental and physical health.

John Howkins, author of Invisible Work: The Hidden Ingredient of True Creativity, Purpose and Power, discussed the idea of “invisible work”. He described it as “cognitive, subjective, nomadic and never-ending”. He argues that this creative work adds most value to organisations and that organisations are hiring people who can produce new strategy and ideas.

The polls were surprisingly optimistic for a time that has challenged everyone. One of our polls asked “How are you doing as an organisation?”

  • 24 per cent stated that they are in a good place with innovation and growing taking place.
  • Just over a third (35 per cent) stated that their company is keeping going.
  • 30 per cent stated that their organisation was restructuring and making a few redundancies.
  • Only seven per cent stated that their organisation was struggling and restrictions had damaged their company.
  • No listeners said that their organisation was extremely struggling and were facing huge redundancies and uncertainty.

If you are interested in listening to the full webinar, you can listen to it back here.