Career and Jobs

A New FlexJobs Study Shows How Challenging It Was For Working Parents During The Pandemic

FlexJobs, a job site focused on remote work and flexible job opportunities, conducted a survey of over 1,100 parents with children 18 years of age or younger—who live at home—to find out what they’ve experienced during the pandemic.

Anyone who has young or teenage children would be quick to rattle off the long list of challenges and headaches faced during the outbreak. If it wasn’t hard enough to juggle working from home, worrying about avoiding catching Covid-19, trying to hold onto your job while millions of Americans were downsized and creating some sort of semblance of normalcy, places, like New York City, closed the public schools and sent the children home to take classes online.

Working parents bore the brunt of this decision. Their lives were instantly turned upside down. Parents faced a frustratingly brutal dilemma—do I keep my job or take care of children? It was reported by the National Women’s Law Center that between August and September 2020, over 800,000 women left the workforce to look after their children. 

Single parents, those who have young children and people who—due to the nature of their job—can’t work from home experienced a high degree of anxiety, wrestling with balancing all of the necessary daily demands. 

White-collar, dual-working spouses and partners had their own challenges. While they may have had it somewhat better than others, they still needed to hold onto their demanding jobs, please their bosses, provide child care and act as de facto teachers to supplement their kids’ glitchy Zoom classes.

Low-wage workers at restaurants, food services, warehouses and fulfillment centers who didn’t possess the financial wherewithal to get outside help for their home-based children were put in a terrible position. To make matters worse, many poor families relied upon school lunches for their children. They lacked the computers, solid internet connectivity and technology, which put their children at a disadvantage.

To be fair, it’s not just the working parents who had a hard time. The pandemic has wreaked havoc across the board. Almost no one was spared. Across the world, we all dealt with illnesses, deaths, job losses, financial setbacks, business that went bust and dreams placed on hold.

 We’ve all struggled and faced adversity over the year. The working parents, according to the study, listed the following issues they’ve faced:

  • 60% of working parents say they have experienced burnout over the last year, compared to 56% of the general population
  • 41% of working parents say their mental health is worse today (compared to before the pandemic), versus 38% of the general population
  • 19% are worried that working remotely has hurt their chances of promotion, but only 14% of the general respondents say the same thing
  • 22% of working parents say they think their skills suffered during the pandemic, compared to 19% of the general population
  • 82% of working parents say work-life balance is the most important factor they consider when evaluating a new job, unlike the general population, which ranks salary (80%) as most important

 Here are some of the highlights of the study:

 The Pandemic’s Impact On Working Parents

As the months progressed with capricious on-and-off-again school openings, up-and-down internet connections and chaos in the background of Microsoft Teams video calls, there was palpable concern by parents that their employers would soon lose empathy and compassion. At any moment, there’s fear that a manager’s patience may wear thin and might decide to furlough or lay off parents with young children, maintaining that they’re not accomplishing their tasks in a timely manner. Co-workers could become critical of their colleagues with children, believing that they’re carrying the heavy load, as the parents are too distracted with homeschooling.   

 Here’s How The Parents Dealt With The Challenges:

  • 21% reduced their hours
  • 16% quit their job, but plan to return to the workforce
  • 4% had their partner reduce their hours
  • 2% quit their job and do not plan on returning to the workforce
  • 2% had a partner who quit their job

Impact On Work

The boundaries between work and home lives were blurred or completely discarded. People felt the pressure and need to work longer hours during the day and over the weekend to ensure that they’d keep their jobs. You no longer had to just do your job; now you were expected to be an expert in IT troubleshooting, video, sound and lighting, while still fulfilling your core daily responsibilities. The study showed the following issues that parents dealt with on a daily basis:

  • Unable to unplug after work or working too much: 40%
  • Dealing with non-work distractions: 36%
  • Unreliable Wi-Fi: 28%
  • Troubleshooting technology problems: 26%
  • Video meeting fatigue: 24%
  • Communicating in real-time: 21%
  • Too many video meetings: 19%
  • Relationships with co-workers harder to manage: 18%
  • Relationships with bosses harder to manage: 16%
  • Collaborating/interacting is difficult: 16%
  • Working across different time zones: 14%

Parents Want Remote Work

Despite all the problems, parents still want to have remote options after the pandemic is over. “About 61% of parents say they want to work remotely full time, while 37% prefer a hybrid work arrangement. Additionally, 62% say they would quit their current job if they can’t continue remote work.”

To keep their remote-work arrangements, parents say they were willing to give up some benefits, such as vacation time (23%), a 10% pay cut (19%), work more hours (17%) and forgo other corporate offerings.

As companies are starting to call employees back to the office, parents are concerned about how they’ll manage the change. About 49% cite child care as a concern, 48% worry they will have less flexibility, 46% are concerned they will have less work-life balance, 32% fear a lack of health and safety measures and 31% want to avoid office politics and distractions.

Parents, when questioned about what work arrangement they’d prefer, the top choices were flexible schedules, working from home full time, having a work environment that understands child care demands, part-time work and alternative schedules. 

There are some positives that are coming out of the crisis. Companies now recognize that large numbers of employees are capable of working remotely. They are more aware and willing to talk about mental health issues at the workplace or at home. 

The quality of life for many people has improved, despite dealing with the dreaded Covid-19. It was a refreshing change for parents to spend quality time with their family. There was less stress and hours wasted, as commuting wasn’t an issue. As people sheltered in place, they saved money, according to the study, between $3,900 and over $10,000 over the past year.

We’ve also learned how precious, fragile and fleeting life is. The pandemic made us contemplate what we want to do with our lives and careers. It gave a chance for people to reimagine what they can become and how they can pursue meaningful work that fulfills a purpose, while also allowing for time with family, friends and the community.

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