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Parents want to continue flexible working arrangements – UK report

By Alan Jones

Many working parents fear a confrontation with employers when Covid restrictions are lifted and bosses seek to return to “normal” working conditions, UK research suggests.

Workers who have juggled home working with looking after children in the past year strongly favour carrying on with hybrid working arrangements, said a report.

A survey of 1,000 parents found that more than two out of five feared losing their jobs when the coronavirus crisis eases.

Worries include the end of furlough schemes, a belief that organisations will cut jobs, and managers demanding greater attendance in offices and other workplaces, the report found.

Nursery provider Bright Horizons said half of those it surveyed complained that employers were unsympathetic or did not offer practical help with childcare needs.

Employers are approaching a “moment of truth” in their relationships with staff as the vaccine rollout continues, and have an opportunity to reassure workers and retain their loyalty, said the report.

Almost one in five of those surveyed said they wanted to work entirely from home in the future, while most respondents favoured a mixture of home and office work.

Many workers still do not feel confident about discussing family issues with their employers despite the huge changes over the past year, with fewer than three in five saying their organisation cares about their work-life balance, said the report.

Fewer than a quarter of those polled said their employers had given a clear message that flexible working was positively viewed.

Denise Priest, of Bright Horizons, said: “In previous years, this survey has shown an increasing desire amongst both mothers and fathers for greater flexibility at work, but 2020 has been truly extraordinary, with staff doing triple time as employees, parents and in-home teachers.

“As normality returns, there seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean.

“Employers who have recognised the heightened priority of family life and provided practical support for their staff will retain and gain talented employees, while those who do not will lose out.

“Currently the pandemic is causing much concern about job security, with accompanying gratitude to be in a job and a reluctance to risk change and rock the boat.

“The hidden hazard now for employers is that new expectations sit below the surface like an iceberg.

“This survey strongly suggests that when some degree of economic certainty returns, highly valued staff will judge their companies on how they supported them during the crisis.”

A separate survey of almost 700 adults suggested most do not want to go back to working in an office full time, with nearly three-quarters saying they want to split their time between home and office working.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said its study indicated that more people felt working from home was better for their health and wellbeing, despite some feeling less connected to colleagues, taking less exercise and developing musculoskeletal problems.

One in four respondents said they were working from a sofa or a bedroom.

Christina Marriott, chief executive of the RSPH, said: “Our findings reveal that although working from home can be beneficial for people’s health and wellbeing, there are stark differences in how different groups have been affected.

“For people who have multiple housemates or are working from their bedroom or a sofa, the impact on their mental and physical health is extremely concerning and something we believe that employers need to address.

“The changes in the way that millions of people are working has the potential for employers to rethink how they are supporting their employees’ mental and physical health.

“Some form of home working is likely to continue for millions of people and we urge employers to take the necessary steps to ensure their staff can work from home as safely and healthily as possible.”


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