After surveying more than 3,000 parents across the UK, the charity Working Families has found that the “always-on” culture is overwhelming many families.
In large part, this is due to the rise of technology, with almost half the parents surveyed agreeing that the boundaries between home and the workplace have become increasingly blurred. Those who felt the boundaries were too blurred also reported poorer wellbeing.
Although the annual survey found that more than half of parents are working flexibly, substantial proportions of the population are not benefiting from improvements in work-life balance.
In particular, only 51 per cent of those aged between 36 and 55 are working flexibly despite the fact that more than three quarters of them (77 per cent) indicated that they wanted to. Almost a third (32 per cent) reported that there was no flexible working on offer where they worked.
As a result, they found themselves struggling to juggle the pressure of going “the extra mile”, unmanageable workloads and a culture that never switches off with their need for family life.
More than half of all the parents surveyed (58 per cent) also reported that they were working extra, unpaid hours to deal with their workload. Almost half (44 per cent) felt compelled to work in the evenings despite the negative impact on children and relationships.
A large proportion of parents (72 per cent) felt that working extra hours made them feel stressed; while over half of parents reported that staying in “work mode” at home led to arguments with their children and their partners.
The option of flexibility, however, is not spread equally across the board, but is linked to seniority and salary. Better paid, white collar workers are getting the best deal – 71 per cent of senior managers or directors reported working flexibly, compared to 48 per cent of parents in junior level roles.
More than two thirds of parents earning more than £50,000 reported working flexibly, compared to 42 per cent earning between £15,000 and £20,000.
Matthew Pull, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “What is clear from this report is that too many roles are placing demands on individuals which simply cannot be achieved within the hours allotted to them.
“In such circumstances, employers look to be trying to use flexible working arrangements to mask a wider need for job redesign in order to, as the report puts it, “human-size jobs and deliver genuine work-life balance”. That said, the trend towards flexible working arrangements being considered the “norm”, by both parents and non-parents alike, is encouraging."
To read the report in full, go to: https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Modern-Families-Index_2020_Full-Report_FINAL.pdf