As the world adapts to the post-pandemic era, a tectonic shift in work arrangements is forcing parents to make difficult decisions. Companies that once embraced remote work are now asking employees to spend more time in the office. We highlighted this trend within our Zoom article last month. This change is causing a ripple effect on the family unit, particularly when it comes to balancing work and childcare.
Figures recently unveiled by Pebble, a provider of flexible childcare services, reveal a worrying trend. Nearly 50% of the 2,000 parents surveyed indicated that they are contemplating resigning from their current jobs due to the steep increase in childcare costs, which now average an additional £600 per month. As the UK Emerges as the Work-From-Home Capital of Europe, one-third have already jumped ship to companies offering more flexible work conditions.
Meanwhile, data from LinkedIn shows a 28% drop in remote job postings since August 2021. Yet, paradoxically, hybrid job postings have surged by 34% year on year. This suggests that while companies are scaling back fully remote roles, there is a growing acceptance of the hybrid work model.
But is the shift to more in-office days financially sustainable for parents? Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, answered that question with a resounding “no.” Recruited during the pandemic for a tech role that allowed for remote work, Sarah recently had to quit her job. Her company’s new policy required her to be in the office three days a week, a condition that she found “impossible” to meet due to her commute and childcare responsibilities.
Sarah’s situation is not unique. She mirrors the predicament of thousands of working parents who face long commutes and steep childcare costs. Her story raises questions about how the rollback of remote work will impact the labour market, especially for women, who often bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities.
Joeli Brearley, the founder of the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, describes this as a “disaster for working parents and a disaster for the economy.” According to Brearley, pulling the plug on flexible work options will make it untenable for many parents to continue in their roles. With average childcare costs amounting to £14,000 a year for a full-time slot, many parents are left with no option but to either reduce their work hours or leave the job market entirely.
LinkedIn’s UK Country Manager, Ngaire Moyes, provides an alternative perspective, stating that the rise in hybrid working models indicates how much they have become part of “mainstream working life.” While remote work offers many advantages, it has its challenges, particularly when tasks require in-person collaboration or creativity. Nevertheless, she acknowledges the importance of maintaining the flexibility gained during the pandemic for a balanced work-life equation.
The challenges facing parents come at a time when the need for gender balance in the workplace and support for working parents are already high on the social agenda. These recent trends suggest that businesses might need to rethink their strategies if they wish to retain a diverse and talented workforce.
The Workers Union Says…
In light of these unfolding scenarios, a revisiting of corporate policies on flexible work is imperative. For both employers and employees, the ideal work setup may lie somewhere in between full-time office work and remote work. Crafting policies that consider the specific needs of working parents not only fosters employee loyalty but also helps in building a more inclusive and diverse work environment.