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The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Parents

Published 08 October 2020

From the moment those first initial lockdown restrictions were imposed back in March; COVID-19 has had a considerable impact on working parents across the UK, significantly changing both how and where they work, whilst also presenting a number of additional challenges in balancing careers and family life. But what will life look like for working parents going forward, and what can we expect our working arrangements to look like in the future?

Adapting to working from home

Where possible, a huge majority of employees have been encouraged to work from home over the last 6 months, particularly for those working in office-based support functions such as HR, Marketing and Finance.

For many working parents, the prospect of being able to work from the comfort of your own surroundings; especially if this wasn’t an option before, has been a real positive. Many working parents have even reported improved work life balance with the ability to manage their work time around caring and childcare commitments; even benefiting from more exercise and leisure time as their daily commute and amount of unnecessary travel significantly reduced.

However, working from home hasn’t and isn’t always a positive experience.

With school and nursery closures, many working parents experienced huge childcare challenges and this hasn’t instantly disappeared when schools reopened.

Many working parents may still have children at home who would normally be with vulnerable grandparents or who have been sent home due to isolating bubbles at their educational settings. With the next few months being so uncertain, this could become a frequent and incredibly disruptive experience for employees and employers alike.

Working from home has also left many feeling isolated and lonely, missing the social interaction, communication and collaborative working style that they experienced in the office. Not everyone copes well with change and whilst this sudden shift to a virtual world may be ideal for some, for others it can have a hugely detrimental impact on their mental health.

In the list of skills and experience required on their job description; it’s also fair to say that most parents didn’t expect to see ‘teacher’ added into their list of responsibilities, experiencing guilt and frustration attempting to balance the almost impossible task of home schooling whilst remaining focused, engaged and productive at work.

Recruitment and Onboarding

COVID-19 hasn’t only impacted existing employees, it’s also significantly affected the recruitment and onboarding process, with many businesses having to shift (almost overnight) to virtual interviews and onboarding when hiring new staff.

Enforced working from home, in many cases, has proven its effectiveness to employers, resulting in more being willing to consider flexible and agile working arrangements when recruiting new members to their team.

The removal of a physical location restriction, could in theory mean that the ideal candidate can work anywhere in the UK, potentially expanding the talent pool of suitable applicants, helping close the gender pay gap and attracting highly skilled candidates who may otherwise not have been considered.

It can however of course have the opposite effect; with many working parents paying very close attention to how supportive and flexible their employers are being in the face of adversity. If they are well supported and mutually respected, their level of commitment to their organisation may actually increase; reducing the chances of them looking elsewhere. For employers, this makes targeting the passive job seeker even more crucial than ever, showcasing how they stand out against their competition in order attract or headhunt their ideal candidates.

Virtual onboarding is also not without its challenges. Attempting to complete a virtual induction and train new staff without the face to face support and reassurance from other team is hard. Even with the benefits of technology, instant messenger and virtual meetings; the lack of social interaction and support can make the transition to a new workplace feel stunted and clunky; with often significant investments of time with HR departments and hiring managers to try and replicate a positive pre-covid onboarding experience.

What does the future look like for working parents?

For working parents in particular, the next 6 months at least are going to be a fairly unpredictable period! We can expect to see more disruption, more childcare challenges and more flexibility required; but hopefully more willingness to discuss flexibility and agile working arrangements for the future.

Going forward, it is likely we will see more of a hybrid model being adopted by many businesses in order to strike a balance between the environmental and work life balance benefits of home working and the economic and team benefits of working in a shared physical location.

If this flexibility can be sustained long term in a post-COVID world; it could have huge positives for working parents and cause a real shift in the employment market. As with anything in 2020 however, we simply have to watch this space!

For more details on how we can support your recruitment process and help target talent, please get in touch on 01628 817124