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National Work Life Week 2021 – Balancing Life as Working Parent

National Work Life Week 2021 – Balancing Life as Working Parent
12 October 2021

Data from Working Families shows a wide gulf in how parents and carers are managing to balance their work and home lives as we come out of the pandemic – how can employers help close this gap?

National Work Life Week is an annual campaign to get both employers and employees talking about wellbeing at work and work-life balance.

The last 18 months have been challenging for employers of all sizes, and flexible working and wellbeing policies still remain a focus. For those with parental or other caring responsibilities, lockdown meant managing the needs of family life and work responsibilities were put to the test.


"So much talent and so many diverse perspectives are being lost because too many businesses can’t move past outdated workplace cultures."

–Jane van Zyl

CEO, Working Families


85% of Working Parents Say Work-Life Balance Will Influence Their Next Choice of Job


National Work Life Week, shines a spotlight on what employers can do to help parents and carers get a healthy balance between their work life and home life. This year, its polling shows just how important a strong focus on wellbeing is for employers as well as the individuals who work for them: 85 per cent of working parents agree that work-life balance is a top priority and say that it will influence their next choice of job.

However, the research also shows a wide gulf in how parents and carers are managing to balance their work and home lives as we come out of the pandemic. 

It suggests outdated cultures and practices are still abundant in many workplaces around the UK, with nearly half (44 per cent) of working parents disagreeing that the senior leaders in their organisation are positive role models for achieving a good work-life balance. 

41 per cent of working mothers say being a parent is holding them back from promotion at work. 50 per cent of those with additional caring responsibilities for a sick, elderly or disabled family member said the same. 

Over a third (38 per cent) said that the people who work the longest hours are the most respected by senior leaders in their organisation, suggesting a culture of presenteeism and an “always-on” working culture.

That said, many working parents and carers feel that the pandemic has brought some positive changes. 41% of working parents say that the pandemic has had a positive impact on workplace culture at their organisation. Half of working parents (50 per cent) say open conversations about wellbeing and mental health are more accepted at work now than they were before the pandemic, rising to 61 per cent for carers.

These positive changes bring with them a concern that their benefit will only be temporary: over a third (36 per cent) of working parents, and almost half (48 per cent) of carers say now that lockdown is over, they are concerned about taking time off for caring needs will be frowned upon at work. 


How Can Employers Be More Working Parent-Friendly?


Working Families are encouraging all employers to:


  • Make sure that the culture of the organisation, and the performance management process used, values and rewards outputs, rather than focusing on hours worked or place of work, and actively discourage presenteeism 
  • Make sure they’re providing training specifically for line managers in how to support parents and carers, and how to get the best from teams working in a variety of flexible ways 
  • Actively work to raise awareness of wellbeing and mental health in your staff teams, and have a range of support available for staff to access 
  • Become a Working Families Employer Member  


Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said: 

“It’s depressing to see that – in 2021 – so many women still find that being a parent stops them from getting promoted at work. Half of the people caring for another family member find their caring responsibilities do the same. So much talent and so many diverse perspectives are being lost because too many businesses can’t move past outdated workplace cultures.  

“While increasingly high numbers of managers and leaders recognise the benefits of family-friendly ways of working, there are still pockets of resistance across sectors. But the experience of the pandemic has speeded up a shift in how many of us want to work, and those resisting positive change will find it comes back to bite them: 85 per cent of working parents told us that they would prioritise work-life balance when looking for their next role. Faced with a choice between an employer who puts effort into employee wellbeing and one that celebrates unhealthy working practices, I think we can all guess where the best and brightest talent is going to go. 

“We take great heart from the fact that the pandemic has led to positive change in many organisations, and conversations about mental health and wellbeing are more accepted than they were. And we know from our work with our employer members that so many organisations are going above and beyond in implementing progressive policies – and reaping the rewards of that in productivity, retention and morale. 

"This National Work Life Week, we want to encourage employers to build back from COVID with an increased focus on helping their teams get the balance between work and home right, and use it as an opportunity to have some open conversations with their employees about the change they want to see.”

Picture: a photograph of a person holding a small child on their lap, reading a book

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 12 October 2021


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