FlexJobs Survey Finds 40 Percent of Working Parents Had to Quit or Reduce Their Hours Since the Pandemic

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Survey highlights critical need for flexible work accommodations for working parents

"For moms, dads, employers, and the workforce at large, these findings offer insights into what it’s really like to juggle parenting and a career, and how flexible work options (or the lack thereof) can impact decision-making,” said Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.

Working parents are feeling the pressure and strain of the 2020-2021 school year, as many schools around the country have decided to open only remotely or use a hybrid approach. This pressure comes on the heels of a stressful spring, as many working parents found themselves trying to balance their career and childcare responsibilities in unprecedented ways.

To gain a better understanding of how deeply COVID-19 has impacted working parents, FlexJobs surveyed more than 2,500 parents with children 18 and younger living at home, and found that since the pandemic started, almost half of working parents (40%) have had to change their employment situation by either voluntarily reducing their hours (25%) or quitting entirely (15%). An additional 5% said their partner had to either reduce their hours or quit.

Working parents said having a flexible schedule (58%) would have the greatest impact on their ability to juggle career, distance learning, and childcare responsibilities. The survey also found that working mothers and working fathers report different experiences around changes to their employment, childcare, and distance learning responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.

“For moms, dads, employers, and the workforce at large, these findings offer insights into what it’s really like to juggle parenting and a career, and how flexible work options (or the lack thereof) can impact decision-making,” said Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “In order to help working parents not only stay in the workforce, but also be productive employees during this challenging time, employers should absolutely consider offering flexible schedules. When executed thoughtfully, giving employees more control over when they’re able to work during the day can help create the critical space they need to meet all their competing demands. The pandemic has really forced companies to see the struggles that working parents and other caregivers routinely face and hopefully has shed light on just how impactful granting remote and flexible work accommodations can be,” Sutton concluded.

The pandemic’s impact on working parents leaving the workforce:

  • 40% of working parents had to change their employment during the pandemic by either voluntarily reducing their hours (25%) or quitting entirely (15%)
  • Of those that quit entirely, 38% do not plan to rejoin the workforce
  • An additional 5% said their partners needed to reduce their hours or quit their job completely
  • 9% considered quitting their job during the pandemic

When asked what types of work flexibility would have the greatest impact on their ability to juggle career, distance learning, and childcare responsibilities, working parents ranked the following:

  • Flexible schedule (having some control over when they work) (58%)
  • Working from home full-time (48%)
  • Allowing children to be at home during the workday (having a work environment that understands their childcare demands) (31%)
  • Working from home part-time (30%)
  • Freelancing (24%)
  • Alternative schedule (such as 6 am-2 pm or a 4-day workweek) (20%)

If distance learning continues into the entire 2020-2021 school year:

  • 50% of working parents plan to continue to work from home and will also be fully responsible for childcare and e-learning
  • 22% will have to request to work from home full-time so they can be responsible for childcare
  • 7% say that they or their partner will plan to quit their jobs if distance learning continues
  • More than 1 in 5 (21%) will have to pay for additional childcare

The most important factors working parents consider when evaluating a job prospect:

1. Work-life balance (79%)

2. Salary (77%)

3. Flexible work options (73%)

4. Meaningful work (54%)

5. Work schedule (49%)

6. Location (40%)

7. Health insurance (39%)

8. Company culture (34%)

9. Vacation time (34%)

10. Company reputation (33%)

11. Career progression (33%)

12. Skills training and education options (31%)

13. 401(k)/Retirement benefits (28%)

Differences between working mothers and working fathers:

  • 63% of working mothers said they were primarily responsible for childcare during the shutdown this spring, while 43% of working fathers reported the same thing
  • 80% of working mothers said they primarily handled the online learning responsibilities of their children, but only 31% of working fathers reported the same thing
  • 17% of working mothers quit their jobs during the pandemic -- nearly 1 in 5, vs. 10% of working fathers who reported the same thing - 1 in 10
  • 43% of working mothers said their employment situation remained unchanged during the pandemic, while 51% of working fathers reported the same thing
  • 37% of working mothers, at some point in their career, have left their job because it did not have work flexibility. 26% of working fathers reported the same
  • Regardless of the challenges, about half of working mothers (49%) and half of working fathers (50%) still say they have been more productive working from home during the pandemic than when they were in the traditional office

To help parents manage working from home and their children’s virtual learning responsibilities, FlexJobs offers the following tips:

1. Communicate expectations with your team and let them know about your reality. Some flexible work conversation starters:

  • To talk with your boss or coworkers: I want to share my current reality to give everyone a solid understanding and try to stay ahead of any potential problems.
  • To ask for more flexibility: I’d like to get a good sense of what my flexible work options are right now. The more I’m able to shift my schedule, the better I’ll be able to meet work priorities and stay productive during this time.
  • For the beginning of meetings: As is the case with a lot of you, I’m working from home and caring for my ____ and ___ year old kids. I wanted to give you a heads up that I may get interrupted during our call but I’ll let you know, mute myself, deal with the situation, and jump back in.

2. Let your boss know your new responsibilities with remote learning and ask for flexibility in your schedule. Prioritize the "live" classroom sessions as must-attend, and try to be close by when your kids are on them.

3. Split-shift the workday. If you have a partner who can work at home, split childcare and work shifts with each other. That way, each day you each will have a designated time for work and a designated time for being with your kids.

4. Develop a focused learning space for your kid(s). For example, use a tri-fold display board to section off their workspace.

5. Secure the fastest internet speed. This is important when there are multiple users at home simultaneously online. Use a plugin connection to the internet when possible.

6. Recreate what your child’s classroom would have had with schedules, visual cues, binders, bins, etc.

7. Consider printing worksheets when possible. Most kids like the physical action of doing the work.

8. Give yourself a break. This situation is extremely difficult and stressful, and no one will do it perfectly. Working from home with kids is not what remote work is normally like. Outside of this unusual situation, most remote workers have regular childcare.

Additional tips and resources for working remotely during the upcoming school year are available in a free recorded webinar hosted by FlexJobs and K12, available here: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/distance-learning-tips-parents-webinar/.

The parents who responded to FlexJobs’ survey were highly educated, with 72% having at least a bachelor’s degree and 30% having a graduate degree.

For more information please visit https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/flexjobs-survey-flexibility-support-parents-pandemic/ or contact Kathy Gardner at kgardner@flexjobs.com.

About FlexJobs

FlexJobs is a premium online job service for professionals seeking flexible work, specializing in full-time and part-time remote jobs, employee and freelance jobs, and on-site jobs with flexible, part-time, and alternative schedules. Since its start in 2007, FlexJobs has helped more than 4 million people in their job searches and has created the largest vetted database of legitimate flexible job opportunities in over 50 career categories. In addition, FlexJobs provides robust career support, including curated expert resources and career coaching services, to partner with job seekers in all phases of their journey. A trusted source in the media, FlexJobs has been cited in top national outlets such as CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, and many others. FlexJobs' Founder & CEO Sara Sutton has also launched two additional partner sites, Remote.co and 1 Million for Work Flexibility, to help provide education and awareness about the viability and benefits of flexible work. Sutton is the creator of The TRaD* Works Forum (*Telecommuting, Remote, & Distributed), dedicated to helping companies leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.

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Kathy Gardner
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