We have been specialising in supporting working parents for 23 years, shining a light on how remarkable they are and helping to create the conditions under which they can thrive. Whilst the pandemic lockdown has been very difficult for many working parents, there have been silver linings. In this watershed week when most parents of school aged children send them off to school for the first time in 6 months, I have been reflecting on these.
The pandemic lockdown has accelerated a shift in working patterns that working parents have been advocating for. That is for flexibility on when and where the work is done. On a macro level, according to the OECD think tank, there seems to be little evidence of a drop in productivity as a result of remote working. On a micro level we have a huge body of evidence that the work can be done differently and successfully. As one person put it so eloquently in an article in The Times on Tuesday, “Going into the office nine to five – who came up with that? It feels like it came before computers and phones. Everything about it seems really strange”. Working parents are not seeking reduced hours in the vast majority of cases, but autonomy about how some of those hours are applied. It is hard to imagine things going back to the way they were with managers able to block flexible working. That is a silver lining.
Another silver lining has been the response from the media to the situation working parents found themselves in. We have always felt that working parents are not given enough recognition for working whilst bringing up a family, being role models for their children and bringing up the next generation of people who will be paying for our pensions. Sympathetic articles about the difficulties of lack of child care and the commitment required for home schooling, the longer days, the particular difficulties for single parents, the maternity leave experience that is far less satisfactory and the difficulties of transitioning back to work after such a long time are a tonic for working parents who feel more understood. There have also been a myriad of practical stories and advice about how to make it work in the household, how to have those difficult conversations with employers or indeed partners and how to structure a working day. Another sign that working parents are more visible and appreciated.
In this watershed week there is much to be hopeful about for working parents.