UK businesses need to do more to help working parents balance their professional lives and family commitments without making staff feel unfairly judged, stressed and anxious.
A major new survey of 1,400 working parents by CIPHR.com has revealed that 75% of working parents are suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of trying to manage their work-life balance. A further 53% of respondents say they feel judged by managers and colleagues for trying to balance their work and family commitments.
The study also suggests the ideal boss to have if you have children of your own is a female boss with her own kids. Two-fifths (40%) of working parents surveyed said they felt women bosses were more understanding and supportive of their own needs, with just 10% saying men were most sympathetic.
Of the working parents surveyed by CIPHR.com, 61% said they thought their employers did a good job at supporting working parents, but only 55% of respondents said they currently had a flexible working arrangement in place.
Claire Williams, head of people at CIPHR.com, said: “While this study confirms that the majority of employers are doing a good job of helping their staff balance their professional and family lives, there is still significant room for improvement. There also seems to be an uncomfortably wide gender gap between perceived supportive managers, which is concerning.”
CIPHR’s study delved further into these issues, finding that two-thirds (66%) of more senior managers who have greater childcare resources of their own are perceived as far less understanding when it comes to helping their staff with their work-life balance.
A further two-thirds (67%) of working parents surveyed also said, that managers and colleagues with their own children were far more supportive of their flexible working needs – likely because of a shared understanding of the issues parents face.
However, the number of children that workers have seems to be critical to not only the levels of stress involved in balancing work-family life but also to parents’ career prospects.
Workers with only one child were the most likely to have formal flexible working arrangements in place; 62% of those surveyed said they have flexible working agreements with their employers. Meanwhile, employees with three children were the most likely to say that being a parent had hindered their career prospects (55%).
However, the pain point really comes for those working parents with two children. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of workers with two children feel the most judged by managers and colleagues for their work-life balancing issues. Workers with two children were also most likely to report feeling stressed and anxious about juggling home and work; more than three-quarters (77%) said balancing responsibilities caused them stress and anxiety.
For all working parents surveyed, the biggest causes of problems managing their work-life balance, with an equal third of the vote, are child sickness and school holidays.
Williams added: “It’s clear from this study, there is a greater need for understanding and acceptance of the issues staff with young families face, especially by colleagues and managers who do not face these problems themselves. Often when a child is sick there is an exclusion period from their regular childcare or school. School holidays simply add to the juggling act.
“These additional pressures create a level of anxiety and perception of being judged for issues that are simply out of anyone’s control. Flexible working is obviously key to many successful employee and employer relationships, but perhaps the issue of presenteeism needs to be addressed for working parents, too.”