The last five months has brought about massive changes in work and family life for millions in the UK. Only a small minority of children have been at school, a large majority of parents have started working full time from home and many have had to significantly adapt their working times.
A recently released study from Kent and Birmingham Universities has shown the extent of the changes and provides us with key insights into how COVID-19 may change work and family culture in the long term.
The study reveals that there has been a radical shift in work practices and culture. 86% of workers in the survey worked from home and 70% had worked flexible starting and ending times.
Family life in a pandemic
Workers have found that there have been lots of positive aspects of lockdown on their work and family life. On top of reasons such as more time with their partner, more free time outside of work and improved physical health, both Mums and Dads said that the key positive outcome of working from home was being able to spend more time with children/grandchildren.
Families may have been forced to spend time together during lockdown, but the experience has led to many saying that they would like to reduce work hours and work flexibly to spend more time together. 76% of all mothers and 73% of fathers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to work flexibly to spend more time with children. A further 64% of fathers and 59% of mothers also said that they would like to reduce their working hours to spend more time with family.
Not all rosy
Lockdown life hasn't been all rosy for families, however, with many parents feeling the pressure of having to maintain a fulltime job at home whilst parenting and home-schooling their kids. Schools have vastly differed in how much online teaching they have offered their students, and the realities of age make it particularly hard for those with young children.
The study found that only 50% of mothers and 58% of fathers managed to secure a stable block of time to work during the lockdown. A large proportion of employees said they have felt conflict between work and family life, with 39% of all respondents said that their job prevents them giving time to their family.
Dads more involved
With the majority of dads working from home and commute times reduced the study found that during lockdown their involvement in childcare and housework has increased substantially. The study showed an increase in the number of couples who indicate that they have shared housework/care activities during lockdown.
Life after COVID-19?
What does this study say life might look like after COVID-19?
It's clear that many parents would like to change how much and the way they work in order to spend more time with their children and as a family.
On the flip side, lockdown and the closure of schools and childcare have clearly increased pressure on parents and many have found juggling childcare, education and a fulltime job very tricky. The reopening of schools will ease this pressure and whilst some may have discovered a passion for home-schooling it seems unlikely that a large number of parents will take it up in the future.
Many Dads have been forced into spending more time with their family than their time-committed jobs usually allow and have enjoyed it. Flexible work seems more attractive and with employers now familiar with how it can function effectively, it may well be the way of the future.
Family and work life after COVID-19 clearly could look very different. For now while we are still in the middle of it all families can begin to think about what they want their family life and plan for when we are free once again to make personal and individual family decisions.