Call it the “Great Resignation, Reshuffle, Renegotiation,” or whatever else you want, there is no question the world of work is undergoing dramatic changes.
So much has changed, especially regarding office work, but there is little certainty about what’s coming next.
What’s clear: The relationship between employees and employers has flipped to one in which the former have taken a bigger stand in how they want to work. For working moms and dads — the pandemic represented a pivotal moment in their work-family balance.
“Now parents are redesigning their lives to be more available to their children and keeping child care benefits top-of-mind when making career decisions,” said Jessica Harrah, chief people officer for KinderCare, a for-profit child care operation.
About three-quarters of employed moms and dads have cut back on their hours at work or are thinking about doing so, while seven in ten are taking on less demanding roles, according to KinderCare’s “2022 Parents Confidence Report.”
Here’s a look at some of the most important insights from the report:
Child care confidence strengthens
After enduring the crucible of the coronavirus crisis for more than two years, parents are not only rethinking their work lives but they’re also emerging with stronger confidence in their ability to care for their children.
The KinderCare poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults with children aged 12 and younger, showed that before the pandemic in 2019, 77% of parents were confident in their parenting. In 2022, the confidence level increased to 86%.
A likely contributor to that boost is parents have spent more time with their children during the pandemic than ever before. About 69% of moms and dads leveraged workplace flexibility to be more present in their kids’ lives.
There has been a cost, though. About six in 10 parents reported that child-rearing during the Covid era was the most stressful period they ever experienced, a four-point jump from November 2020.
At the top of the stress list were worries over safety at schools or with child care, impacting 44% of parents, followed by the closure of facilities serving their children that jumbled lives for 36% of parents.
In some cases, even the simplest daily rituals became chaotic and stressful when parents found themselves without any child care during the first two years of the pandemic. For long-time dental surgeon and mother of two, Tara Lalvani, it was applying her make-up in the morning.
The sudden difficulty in completing a regular daily task, and the lack of make-up products on the market that were designed to be applied by busy women while on the go, inspired her to launch her own company Beautifect, in 2020. Her company’s main product the Beautifect Box – a portable vanity case that features specialized lighting – caused a storm of excitement in the beauty world for its innovation.
Despite launching at the height of Covid-19, Beautifect hit first-year sales of over a million dollars, according to Lalvani.
Lalvani, who had worked as a dental surgeon in the U.K. for more than a decade, said that the additional time her family spent together during the pandemic inspired the business and changed her outlook on work-life balance for good.
Bringing Beautifect to market was a family job. “Ensuring I make time for my family is a top priority,” said Lalvani. “I involve them when I can, so we are never short on time together. My daughter even helped me when developing the initial drawings and design. It turned into an arts and crafts project.”
Child care cost crisis
The other big headline in the KinderCare study is that an overwhelming number of parents asserted that the accessibility and affordability of American child care is at a crisis point that requires immediate attention from employers and the government.
“More than two thirds of working parents (68%) believe employers should offset the cost of childcare,” said KinderCare’s Harrah. “In fact, 81% of parents find a company’s child care benefits important to their job consideration process,” she added.
Another big chunk of survey respondents said they’re looking for the government to act, with 72% of all parents, regardless of political affiliation, pushing politicians to ratify measures to help offset the cost of child care.
Childcare costs have skyrocket since the start of the pandemic, and families are seeing an average annual cost increase of 41% for center-based providers. According to data from a recent Lending Tree report, working parents across the U.S. are spending an average of $14,117 annually, up from $9,977 before the covid crisis.
Harrah had advice for private-sector bosses: “Employers should first make an effort to ask employees about the kind of child care benefits that would be most beneficial to them, as those needs may vary depending on location or the type of work people are engaged in.”
She detailed some steps management could take to provide assistance, including child care that is subsidized, on-demand, or on-site.
“The majority of working parents say that being confident in their child care allows them to excel at work,” added Harrah.
Hybrid work and future parenting
“What we’ve heard from families in our study and from employers through our partnerships with them, is hybrid work is here to stay,” argued KinderCare’s Harrah, “and employers need to find ways to meet their employees where they are.”
As a business leader and a mom, Beautifect’s Lalvani is a strong supporter of flexible work arrangements. “Working parents will undoubtedly have lower stress levels if they are afforded the flexibility of remote working.
“Ultimately you need to value your staff; technology enables us to continue working effectively in so many varied environments now and daily life has evolved massively in the last few decades. I firmly believe working parents should be allowed to continue their work remotely.” Lalvani continued.
The KinderCare survey told Harrah, “Attitudes have really shifted in terms of working family expectations of employers, and we see that it will have a demonstrable difference in not only employee productivity, but also in attracting and retaining employees.”
Yet, there are rumblings that remote, or hybrid work may not be forever.
On Monday, April 4, Google officially reopened its offices in San Francisco and several other locations with the expectation that employees be present three days a week.
The company’s ex-HR chief, Lazlo Black, has said he expects all Google workers to be in the office all the time within three to five years.
Earlier this year, Google spent $1 billion to acquire office space in London and is building a massive new work campus north of the city.
In September, the tech giant paid $2.1 billion for Manhattan office space that will be occupied next year. It’s the largest New York City building sale since 2018 when Google nabbed another Manhattan office site for $2.8 billion.
Apple and Microsoft are also making moves to bring workers back to their jobs on-site.
Beautifect’s Lalvani observed that likely will be tested if there is a full-scale return to office work. The pandemic forced people to reevaluate how they spend their time, what’s important and how we can make daily life work better for ourselves and our families, she said.
“Believing in yourself is the first step for any working parent. You can do whatever you set your mind to, you just have to renegotiate elements in your life that are preventing you from fulfilling your potential. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice precious time to do the things you want,” she added.