Reflecting on 2018, looking forward to 2019

If you are anything like us, you may well be looking at the calendar right now and feeling more than a little bit surprised at just how quickly this year has flown by. 2018 has certainly been an amazing year for us here at Bright Horizons, and our clients.

We started off the year with impact in January - launching our 2018 Modern Families Index. Our annual pulse check study, created in conjunction with charity Working Families, showed some clear themes and trends emerging: the Index told us that whilst the UK continues to have a long hours culture, working parents are disadvantaged and family life is severely affected - and that parents are voting with their feet in response. There was a growing perception of a ‘parenthood penalty’, with fathers as well as mothers having to make career compromises. One theme (which we expect to see recur in our 2019 Modern Families Index) is that flexible working on its own is not doing enough to deliver work life balance for parents – a truly family-friendly workplace culture is key to unlocking the potential for parents' success and growth.

Growth, as ever, was a welcome part of our own story this year. Early in 2018 we were delighted to welcome the Yellowdot and Zoom nursery groups to the Bright Horizons family – and our latest addition (just announced!) are the North-London based Magic nurseries. This year we’ve also opened a brand new nursery on behalf of our client The University of Cambridge, and found new and innovative ways to support our client partnerships, some of which made the headlines in August. We’ve also extended and deepened our relationships with our clients as they looked at different ways to support their employees’ dependant care needs, including through our new Bright Horizons Nannies – part of Bright Horizons Back-Up Care.

As the uncertainty of Brexit continued throughout the year, we supported our clients as they explored international childcare options and closely monitored and shared developments in childcare legislation around the world. The developments have been encouraging – India’s new Maternity Act for example, has been a game changer in helping employers attract top talent while supporting new mothers wishing to return to work. We’re looking forward to continuing to share our extensive experience and knowledge of international childcare next year.

In May we were delighted to be recognised as a ‘Great Place to Work’ by the Great Place to Work Institute (for the 13th year in a row). This year we were also awarded a new ‘Best Workplaces for Women’ Award too – an accolade which recognises the work that we do to encourage inclusive environments, inspire women leaders, and which supports our belief that only by enabling both men and women can we truly create balanced working environments and allow everyone to fulfil their potential. In June we were awarded a gold RoSPA award for the 7th year consecutively – an important external recognition of the extensive work that we do to Keep Everyone Safe.

At Bright Horizons caring is at the core of our business, both in terms of the children and families entrusted to our care, and our people. We are incredibly proud of our 10,000 dedicated practitioners and we are always mindful that their roles demand deep emotional involvement on a daily basis. This year Mental Health has been a huge focus for Bright Horizons, as it has been for many of our clients. Wellbeing at Bright Horizons is holistic, and encompasses mental, physical and emotional health; from celebrating World Mental Health Day in October, to partnering with Carers UK to help supply our employees with resources and developing our own ‘Carers Passport’. We put a particular emphasis on those who have caring responsibilities, as we know that our employees tend to view themselves in ‘helping’ roles, and may not always prioritise their own needs.

In this vein we sponsored and attended This Can Happen - the largest ever gathering of organisations across the UK to discuss mental health in the workplace. The turnout was impressive – and the research (announced by Accenture at the event) was powerful – 9 out of 10 employees have been touched by mental health issues. 2019 will see a continued focus on mental health for ourselves and for our clients.

Finally, our Bright Horizons Foundation for Children has had a truly inspirational 2018 – we’ve opened 12 new Bright Spaces this year, bringing the total number of Bright Spaces in the UK to 66. Bright Spaces provide vulnerable children with a safe and welcoming place where they can relax and play – a haven in times of crisis where children can just be themselves.

Our first Bright Spaces in children’s homes opened in Lancashire in December, and we are excited to now be part of the UK’s first Child House – the Lighthouse in Camden, in partnership with Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, NHS England and the NSPCC. In 2018 we made 28 Foundation Awards, 4 Volunteer Grants and celebrated 18 Community Champions – helping our employees who are making an outstanding difference in their local communities. To find out more about our Foundation for Children and how you can be involved in our future projects, please click here.

Here at Bright Horizons, nothing makes us happier than seeing the positive effect we have on the lives of working families: families who can start their working day feeling confident that their loved ones are being cared for; parents, carers and employers who have access to the safety net of our back-up care; and confident children who are flourishing and fulfilling their potential in our nurseries – these are what makes our work our passion. In 2019 we intend to keep on growing and creating more opportunities for working families to thrive.

We’re looking forward to all the new things that next year will bring - new children, new families, new colleagues and new clients.

Wishing you a very happy holiday and a Happy New Year from all here at Bright Horizons!

James Tugendhat, Managing Director, International

Denise Priest, Director of Employer Partnerships and Communications, International