Bright Horizons’ research highlights changing expectations: the ‘great rethink’ of working parents and carers



We all know the past two years and current global conditions have dramatically changed things in the world of work. We recognise that the break from past routines has seen many working parents and carers recalibrate their work and family lives. They have asked very human questions about their employment and their employers. This ‘great rethink’ pushed people to look for opportunities that better fit their lives and values and made the competition to attract and retain talent fiercer than ever. All this has played out in an economic climate where skilled, efficient, experienced and productive people will be key to thriving business.

Bright Horizons research supports evidence of a ‘great rethink’ and the importance of family and career

Our own research backs up these trends. Bright Horizons’ Modern Families Index (MFI) asks randomly-selected UK mothers and fathers about working parenthood, while the Work+Family Snapshot (WFS) surveys our clients’ working parents and carers. Both support the evidence of a ‘great rethink’ with individuals questioning the direction and purpose of their working lives and looking to move towards roles that fit with a better work-life balance.

Our Work+Family Snapshot, published in June 2022, found over half of employees overall (53%) indicated ‘I find myself reflecting more on my overall direction and sense of purpose than I used to’. This is particularly so for women (56% compared with 48% of men) and was more prevalent with increasing age: 18-34 years - 45%, 35-54 years - 54%, 55+ years - 63%. This links of course with the Great Retirement trend. The Modern Families Index in February 2022 revealed that almost two-fifths of working parents (38%) plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months, and while it is not surprising that those who stated they felt “completely stressed” will be looking to change roles, 62% who rated themselves as having a good work-life balance are also looking to move, possibly due to post-covid changes in how they can manage their work-life equation.

Our research also indicates that many parents have concerns about their children’s educational catch-up and mental health, and many workers, including young people, are worried about eldercare responsibilities. What seems clear from both these research reports, is that family is a key priority and crucial to most working parents’ and carers’ wellbeing. The Work+Family Snapshot found 58% now prioritise family more highly than previously (a clear increase on the 2021 WFS figure of 48%) and the MFI revealed family is an important consideration when accepting promotion or a new role: three-quarters will carefully consider childcare and/or eldercare plans before accepting a new job or promotion. Our findings are complementary to those of the recent Microsoft 2022 Work Trends Index, which surveyed 31,000 people across 31 countries. It found 53% of employees are more likely to prioritise health and wellbeing over work, and 47% are more likely to put family and their personal lives first. McKinsey’s The Childcare Conundrum article goes further, while exploring the question ‘How can companies ease working parents’ return to the office?’. Under the subtitle, ‘Retention’ the authors explain: ‘When deciding whether to stay with a company or switch to another, 83 percent of the women and 81 percent of the men in our survey with children aged five and under said that childcare benefits would be a “very important” or “somewhat important” factor in the decision. About 40 percent of respondents who were considering moving to a less-demanding job said that on-site childcare services at their current company may cause them to reconsider. And 38 percent of respondents said that their companies’ assistance with childcare expenses would also be a key factor in their staying put.’

While family has become a higher priority, the importance of career has also increased on last year, implying a renewed wish to ‘have it all’. The Work+Family Snapshot revealed over 3 in 10 (31%) of our clients’ employees stated their career ambitions are stronger now than a year ago: more than doubling 2021’s figures. 32% of women and 29% of men indicated higher career ambitions, across ages. These two trends around family and career are especially marked in the 18-34 age group, with nearly 4 in 10 (39%) indicating higher career ambitions, and two-thirds (67%) putting greater emphasis on family.

Higher expectations of flexibility

The Modern Families Index found 79% of all workers consider the opportunity to work flexible hours important, more important than flexibility of location (69%), and this was especially so for younger workers for whom flexibility of time an almost unanimous expectation.

Responding to the ‘great rethink’, for those employers wanting to retain talented people, requires new practices to fit these evolving expectations. It is no surprise that our Modern Families Index revealed that the top asks of the 2 in 5 looking to change jobs are flexibility and family supports. Our Work+Family Snapshot found that as families continue to weigh up priorities post-pandemic, hybrid working is a key enabler. Over 8 in 10 of our clients’ employees would prefer to work between 50% and 100% from home, where roles, sector and organisation culture lend themselves to that style of working.

Enabling access to care gives employers an edge

Another enabler is helping employees manage their caring responsibilities. Over 9 in 10 (91%) of those with eldercare responsibilities consider support with care an important factor in any new employer, as do 76% of parents with children aged 0-10 years. Employers attending to this are more likely to have an edge in a competitive talent marketplace.

Employer-sponsored care is a practical and visible support option which the evidence of this research shows to have a very strong positive impact for employees. Access to Back-up Care and Workplace Nurseries, contributes to engagement, productivity, loyalty and wellbeing. Our Work+Family Snapshot showed that 7 in 10 (70%) are more likely to recommend their employer to others based purely on having access to Bright Horizons Work+Family services. This rises to three-quarters (75%) for those who use employer-sponsored Workplace Nurseries or Nursery Partnerships. Employer-sponsored access to ongoing early years education also has a high impact in empowering parental leave returners (89% agree), and thereby enabling the pursuit of a higher position, as well as productivity 86%). Use of Back-Up Care similarly has a measurable positive effect, notably on recommending the employer (88%), being committed to the employer (79%) and productivity (78%). Both access to a nursery and back-up care positively impact wellbeing according to 87%.

Those employers who can demonstrate an ethos where family life, career progression and a sense of purpose are embraced, coupled with a flexible approach, will stand out. And to maximise their talent appeal, providing and promoting practical support with ongoing care, and back-up care for emergencies and short-notice needs will make a difference and help them to stay ahead of the game in talent retention.

 

Download your copy of the research

You can secure a copy of both research reports here:

 

 There are also sector-specific reports for the Modern Families Index which you can find here

Sector reports for the Work+Family Snapshot will be published later in the year.